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How to live Homeless

Updated on October 22, 2010

"Flying a sign"

At least this guy is honest. That's worth a beer isn't it?
At least this guy is honest. That's worth a beer isn't it?

Be Prepared for the Worst. It Could Happen Anyone

With today's economy being the way it is, I'm starting to see more and more people who used to have jobs, and houses, both rented and mortgaged living in tents, and caves nowadays. It's a little disconcerting for me. It's going to be difficult. I hope none of my readers have to go through that, but if you do, my own experience with it can help it be a situation that is easy to survive. You may even find a few diamonds in the rough living that way.

At the time that my wife threw me out with nothing but what I could fit in my backpack, I knew what to grab and quickly. Years ago when I was a traveling troubadour (musician) I learned how much and what little you actually needed to survive without a permanent shelter. When I grabbed my stuff, I reached for the things that would keep me warm, dry and clothed. It's funny how she tossed me out right after I gave her my last money for the rent. How very convenient for her, how very inconvenient for me.

I grabbed my MountainSmith® backpack. I started filling it with clothes. I grabbed a couple long-life candles, my tent, a tarp, a couple of bungee chords, my sleeping bag, my laptop (of course,) and my birth certificate, social security card, high school diploma, college transcripts, and that's it.

Luckily for me, I live in a small town in Colorado where if you walk for a mile or two, you're on BLM or National Forest land. It is legal to camp there for 2 weeks, then you have to move I believe 1000 feet. I'm not sure. It doesn't really matter. They don't patrol where I am anyway. There are no ATV trails or hunting camps there.

So I'm up on the side of a mountain, It's rather warm in the day, and a little chilly at night. I set up my tent on top of a pile of leaves. This will make the ground softer, and warmer to sleep on. I put the tarp over it and weigh it down with heavy rocks on the side, and bungee chords on either side, hooked to nearby trees. I have two fleece jackets. I put one inside the other, and roll them into a ball. That is my pillow. I crawl inside the sleeping bag, light a candle, turn on a pocket radio, tune it to Coast To Coast AM and it's off to dreamland for me.

You see it doesn't take much to keep you warm and dry. In the middle of the winter, this would have involved building a fire to dry my shoes out, cooking rocks rocks to put inside the tent to keep it warm, and using the fleeces to wear in bed instead of using them for a comfortable pillow. It would have been a shore just to scoop the snow away under the spot to put the tent.

Now for some real tricks. You see the trick to surviving is mostly just the right gear and common sense. But to stay employable, socially active, and keep your friends who are not homeless from alienating you, takes a little creative thought. You have to pack extra water in, have at least a little money for razors, soap. Something else that helped me was a little nightcap to help me sleep good with the raccoons fighting over a carcass, skunks spraying outside the tent, squirrels chewing on the tent.

For soap I use Dr. Bronner's® pure castile soap. Nothing gets you cleaner. It can be used for shampoo, shaving cream, laundry soap. It comes in a little bottle that fits in a hand bag easily. It also is bio-degradable, and all natural with no harsh chemicals. Staying somewhat clean would be difficult, but If you want to be employable, it's cheap.

Another thing that is somewhat important and costs very little is a pre-paid cellphone. I got one for $30. It came with 300 minutes. They lasted me a month. It did pay for itself in the little bit of work I was able to get because I had that contact phone. If you want to stay plugged into society, you need that. If you lose faith and just drop out of society, I know from close observation that it takes about 3 months to fall into the hole that fellow in the photo above is in.

Another good thing to do is avoid other homeless as much as possible. I don't say this out of malice. Some of the best people you will ever meet had a few months of rotten luck in a row, and slid right into the street. They don't just panhandle off of people on the freeway with a cardboard sign. If they know you're outside with them, and just got paid for say a day's work through the temp service, they will follow you and beg you nickel by nickel until you're flat broke, then they will move on to the next one, or go and hide in a hotel room when they get their social security checks.

Now for the cops. They will see you around, wondering the streets and pull over and try to get information from you. If they think you're homeless, they will automatically try to find something illegal to charge you with. It's not their fault. The Chief's of police and mayors get pressure from the most influential of town to clean the city up. Don't tell them you are homeless! PERIOD. If they ask for your address, give them your last address. An address is just a "corporate office" if you will, and since your last "official residence" is at your last house/apartment, you will not be lying. Be polite, soft spoken, but don't answer any questions like "what are you doing out at 2 AM?" It's none of their business. Don't consent to a search. If they see your shaving cream, soap, candles, a small cook-stove, a half empty liquor bottle in your bag or backpack, they'll know you are homeless, and start with the daily harassment. Again, have compassion for these people. They are simply under pressure to act on the homeless from the brass at the top. Give them break. They deal with rude, crude and obnoxious people all day long.

Now on to security. I always carried a big Buck® knife. I also always had a dog. It doesn't need to be a big dog, just make sure it is not deaf so that you can use it as an alarm system. It may cost a little money to feed and get shots and checkups for, but it's well worth it. My dog actually saved my life once (that I know of.) I was a witness to a major theft one night. I told the cops I only saw the vehicle, and tow figures I couldn't make out in the dark, but the next night, one of the characters (I did actually see who it was) came and paid me a little visit with a shotgun. I think he thought I was a rat. Thanks to the signal from my trusty old best friend Liza, I was alltered to the presence of a human. I was sitting up on the hill with a 40oz. of Old English above watching him peer into my tent with the barrel of the shotgun pointed inward. I threw a rock accross the ravine to give him a noise to shoot at. He fired twice at the noise of the rock, and ran off.

When you lie down at night, have your shoes right where you can reach them. Have your essential items in the backpack or bag for accelerated vacating of the area. I also used to tie fishing line to shrubs and hang soup cans from them as an alarm. I knew a guy who made booby traps. I do not recommend this practice. If a BLM agent steps on it and gets injured, you'll go to federal prison. If a local cop gets injured-even a scratch, you'll go to maximum security "rape me in the ass" prison. So if you like the largest black man in prison expiring on top of you after he copulates, go ahead and booby trap.

Now on to the legal tender issue. Many people of the street make jewelry, play guitar like I did, and paint houses as well. Temp services don't really pay well, but to work for a week and replenish supplies, it will do. I know a guy who pans for gold throughout the west. He lives in a beat up old jeep. There is panhandling, but it would draw attention to you and have you marked as homeless. Actually the cops call them "trolls." For one summer I hooked up with a company that ships wild mushrooms from Grand Mesa Colorado to Manhattan for fancy restaurants. I'd get up and pick them at around 4:30 or 5:00 and pick until he showed up. He would beep my radio to meet him at the trail-head. He would pack them in coolers with dry ice, and ship them on a plane for that night's dinner. I averaged $100 before noon picking Bolitis Edulis, and Morchella Escalante. (I even picked up a few bucks on the side with the other kind of mushrooms as well hehe.)

I hope this has given some sense of security to those whose mortgages are overdue, and those whose rent is past due due to the lack of employment out there. You can survive it. I'll pray that none of you have to face this situation. It's better just to work a lot and live inside.


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