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What to Keep if You Are Going to Be Homeless
What Material Possessions Should You Keep When You've Lost Your Home?
Sometimes losing your home is out of your control or at least being or not being homeless has gotten out of your control. This page is not intended to judge people. It is simply intended to give some advice on what to keep if one is going to become homeless that will, hopefully, help some people survive homelessness with less discomfort and to help them stand the best chance of escaping it.
I have no special degree in homelessness studies or in social work of any kind. All I have is experience with being homeless, both my own experiences and the experiences many people living on the street and formerly homeless people have shared with me during my volunteer work. I hope perhaps I can help someone else facing the sad and unpleasant task of winnowing down his or her belongings so they may be easily carried in an automobile or a backpack.
A Car or Other Automobile Can Serve as a Place to Sleep
If you have a car or other automobile, make it your highest priority to try to keep it if you are going to become homeless.
Owning a car will make job hunting and getting to work much easier. It is also safer by far to sleep inside a car than it is to sleep on the streets or in some shelters. Additionally, if you can't get into a shelter due to a lack of beds, they will sometimes allow you to park your car in their lot overnight. In fact, people unable or unwilling to help you in other ways may be willing to let you park your vehicle somewhere safe overnight for a few days at a time.
If you are certain you will become homeless put resources into your automobile to ensure it will be dependable once you are using it as both transportation and housing.
Which Vehicle Should I Keep?
If you have more than one automobile between you and your spouse or partner you'll need to make some further decisions such as, between a minivan and a compact car, which should you keep? It's complicated and it's something for you to consider carefully.
Your number one consideration should be dependability. Once you are homeless, chances are, you won't be able to afford any auto repairs.
Another consideration is fuel economy. While a compact car does not make the most comfortable place to sleep, it may be the vehicle you can hang onto and afford gas for the longest.
Cost of auto insurance is another factor to weigh when deciding which automobile to keep.
If you have children who will be with you, the convenience of a larger vehicle may outweigh the potential financial downsides of keeping it.
When you have sold off the car you are not going to keep, make any necessary repairs to the automobile you will be keeping to make it as dependable as possible.
- How to Sleep in Your Vehicle
This article gives tips on how to sleep in your car, van, or other vehicle.
A Cell Phone Can Serve as a Lifeline and Help You Escape Homelessness
A cell phone, preferably one with a pay-as-you-go option, can help to keep you safer while you are homeless by allowing you to call 911 if necessary. A cell phone also provides you with a stable phone number to use on job applications. Since even most basic cell phones have an alarm clock function, cell phones can help you to keep on time for job interviews, work, and other appointments. Cell phones also often have a date book function, allowing you to program in work schedules and other appointments with reminders.
While cell phones are incredibly useful tools for surviving and escaping homelessness, some homed people take great exception to homeless people owning cell phones. From what I've figured out, those people somehow think their tax money has paid for your cell phone while they feel they cannot afford as many nice things as they want and thus they get angry about it. In any case, your cell phone may make you a target for violence. To minimize this danger, try to use your cell phone where you will not be seen and keep it stashed away when it is not in use.
A Cell Phone Charger
If you have an automobile, the problem of how to charge your cell phone can be solved with a car charger. However, not everyone person has a car and those who do must often be cautious about conserving fuel and battery life so other options are needed.
If you have a job you may be able to discreetly plug in your cell phone at work. If your friends haven't completely abandoned you when you need them you may be able to charge your phone at a friend's home.
However, I think the best option is a combination solar and crank handle phone charger if you can find one. Most of them are compact and some of them are multi-purpose, with built-in flashlights or other such tools.
To minimize the danger of violence, try to keep cell phone use to a minimum and away from public view whenever possible.
A Laptop or Tablet Can be a Powerful Job Hunting and Money Earning Tool
If you have a laptop or tablet PC with wireless Internet capacity it can be one of the most important things to keep if you are going to become homeless. A laptop can be used to search through job listings, to apply to jobs, and to earn money online through sites such as Squidoo. Laptops can also be used to find inexpensive rooms for rent and odd jobs or gigs on Craigslist and on other online bulletin boards.
On a more comfort related note, laptops can help you stay in contact with your friends and family. Children can be kept entertained with computer games and sometimes even do homework on a laptop. You can also download books into them and save space in your kit for other items.
If you have access to a scanner, you can also be sure to hold onto cherished family photographs in your laptop. Be sure to back up anything with sentimental value onto a CD in case your laptop breaks down, gets destroyed, or gets stolen.
Laptops can often be plugged in at coffee shops and Internet cafes as long as you buy something to drink or eat there. Such businesses are also the best places to pass as not homeless when using your laptop. Laptops are another possession which can make a you a target for theft or violence. To minimize this threat, try to use your laptop in places where you are less visible or only when you are sure no one can tell you are homeless. When your laptop is not in use, keep it hidden away.
To avoid theft and violence only use your laptop only when you can not be seen or when you are certain you are passing as not homeless.
Charging Laptops and Cell Phones in Your Car
A cheap power inverter can turn your car into an all-purpose charger for cell phones and laptops.
Comfortable Walking Shoes are a Necessity
Try to keep at least two pairs of comfortable walking shoes. If you have a car, keep more than two pairs of comfortable walking shoes because you have the space to store them. Changing your shoes can frequently can help prevent sore feet.
Homeless people, even if they have cars, find themselves doing a lot of walking. If a person does not have a car, he or she will often have to spend all day walking. A spare pair of comfortable shoes allows for one pair to air out while wearing the other and gives feet a rest from the pressure points of a specific pair of shoes. Foot injuries caused by inappropriate shoes are extremely common among homeless people.
If you are a woman, do not bother to keep any high heels or other uncomfortable dress shoes. Instead, choose to keep your comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of comfortable dress flats.
Clothing to Keep
While it's obvious that people must try to keep some clothing when they become homeless, deciding which items to keep can be difficult.
Socks and Underwear
Keep as many pairs of comfortable socks, underwear, and bras (if you are a woman) as you can reasonably carry. Comfortable socks are especially important as foot health is extremely important to people who must often walk for hours and hours each day. You can use socks and underwear as cushioning for other, more delicate items in your backpack or in your vehicle.
T- shirts help to keep your outer clothing clean but they can also be worn alone so in choosing which t- shirts to keep choose those that are made of sturdy fabric. Avoid t- shirts with bold patterns that will show through your clothing but try to keep only those t- shirts you can wear on their own so they can serve double duty. You can check to see which t- shirts are keepers by trying them on under the other shirts you plan to keep.
Shirts and Pants
Choose sturdy, wrinkle- resistant, stain- resistant items of clothing. Make sure at least some of your clothing is appropriate for job interviews. Even if you normally wouldn't wear button-down dress shirts every day, if you must pare down to just a few shirts choose as many sturdy dress shirts as possible. Keep as many sturdy dress pants as possible as well. Light, synthetic fabrics can be compressed into a small space and also can dry more quickly when washed.
If you are a woman, you probably already know that skirts can often be rolled or folded until very compact and they can easily be layered over pants for greater warmth during bad weather or worn alone to keep cool in hot weather. Skirts can also be dressy enough to serve as clothing proper for interviews and office jobs.
If you are a man, keep at least one sport coat, preferably in a neutral color such as black. You can use your sport coat for job interviews. You can also wear your sport coat to appear less homeless as many homed people don't consider that homeless people may keep a few nice things from their former lives.
If you own ties, they are easy to hang onto because they roll up very small and can be used to protect delicate items in your backpack or automobile. Changing your tie for a second or third interview can create the impression that you are wearing something different even if you only have one set of dress clothes. A tie, when worn with a button- down shirt and dress pants, can also help you to hide the fact that you are homeless, making it safer for you to go about your business.
If you live in an area where it gets cold, even just at night, be sure to hang onto cold weather clothing such as coats, hats, gloves, and thermal socks. Winter coats that run large and long are your best option because other clothing can be layered under them. If you are without a vehicle, a long, thick winter coat can be used to also serve as a blanket or bedroll, making for less for you to carry around.
A Towel Can Have Many Uses
Try to keep at least one towel per person. Big beach towels are best because homeless people often find themselves bathing in places like truck stop showers, beach facilities, and other public showers. A beach towel can also be used as a blanket or as a drop cloth to keep from getting dirty if one must sleep on the ground.
A Backpack Can Hold Belongings
A backpack is the easiest way to carry things around when you are homeless. Even if you have an automobile to store your belongings, it's a good idea to keep your most essential belongings in a backpack in case you are, at some point, forced to permanently or temporarily abandon your vehicle.
Backpacks can also help some to pass as tourists or students instead of as homeless people. While the best backpacks are those designed for sporting the backpack you already own is often the best one for you to have.
A PO Box Can Provide an Address
If you already have a Post Office box or rental mailbox, try to hang onto it. A PO box can provide you with an address to put on job applications. If you don't already have one, you may want to consider getting one while you still have an address to put on the form for getting one. Without an address it will be much harder to rent one. A friend or family member may be willing to let you use their address on your application for a P.O. box.
A Water Bottle or Canteen Provides Water Storage
If you own a canteen or water bottle that can be put on a string, lanyard, or strap keep it. It can be tricky finding water when you need and want it when you are homeless so canteens and water bottles are a good thing to have.
If you have an automobile to store such things in, also keep some larger water storage containers. You can use them to store not only drinking water but water for washing up as well.
Personal Hygiene Items
This one is kind of a no- brainer but people caught in a crisis such as impending homelessness often miss details they'd usually find obvious. Keep any hygiene items you feel you couldn't do without. Be sure to include toothbrush, comb, brush, razor, shampoo, soap, antiperspirant, and, if you are female, feminine hygiene products.
Keep Prescriptions In Their Original Bottles
Police will be unlikely to believe your prescriptions are not street drugs if they are not in properly labeled pharmacy bottles and you may go to jail for having medications you have every right to be carrying.
If you are taking any prescription medications, keep your full supply even if you have to condense it down into fewer bottles. I do not recommend condensing your medications into fewer bottles so do it only if you absolutely have no other options. The reason is that police will be unlikely to believe your prescriptions are not street drugs if they are not in properly labeled pharmacy bottles and you may go to jail for having medications you have every right to be carrying. If they find so much as a pill case of mixed pills during a stop and frisk you could be arrested or detained. They will also take your medications away and you could be without them until you can see a doctor again.
If you absolutely must condense your prescription medications into fewer bottles, carefully peel off and fold in half the labels to the bottles you won't be keeping and store them inside the bottles you will be keeping with the pills they are for. For your own safety, do not store similar looking pills in the same bottle.
All Forms of Identification
Keep all forms of identification you have on your person at all times. A secure, water-proof money belt worn under your clothing may be the best place to store your ID. Lost or stolen ID traps many people in homelessness and makes most assistance services impossible to use so make sure you keep your ID safe at all times.
Whatever Else That's Portable and Means Something to You
Since being homeless takes so very much away from a person, try to hang onto a few small, portable personal mementos. I've found that having such items as a photograph, a stuffed toy, a diary, or a family Bible can provide a lot of comfort. They help people remember that they haven't always been homeless.
Also, quite a few homeless people I've met have expressed regret about failing to keep some small thing that would have reminded them of home. While they often have to carry all of their belongings, some things are worth far more than what they weigh.
Any swearing, no matter how mild, will result in an unpublished comment.
© 2012 Kylyssa Shay