Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Running Away

When I ran away from home, I knew nothing about how to make my way, homeless or sheltered. I had a few skills, but very few that could easily be converted to money. I didn't know what challenges I would face, and I had no idea how much danger I was in.

I was bullied in grade school, and I quit high school when I was sixteen, a year before I ran. The alienation I'd learned from this fueled my decision to leave home, but did not teach me how to do it. I ran naked, no money, no work, no future, no plans, no rights. I survived by luck. Had my environment been even a little bit more hostile, I should have died.

My early bouts with homelessness cannot be termed anything but failures. I escaped my homelessness by relying upon friends to take me in. It took years before I found my own way, and in the process I became every kind of victim.

Homelessness, while it falls frequently upon the weak, is not for the weak or the unprepared. Teen shelters are virtually non-existant, and if they do exist, you wouldn't want to be in them. They'd resemble youth authority jails or group homes, and either model is miserable and dangerous. Adult shelters will not accept a teenager. They come with too much legal murkiness, but in any case adult shelters are horrible even when kindly intended. I spent a week or so in a place called 1706 House in Hermosa Beach, California. Their chief mission was to intervene with the family and get the teen runaway to return home, and they had a two week policy. You could stay there for two weeks, but then you were out, for good. Nothing comes up for them on a Google search now, so I can only guess that the outfit folded. No loss. They served the system, and were indifferent to the individual.

I look back on this time with a detached horror. I can hardly relate to that earlier self. When kids write to me asking me to help them run away, I never know how to respond. The one thing I know is that they should never run without a plan. You have to know where you are going, and how you expect to earn money. Without that plan, your survival will be a roll of dice.

I learned to survive homeless simply by increasing my knowledge in a general way. I had far greater analytical skills when I was twenty eight than I had when I was seventeen. I had the experience of teen homelessness to inform my meditations. Perhaps most importantly I had a driver's license, a car, and the right to legally work. Those are powerful tools.

26 Comments:

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Friend John said...

I am not sure who wrote this but your Homelessness guide helped me make it through my homelessness i stumbeled upon this artical one day surfing the net had i not found this guide i probabliy would not have made it through my first night
so thank you i owe you a part of who i am today to advice who ever you are thank you. your Friend John

 
At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Brandon said...

Never stop writing these. Ever. May I suggest your next article? I'd like to see an article that includes some interesting stories about your journey, or more about your personal experiences. Those are what interest me, and I am sure a plethora of others'.
Thank you a lot for your website, your being, and your kindness.

 
At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Tired, unloved mom and wife said...

I want to run away. But I am older. I am guessing it is different now? I did not know if I should just pack a backpack of stuff and go, with no ID or anything so that no one bothers me about it or calls family to tell them where I am.

 
At 6:33 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

With no i.d. you have no right to work or drive. I advise against your solution.

 
At 7:21 PM, Blogger BRug said...

Wow - this one hit really close to home.

The bullying in early life as well as the running away.

Bullies are the bane of my existence! They come in many varieties but the concept of "other people's feelings" is lost on most of them. The bullied are vulnerable and sometimes enable to defend themselves. Some internalize the negativity and it destroys their confidence.

As I gain more confidence in my writing and understanding of the world in which we live I plan to do my best to combat these people. I'll not come bearing a sword, but rather my words!

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger hippie said...

here are some help lines for runaways in several Western countries: http://www.homeless.org.au/runaways.htm

It would be good to get a list of help lines for runaways in less developed or more religious societies. Runaways should never be forced to go home, esp in parts of the world where "honor killing" is practiced.

 
At 12:53 AM, Anonymous sad girl said...

im 12 and i want to run away. im miserable at home and cant stand being with my mum( i dont even want to call her that). However, i dont have a plan. Should i run? by the way, im from Singapore.

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Because you have no plan, Sad Girl, I believe you should not run away. Without any place to stay, with no protectors, and with no means of support, I can think of no good outcomes for you. Please try to work things out with your mother.

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger Barb said...

I ranaway from home when I was 12 years old, the first time. I ended up in New York city. Every kind of abuse you can imagine happened to me, there are people waiting there for young people like I was then. If you are 12 years old or any young age please, please do not runaway from home...try to stay until your at least able to work and make it own your own, please believe me

 
At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Sad Girl, I am also 12 and wish to run away. My mom has been ignoring me and making me do everything on my own, from washing my own clothes to cooking dinner for myself. I refuse to call her mom anymore, but instead call her her first name. I have a great bike and I have lots of riding experience. I kinda have a plan formed in my head. If I can make it to the mall, there's this one bush in the back that is like a cave. It's totally hidden and would suit for a little home. I've also saved up $2000 in birthday and Christmas money. I'll last me at least a month in food if I get cheaper things. Any suggestions?

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

My suggestion for you is the same as for Sad Girl. You are heading for bad things. Don't.

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous A Young Fighter said...

Hello.
I am not sure if you will respond to this or not. I suppose it does not matter in the long run, but it might help.
My name is Carter. I am a female and a bit young in age, but rather mature. I suffer from major depression. I have planned for most everything I can think of.
My options at the moment are between setting out to find myself or suicide. I do not wish to hear another person try and argue with my decision, and it would be very helpful if you didn't. My resons are my own.
I only ask that you perhaps give me some words of advice? Such as, when bringing an extra person with you, does the weight of trying to care for them over come the safety and support they offer?
Thank you. :)

 
At 5:09 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Carter,

I'm not very good at being told what to say and what not to say. That's why I have my own blog, so I get to have my say all the time. You tell me you are young and possibly suicidal and that I should respect that. I don't. If you are young, you haven't had time to see that things change if you wait long enough. Therefore, trust me, your troubles are temporary but you must not make them permanent through impatience. That is what suicide does, it makes permanent what would have changed.

When you die isn't your business. How you live is.

As to homeless partners, fine, if you can find someone reliable, trustworthy, and capable. Not fine if you are caring for someone else. Generally, unless you have already solved all the problems that normally arise, you've no time to be solving someone else's problems as well.

I hope that helps.

 
At 5:37 AM, Blogger AsianGypseh (the food lover) said...

Like HOmemaker said... Anonymous, don't run away. You already are doing everything for yourself in your mom's house. what you will end up doing is removing the shelter from your head and the safety of at least 4 walls. Keep saving up and just try to ignore your irresponsible "roommate".

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:43 PM, Anonymous SilentPerseverance said...

I just wanted to let you know that what you write helps people, or at least it helped me. I ran away from my family a few months ago, things had gotten... bad. When I left I wasn't sure I would even be able to make it out alive, let alone survive on the streets on my own. Your words have helped me through this so far, and with any luck they will continue to. Thank you for your wisdom and understanding.

 
At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ran away once when I was twelve. I slept in a bathroom and then in a forgotten tree house. I returned home and got scolded but it didn't matter. I was running away from my problems but truth is no matter how far or how fast they'll always follow you...

 
At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my story's damn near the same as yours. except i don't have a car. and its winter. and i'm about to be on those snowy streets. this time would be my first dealing with freezing weather. no car. no food. no money. just a down jacket, down sleeping bag, sleeping mat. and my clothes and my wits. any suggestions?

 
At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your ife doesnt sound that bad, ive been washing my own laundry and fending for myself since i was like 8. Trust me your life is not that bad, not as bad as others. And 2,000 dollars? Thats more than I get in Like 4 years. You have made It clear by saying that you are going to Live in a bush that your not gonna make it long on Your own... im sorry for being rude, but by that post you sound like its not That Bad At home And you should jus Stick it out and wait till youre older and see that the real world is hard and Not A place for Children. Take it from Me, i Ran away and life isnt easy on The street. Best of luck
-A

 
At 6:22 AM, Blogger Abe Neko said...

Hi I'm abe I wanted to thank you for writing this :) it's really helped me. I'm at a library right now using the computers and I'm a rough sleeper. I'm 15 and I'm a runaway, I wanted to ask...if I go to hospital would they send me back to my parents? I'm in Britain so the hospital is free but I don't want to be sent home. I was beat up and I think I broke a couple of my ribs and did something painful to my ankle, what should i do? :(

 
At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi just came across this . any suggestions on how to pretend to be happy when you are hurting inside ?

 
At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stick it out for a couple more years, dear. I wouldn't want you kidnapped and sold into trafficking. It might be bad but don't give up. If you believe there is another way, there will be. Trust your heart, mind, and instinct. And be wise. A lot of adults are sneaky. They might try to steer you the wrong way. If things don't feel right leave the situation immediately. I've tried suicide multiple times a year for 10 years and its very messy and something always goes wrong. Don't try it no matter how bad things get. Never forget to be yourself. Don't let anyone take that from you. Life is precious, especially yours because it's yours. These are some of the things I've learned in life. I've run away a lot but there's only bad out there when you're a kid on you're own. Take this badness and turn it into something that will protect you. My heart is out to you. Good luck and stay strong.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger m sathish kumar said...

im 18 now, i wanted to become a cricketer. cricket is my life. but my family never ever supported me at any instance. they never took care of me... they bought a car for my 1st brother, a laptop, a costly cell for my 2nd brother. but for me, they does'nt even buyed a basic cell phone.i was not treated as their family. but thats not my problem, i just said them directly that i dont want anything except money for my cricket coaching. but they never responded it. for them its just a small thing. but for me its paining heavier. i have no luck. i have'nt been a winner at any instance. i've also loved a girl seriously onesided(still loving), and i could'nt convert it into doubleside. so i have failed everything in my life. so i decided not anymore. now i decided to run awy from my home(chennai). my idea is to runaway to mumbai and work for partime and go for cricket coaching. is that possible for me to make it atleast to a domestic cricketer.i can work hard and im well matured. but im also lacking in money. i just have 1000 rs. i heve all my birth certificate, 10th certificate, 12th certificate, community certificate, and even a vote id.i just want your HELP more than your suggestion....

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

@m satish kumar,
I know nothing about India or cricket that can inform my advice to you. I only know what it is like to be young and angry and impatient, and your story makes me smile with recognition and sadness. Did you read the article I wrote above? I fear that you, like me, are rushing headlong into great danger that you cannot even recognize. Try to overcome the weakness of your youth which is the belief that nothing can hurt you, and that you can do anything. The reality is much can hurt you, and if you pursue this course survival will depend on good luck.

 
At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in a pretty bad situation at home: it's gotten to the point of either suicide, or running away. I have a plan on where to go, the route to take, what to bring, how to get money. But I do need a few extra tips, so far I've got panhandling and collecting tin cans to earn money. I don't want to do anything illegal. And I think I'm pretty set on the packing list (although some important things that you might not traditionally think of would help). The only thing is I don't want to look like a backpacker, I want to be able to blend in. I also need to know if it's possible for a minor to get a job. I know that being homeless and hungry all the time will suck, but it's the best option I have. And driving isn't an option. Thanks!

 
At 10:04 AM, Anonymous "Sissy" said...

Im 16 and on the "run". Its very difficult. I got 10 dollars today and now i feel rich.Any advice?

 

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