Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Request for Reader Comments

Without a doubt the most scandalous, most commented upon, and most joked about suggestion I've made in this blog has to do with getting a good, nearly waterless shave. I suggest a dab of generic sex lube and a thimbleful of water to help the razor glide over your skin.

I've never had a complaint about this advice. No one has ever told me that it didn't work well for him. That is because no one has admitted to trying it.

Come on.

Are you afraid the cashier will think you are having sex?

And the downside of that is?

Someone who has tried it, tell me, was it okay? Is it now part of your survival skill set? What did you think?


At 11:55 PM, Anonymous brooklyn said...

lol. i think its a great idea but i would just use conditioner to shave with-it works well for shaving when diluted with water, you can leave a little extra in your hair to weigh it down or act as a gel, and then there is the obvious conditioning use. appearance helps everything right?

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous jccch said...

Not homeless, but I ran out of shaving cream once and decided to try using some astroglide. Wouldn't be my preferred way of shaving, but it worked. In fact, there's a product for shaving on the market that is essentially the same stuff.

On the general subject of homelessness, I want to chime in with thanks for this blog. I was abandoned by my family when I was 11 and was virtually homeless during my pre-teens and teens. (Had an empty cold building to sleep in, but no food whatsoever, etc.)

All my life it seems I have been preparing myself mentally for homelessness. During those rough teen years in a frigid northern city I always was planning on where to go to stay warm, etc. I did some unpleasant things in order to eat.

I have PTSD as a result of many events from those years. I am 40 now, and though I worked for many years, due to the PTSD, some neurological illnesses plus severe injuries I sustained, I am now disabled.

I have never been 100%, never a fully functional person. As a result of my mental framework and conditioning from those years I have always beenj "homeless..." I have never lived fully independently. It seems like a contradiction, but in essence, when you grew up homeless, sleeping on people's couches when you could, you might end up that way your whole life.

I am just now learning to have my own home, to take care of it and myself and all that entails, but due to my disability and also money issues, I can't successfully do this fully. In addition, what money I had is running out.

My parents, after having abandoned me, have now stepped in and help me financially, but they won't be alive long.

I guess what I'm saying is, I will be truly homeless once again soon I'm sure... and this time without the youth and health I had before. I am physically and mentally disabled, I require hundreds of dollars worth of meds each month, and can't tolerate the physical deprivations and extremes homelessness entails.

My future is looking bleak. But in a sense, I don't care. I have learned that today is all I can count on.

Tomorrow will take care of itself.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im utterly fixated with this blog tonight. Ive been reading all day. Mobile Homemaker, your observations are so well put and brilliant and enlighting, it's borderline scarey. Years back in college I was technically homeless, but had a wonderful sister and family to fall back on. My wife and I gave up all the bull and moved to France, and bought our house outright. We are not rich and of course, the same ole society expectations creep in from all sides and all people. Most sheeple just dont have real lives and they cannot think of anything other than what one does for a living, or how big the car and house is. Europeans are just as shallow as Americans I have news. I believe once you live independently for a couple of years, you will never give into the grind again. I will never work for someone else again, just to pay rent, insurance and eat processed food and watch processed TV like the rest of the good sheeple. Today, I have a roof over my head and food to eat and a car. But, that is just good fortune and I am prepared for tough times. I find this site almost overwhelming and it strikes me to the core. If you ask me, the comments and people participating in this blog are the REAL people of humanity, theyre eyes are opened and they are all thinking outside the box. Line after Line, mobile homemaker just lays it out, all the hypocrisy and BS of society. And its so true. People act, and are motivated in just about every situation from a position of superiority and attitude. Why? because they are asleep. Its fantastically ironic and breath taking in revelation. Anyway, Ill quit writing, so I can get back to reading this incredible blog.

At 1:20 AM, Anonymous formerly homeless in a2 said...

I tried using sex gel once, left me with shaving bumps :(( Of course, it might have been the el-cheapo razors they give out at the shelter, because even using Edge (what I usually use) they give me shaving bumps...(should try it with the ol' Mach 3 tonight...)

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's my little critique. i really appreciate the concrete tips in your writings, but i think you could scimp a little with the details that are more for the bourgeoise audience like comfortable shaving or the mobile-shower reciepe, and get more deeper into other details that are of relevance for people that are actually in the situation - like how to make other things available that are of importance in dayly survival. what about the right to eat? is it okay if you have to pay for that? and what does that mean to those that don't have the privilege of working a decent job? rent is very expensive, so freeing yourself from that is a huge step in taking back your life, or just necessary for mere survival. so those who are still using their wealth or labor to pay for shelter, food, etc. hve to remember that they support a system that doesn't provide for everyone. making a rentfree living is a good start. organizing a communal garden, a food not bombs or just shoplifting could be a solution to meet your need to eat. connect to other homeless or otherwise "social criminal" people. ask the grocery clerks if they have food to gve away. in gereral: talk to people. ask. stuff like that. i missed that in your writing. i loved the rest. thank you, m.

At 4:00 AM, Anonymous skyhome said...

Hullo. I moved into my car about four months ago. Your site was hands down my most useful tool for preparing this change of lifestyle. So! I wanted to say thanks. I was considering it and your website convinced me it was really a possibility. I kept my same job and everything. Pretty great. And sneaky. And being sneaky is fun. I just started a blog and I was wondering if you would mind if I linked you in my sidebar? Anyways, thanks for maintaining such a great space for info.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Fat Dancer said...

Mobile Home, why so few posts in so long? I have spent the whole afternoon compulsively reading every word of this blog, but am disappointed now to have finished it and see no post from you since June! I know you must be busy with fatherhood, husbandhood, and career, but I hope you will keep up with this. This information is, literally, vital, and the writing is excellent. Hope to see more soon.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Thanks for the nice compliment, Fat Dancer. What can I say about the number of posts? I know there are other angles on homelessness, but I'm currently at a loss for how to continue. When the muses allow, I will continue to write.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger FatDancer said...

Perhaps I can a-Muse you a little bit. I would love to hear more about food storage, cooking, free food, food sources, etc. Also, what did you do about nature's calls when no bathroom was handy?Also, when you were homeless, did you take that opportunity to travel around much, and if so by what method, or did you pretty much stay in California? I was born and raised in the Golden State but have made my home on the East Coast for many years. Currently my husband and I live in a 30-foot travel trailer that stays stationary in the back yard of one of my mother-in-law's rental properties. Eventually we hope to travel more, but right now we are staying put. I LOVE having a smaller footprint on the earth and love even more the fact that I am currently unemployed, except for the money I get helping my husband to manage my mother-in-law's rentals. I hoping to stay free of the hamster wheel for life, and turn my hand to some writing. Your blog is extremely inspirational. Please keep it up.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as i said i think connecting to other people is essential. whether its about eating, bathing, security etc. etc.. when i slept in my car last summer in berlin i didn't have had a need of storing food because here are so many places where people cook delicious vegan meals everyday for a cheap price or by donation. but the thing is that just consuming doesnt make one happy, so i got together with some poeple i made friends with and startet to cook with them once or twice a week for ourselves and other people. you can apply this principle to every aspect of life: we can meet our needs in a way that deny others their needs or in way that helps others to meet their needs. all i need for myself is a place to sleep. the other things i am doing i do at workspaces with other people. i eat at community spaces, read/work/surf at the libary, make music at our rehearsal room, etc. all these places and most tools i use are shared with other peoples and or collectives. building community, sharing, working together is the key

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Derek M Book said...

Hey there,

Cool looking blog, I'll have to hang around and read for a while. I was homeless for 5 years (on and off) in Canada. I used every trick in the book to get to where I am. I am writing about my life at a blog called "Formerly Homeless":

I will try to set up a link on my page to this blog.


At 11:44 PM, Anonymous Foghat_Grey said...

This has been excellent, I contantly come back and read stuff over again, because I plan on drifting around the country as soon as I finish high school. I've been searching for years for something to make me happy, and I think constantly moving along and looking for great places where I could stand living is it.

I do have one bone to pick with you, and that is about food. You don't say much about what you did for food, or what people can do. You didn't say what it cost you to eat every month, which is important to know. Would you consider adding a section about foods?

At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in suburban Houston, Texas, and have been living in my car since my parents both passed away about a year ago. I have a full-time job I am happy with. The weather here is hot, but there are plenty of lakes and beaches here to cool you off. I refuse to earn my $11 per hour just to give it to some landlord or renter for a $700 a month apartment! My boss and co-workers at first thought I was strange, but now understand the freedoms I have, like being able to drive to the beach and hang out on my days off, etc. Plus, all of the extra money I have at the end of the week leftover after gas in the car ($40.00 can go all week!!!).
Thank you for your site and it is nice to know that there are people out there that truly understand the "economics" of living in cars.
Keep your oil changed, brakes in good order and radiator filled and you are good to go.

houstontx 9/20/06 15:03 CDT

At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in suburban Houston, Texas, and have been living in my car since my parents both passed away about a year ago. I have a full-time job I am happy with. The weather here is hot, but there are plenty of lakes and beaches here to cool you off. I refuse to earn my $11 per hour just to give it to some landlord or renter for a $700 a month apartment! My boss and co-workers at first thought I was strange, but now understand the freedoms I have, like being able to drive to the beach and hang out on my days off, etc. Plus, all of the extra money I have at the end of the week leftover after gas in the car ($40.00 can go all week!!!).
Thank you for your site and it is nice to know that there are people out there that truly understand the "economics" of living in cars.
Keep your oil changed, brakes in good order and radiator filled and you are good to go.

houstontx 9/20/06 15:03 CDT

At 1:04 AM, Anonymous formerly homeless in a2 said...

Concerning food, in most medium to large sized cities there are places that serve free (or low cost,or give a donation) meals. Here in Ann Arbor, MI, the churches that serve the meals don't even try to "convert" you...


At 1:41 AM, Anonymous ploney said...

Licensed under creative commons
I have also Posted my content elsewhere

You will often find yourself with access to a open room and maybe even a bed but for social, security, or other reasons no access to a normal kitchen, laundry, or bathroom. Many of your needs will be met using your regular camping gear like sleeping bag and ground mat but often you can take avantage of the utilities and environmental control offered.

* Kitchen:

You will likely have access to electricity once indoors, it is better to use this for cooking than risk fire using your gas stove. A stinger or immersion boiler is useful for boiling water for cooking are cheap and super light to carry. Camp pots and pans work great. Acquire used plastic food buckets for washing and trash/compost/recycling.

* Washing:

A bucket and dish soap will remove even tough stains, regular laundry detergent is not so great for hand washing and can stink up your pack. Even better is if you have access to a sink, a universal flat drain plug is good for almost all drains, don't forget to rinse completely. An excellent dry line is a long narrow bungie-type cord, the hooks work on door and window frames and curtain rods, some purpose made lines even have clothespins made in the bungie cord. Make sure there is air circulation in the place you hang your clothes. Irrigation systems can be tapped for water although it may not be safe to drink.

* Bedroom:

A twin sheet folded and sewn on the bottom makes a cheap hostel sheet, this is good if you must crash on a gross couch or mattress in summer. Hospital scrubs make good pajamas, and they can also be worn on the street or if you need to look at home in a hospital. Several layers of corrugated cardboard make a decent mattress getting you off of a cold or damp cement floor. Stuff some clothes into a pants leg or stuff sack for a pillow.

* Bathroom:

Your stinger water heater can be put into your wash bucket and used to warm around 10-15 lbs of water enough for a dipper shower or a washcloth bath. Wear sandals in any shower or bath area where foot fungas is possible; foot rot can ruin your best mode of transport, peeing on your feet in the shower is a rumored treatment/prevntative. A chamber pot or pee bottle is a good idea if you want your trips into and out of your urban squat minimal to avoid detection: women need to find bottles with a large opening or a urine stream funnel.

* Electricity:

Power jacks are found almost everywhere in every room around the world. If the jacks are turned off there are inline light fixture adaptors that screw in and still allow the light bulb. Small 12v - 110 or 220 are now cheaply found especially in truck stops and gas stations. Think 110/220 when buying travel items - you never know where you will be globe hopping. !!DANGER!!High skill required!!DANGER!! A person with appropriate skill can remove a bulb or splice into wiring from public light displays or streetlights, appropriate safety and training must be used as there is no way to shut off power for this work, serious life hazard is involved.!!DANGER!!

* Computer:

A PDA or small laptop gives you access to the net, if you are willing to pay corpgov for their cellular service you can get on almost anywhere but it is traceable to location and expensive. Better to hunt out a a free wifi hopspot or cantenna an open home network. A Knoppix or Damn Small Linux disk lets you take over a Windows-owned machine and run your free unlimited system on it bypassing most blockages. A USB keychain drive lets you carry your files and photos as you document the fight and get your information out to the people.

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous ploney said...

Warm food can easily be prepared from simple very cheap vegatables like potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots etc using a "stinger" immersion or conduction cooker and an available outlet. if using a commercial pocket size coil dip boiler you need to slice the veggies and add water but not salt or spices (these gunk up coil cookers). After about 15 min you soup will be cooked remove the boiler (unplug first) and add your salt and spices.
If you need to make a conductor boiler it can be done by finding an power plug stripping insulation and wrapping around two long screws and tightened into a piece of wood or plastic. Very dangerous but it will cook your food as long as there is some salt in the water; use in a ventilated area.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Speedwell said...

Generic water-based lube is simply "dimethicone." It's also available as a clear liquid anti-static/detangler/shine-enhancing hair stuff for about the same price or cheaper (especially if you find it on the sale shelf at the drug store). Lasts a long time. It is a silicone oil, so everything it touches is slick afterwards unless washed off with soap, but it can be left on skin without damage.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger chopready said...

I shave with hand lotion, sample size. They're everywhere. As for water...c'mon. Break out a mouthful...Happy camping !

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Don said...

Just spent a week shaving using about a quarter teaspoon of gel hand soap. It worked great; the only difference is that I couldn't see where I'd shaved! Had to go back and get the high spots by touch. (Combination of poor lighting and the transparent soap.) The soap I was using was Sam's Club anti-bacterial - about the cheapest there is if you can deal with the large size bottle.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger jamirae666 said...

I am homeless in So. Cali. A tip to keep you hydrated is go to a starbuck's and order a venti ice water with a few pumps of flavoring, like Mango, Pepperment, hazelnut (my brother LOVES it now), rasberry, etc... if anything at all, it will cost you 30 cents for it, but i'm getting really tired of plain water, myself. And they taste good. If you are living in a tent (a lot of so. calers do) i suggest placing cool, wet rags over your tent- it cools the inside down. If you live in an area with a butt load of misquitos, get drier sheets and put them around your tent or car window or whatever. I have no idea why, but it works. They also help with caked on grease from your pans. Swear to God. And you can get $40 for like, a buck.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, I'd like to say that the thimble of water may or may not be acurate for what one would find in the world. Even if it were only a last-ditch effort, I would head to a park area or practically anywhere else that had a flowing source of water... fill a bottle or any number of various containers... find another location and use that to shave with. A thimble, considering the average consumption of water for human survival, hardly seems appropriate for shaving.

I will say that the astroglide, or another many types of "sex" lubricant MAY work. This could also be supplemented with various types of lotions (prefferably unscented) some conditioners depending on ingredients (to be safe chemically,) or one could go old-school and use almost any type of mild soap.

So far as I'm concerned... I shave very little. I typically have a half to one inch beard growing. The cost of razors is outrageous... so I've ditched my Gilette Mach 3 for a single straight-razor. The cost at first is high, however, this could be off-set in less than 2 months with daily shaving costs of new blades alone. Plus, were one in a scrape (no pun intended) the straight-razor could be one hell of a good tool.

Anyhow, as for my (not-so-homeless) approach to shaving... I honestly have no use for soaps, lotions, etc. Water, a good and sharp razor are all that's needed in order to get a close and effective shave.

As for the not-so-grand problem of one cutting themselves... this can easily be fixed. Our most hated enemy, which is extremely common, walmart, even carries supplies for this scenario. Not many use it as I've noticed stocks remain fairly high... styptic pencils, blocks, etc. These are very harsh feeling - but if you're bleeding form the throat, chin, etc. and if you're like me... it won't stop anytime soon... a dab of this will put a quick end to it. These contain alum... they stop minor cuts from bleeding and work RAPIDLY. I would suggest not cutting yourself to try one, however, if you're in a situation... give it a shot. A simple shaving kit for myself includes... basic straight-razor, styptic pencil, clean cloth, small 8000 grit honing block (for razor) a strop (one could use cardboard instead of leather) and depending on my mood and/or time, I'll occasionally use either regular mild soap or even some extremely inexpensive "lather" soaps.

I would suggest looking up "shaving" in Wikipedia... there is a vast amount of information there, with occasional tips one may not find elsewhere. 'Cheers.

At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about just using plain bar soap to shave? Why pay for another item, you can also shower and clean your clothes with it also. As for cooking, we used to place canned food on or near the valve covers in the engine compartment especially when traveling to work. Worked great for like Ravioli or Spagettios for example. Pizza in foil would work as well. Just place it where it won't fall off!

At 10:12 PM, Blogger invid said...

I've never been homeless etc - but I'm always pondering various 'poo hits the fan' scenarios and how simple tasks we take for granted could be done in a 'reusable' manner. I have a trusty pair of real tough stainless scissors (I usually just shave my face with my head shavers but these require electricity) - wouldn't these be capable of getting a 'clippers' length cut both head and face?
Has anyone tried this - I haven't yet - but would be curious to see if it is possible to get an even 'shave' this way.

At 5:26 AM, Blogger prozacandpearls said...

Hey, I've just come across your blog, really interesting. I thought since the subject matter is similar you might be interested in mine - - it's a collection of the stories I have heard from homeless people around London. I'd love some people to stop by because I've just started it, and some of these people have amazing stories :) happy new year!!

At 5:35 AM, Blogger prozacandpearls said...

ps I've just put a link to you on my blog, hope that's ok. This blog really is fascinating, I somehow doubt I'll be getting much else done this afternoon!

At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm about to be homeless, you can check me out at, I'm skunkapeman. Since I'm preparing for my impending homelessness I am looking for all the good advice I can get and have read your entire blog plus everything you posted on

I took the KY challenge! The KY lube did give a good shave. I don't find it to be an entirely waterless shave however. What happened to me is the razor got clocked with hair and goo pretty quick. I had to clear the razor with water in the bathroom sink. I have a tube of KY in my back pack for my homeless journey which will begin March 19th. But when I shave, I will make sure I have at least a cup or bowl of water available to me because without it the razor will get clogged way before you're done.
Thanks for the advice!

At 5:49 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Yes, without a cup of water to clear the razor, your razor will also be ruined. I also like just a bit of water on a washcloth to wipe off with at the end. I'm glad you seem to have had good results, though. It's a shave that won't burn you when you don't have a sink available.


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