Homeless Survival : Practical Tips And Advice Derived From Personal Experience

by Urban Nomad

These days, “survivalism” has come to mean preparing for great events like nuclear holocaust or total government collapse. But disaster may come on a much more personal level. Individuals can suffer catastrophe as surely as nations can. When they do, it can be even more distressing because individuals feel alone in their suffering. I am talking about personal financial ruin and homelessness. Thousands of people across North America, indeed the world, have already experienced it following bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Whole families have been evicted from their homes, some quite forcibly. We see dozens of tent cities appearing across America, and more people ordering storage containers to live in. What we don’t see are the “hidden homeless” – those forced to survive by couch-surfing or moving back in with family. If 47 + million Americans now live below the poverty line, that means 47 + million who are either homeless or in imminent danger of becoming so. And the number is still growing.

When I lost my own job a while ago, I was not overly concerned. I had enough savings to live on for over a year. Then the economy self-destructed. It became exceedingly difficult to score a job interview, let alone an actual job. As the months of unemployment dragged on, my savings dwindled until I was forced for the very first time to consider homelessness as a real possibility.

What would I do if worse came to worst? How would I live? Not being a “rugged” or “street-smart” person at all, I knew from the outset that I could not follow the prevailing wisdom of living as the homeless do and trying to blend in with them. Sleeping in bus shelters, eating from dumpsters, and staying in homeless shelters was not for me. I feel that joining the homeless population, as many recommend, severely limits your options, especially if you hold out any hope of ever rejoining society.

My only survival experience comes from camping and backpacking. I’ve survived for days or weeks with just the supplies on my back. So I tried to adapt that same knowledge to an urban environment, envisioning a new kind of “home-free” lifestyle. I prefer to call it “distributed living” or being an “urban nomad” because it lets you have most of life’s necessities, just not all in one place. It’s based on the backpacking model of carrying everything you need with you and being self-sufficient. It does require some resources and preparation. A plan like this must be undertaken before you actually become homeless, when you still have some money and credit to draw on.

Fortunately, homelessness is more easily anticipated than some other disasters. You often can see it coming months in advance. But even those who do may prefer to live in denial. You may think it cannot happen to you. But it has already happened to thousands who thought it could never happen to them either. Nobody plans to end up in a homeless encampment. But lately, this is where more and more of the former middle-class are landing. Even many famous celebrities have had periods of homelessness.

If you’re one of the lucky few who have nothing to worry about financially, remember that poverty is not the only cause of homelessness. Things like chemical spills, radiation leaks, brush fires, mudslides, arson, water main breaking, and civil unrest could all force you from your home as surely as mounting debt can.

Natural disasters can strike anyone at any time. Hurricane Katrina rendered an entire city’s population homeless within hours. So have tornadoes in America’s heartland and nuclear meltdown in Japan. In such situations, people with vehicles and bug out bags ready will be survivors. Everyone else will be refugees. With that in mind, the following suggestions should be helpful to many, whether facing imminent homelessness or not. They can also be used in partial disaster scenarios where much of society still functions, with only some residents being displaced.


Obviously this is the main problem faced by the homeless. Those who stay in the city are restricted by laws against putting up any kind of temporary shelter. This is why the homeless are so often seen huddling in doorways, alcoves, tunnels, etc. Many cities have outlawed sleeping outdoors, which gives police the power to harass anyone they see lying down with their eyes closed. In fact, as long as you can be seen by anyone at night, your safety is at risk.

Homeless shelters may be no better. Filled with drugs and mental illness, they can be more dangerous than the streets, and many transients know enough to avoid them. Similar problems exist in tent cities. Diseases and parasites can easily spread when many people, all with poor hygiene, live close together.

Wooded areas appear safer and can be found throughout cities in the form of ravines, forests, valleys and parks. Some homeless build shelters there using tarps, plywood, cardboard boxes, or whatever else they can find. This may work for a while. But authorities keep tabs on these encampments and sooner or later come to take them down. Also, any shelter can be a target for thieves and squatters when you’re not there. Its mere presence during the day tells everyone that homeless person is living there.

I get around these problems by using a relatively inexpensive “pop-up “camouflage dome tent found online. A pop-up tent can be set up and taken down extremely fast, with very little effort. The idea is to find a secluded area in the woods or a local park, put up the tent at sunset, and then take it down again at or before sunrise the next morning. There is no campsite for anyone to find because it does not exist during the day. This is also known as stealth camping and many long-distance cyclists use it to avoid staying in motels. They camp on public or private land and take off before anyone knows they were there.

Your safety will come from being totally hidden. For anyone to see you sleeping at night, they would have to enter the forest after dark, leave the path at the right spot, and see through your camouflage. Even in broad daylight, a camo tent amid foliage is hard to spot. I have spent several nights in city parks using this method and haven’t yet been detected. A tent is one of the best possible temporary shelters you can use and gives a sense of security, even if it is mostly psychological. It does need a relatively flat, clear area of ground to be set up, so scout locations before you need them and clear them of debris before nightfall.

An even smaller shelter that fits practically anywhere is the bivy sack– essentially a zippered bag just large enough for your body, made of waterproof, breathable material. Some fold down to the size of a water bottle. A bivy will keep you dry and sheltered but won’t have room for anything else, like changing clothes. Some come with a framework that holds the fabric away from your face for some breathing room.

Satellite images on Google Maps are great for finding dense woods in your area. You want areas that are more “wild” and overgrown, not those which are obviously mowed and well maintained by the parks department(though if you are very diligent about always taking your tent down at sunrise, you should have no problems either way).

Find spots which are totally hidden from both the trail and the street. At the same time, they should not be too far from places you want to go during the day. Eventually you will have memorized a few ideal spots around the city and can rotate between them so that you never camp in the same place too long. I use a heavy camouflage tarp as a groundsheet, protecting the tent floor from sharp debris. This can double as a cover for your gear, keeping it dry and hidden in the forest while you go about your daily business.

Do not try to weather a serious storm in a tent. At such times, train stations, bus stations and airports are better choices. They are open24 hours a day and are designed for people to wait in, with ample seating, bathrooms, snack bars, and sometimes wi-fi.

In bad weather, some people will be sleeping in their seats or on the floor due to transit delays, and you can blend in with them. Keep a travel book from the library across your chest or some old boarding passes sticking out of your pocket. If you are in an airport with multiple terminals, change terminals every so often. Lingering in one place too long may attract the attention of security(though I have heard of one woman living for months at the airport before anyone caught on). Hospital waiting rooms may be almost as good.


As an urban nomad, pick your outfit very carefully. It must not only protect you from the elements and carry what you need it to carry but also fit into an urban setting without looking odd. In my opinion, black should be the color of all your items, including bags. Black looks right at home in the city, can go longer between washings without looking dirty, makes your bags and pockets look smaller despite being packed with stuff, and will render you practically invisible at night. My all-black outfit consists of:

  • waterproof hiking shoes
  • paratrooper or cargo pants (lots of pockets)
  • alternate pair of waterproof pants
  • turtleneck
  • hoodie sweater
  • expedition vest filled with pockets
  • waterproof coat with hood
  • baseball cap with built-in LEDs (like the Panther Vision power cap, for hands-free lighting at night)

Add to this a week’s worth of clean socks and underwear, as well as duplicate pants and hoodie so you’ll still have something to wear when doing laundry. In cold weather, I add wool socks, thermal insoles, wool turtleneck, wool long underwear, waterproof mitts, and a balaclava.


Huge packs made for backpacking may look odd in the city. I use a large size army surplus ALICE pack to carry bulky items such as sleeping bag and sleeping pad, with tent strapped to the outside. Choose a backpack that places the weight on your hips, not your shoulders, as the ALICE does. Urban commuter bags and messenger bags also work well for the city. You should be able to carry everything yourself when you need to. At other times, leave some of it stored or hidden and carry only what you need for that day. As backpackers know, the level of fitness required to carry everything you need on your back is not inconsiderable. So get in shape.

A compression sack may help fit everything in. Used by the army, this is a sack meant to be carried inside your pack. Fill it with compressible items (usually sleeping bag and clothes), then squeeze everything down, usually by sitting on it. At the same time, tighten all the straps around the sack. It will retain its smaller size until opened again.


Besides clothing, this is the other area that gives homeless people away. Though cities are filled with public bathrooms, it is hard to find one private enough to do anything more than use the toilet and wash your hands. So I recommend carrying a collapsible pail (found at camping stores) and a magnetic mirror (from a school supply store or dollar store).

Collapsible pails fold down flat to take up very little space in your pack. Fill one with warm water from the sink and bring it into one of the stalls. Set the pail atop the toilet tank or hang it from something if possible. Stick your magnetic mirror to the stall wall and use the pail as your sink. Now you can shave, brush teeth, and scrub your armpits in relative privacy.

Avoid bathrooms frequented by the homeless which tend to be the filthiest and most dangerous (eg. those in subways, public squares, certain restaurants, etc.). Clean, even elegant restrooms can be found in upscale shopping centers, colleges, theatres, airports, office buildings… places the homeless generally avoid. In hot weather, it may be possible to bathe in the same lakes and rivers where people go swimming.

When only a hot shower will do, visit a gym, YMCA, or university athletic center for the day, all of which have well appointed locker rooms. Fitness centers on college campuses may just be the cheapest, cleanest and safest, and are usually open to the public. A year’s membership will likely cost less than one month of rent, and may include perks like free wi-fi, towel service and a locker. It also provides a place to work out, rest, and socialize. Keeping suit clothes in your locker will allow you to go for job interviews. Beaches and campgrounds are other places to look for showers.

The travel section of dollar stores is a good place to pick up lightweight hygiene products like mini shampoo, mouthwash and toothpaste. Don’t forget plastic containers for your soap and toothbrush, and pill boxes to carry Aspirin, vitamins, and any medication you need. I keep all toiletries in a mesh bag which lets them air out after use. Replace your regular towel with a small, super absorbent one from a backpacking store. A battery-powered travel razor will let you shave just about anywhere, any time. Get one that runs on AA batteries as opposed to a plug-in rechargeable. Look for any way to save space, for instance using a bottle of camping soap also as dishwashing liquid and shampoo.

Facial cleansing cloths, wet naps, and hand sanitizer can keep you clean without water. If given any at a restaurant, save them until needed. Use those wet naps on your armpits and groin if necessary, where bacteria flourish. Use a high SPF sunscreen to avoid the telltale sunburn that many homeless people have. And if the look suits you, shave your head and forget about all the maintenance that comes with having hair.

Always practice good hygiene and grooming, not just for your own health but to keep blending in with civilized society. If you look and smell like a bum, you will find many doors closed to you.


The homeless survivalist does not have the option of storing food long-term or buying in bulk. You can only stockpile what you can carry – which amounts to maybe a week’s worth of sustenance at most. Peanut butter is an excellent choice, being easy to carry and eat, high in calories and protein, and needing no refrigeration. Trail mix is another. There’s a lot of energy in nuts and seeds, and most of these mixes now come in resealable bags. Think like a backpacker, keeping heavy items like canned goods to a minimum and removing any unnecessary packaging from foods to make them lighter.

Dried (dehydrated) foods are the lightest. Foods that are simple, won’t spoil quickly, and require little to no cooking are well suited for the urban nomad: think beef jerky, granola bars, raisins and other dried fruits, corn chips, banana chips, buns, bagels, raisin bread, peanuts, instant soups, etc. Again, dollar stores are good places to procure these items cheaply. Because your diet is sure to drop in quality, take a multivitamin daily as well.

Carry your food in a reusable cloth shopping bag and you will simply look as though you’ve just been grocery shopping. Also keep a length of rope in this bag for hanging it from a tree when in the forest. Never keep food in your tent or your pockets at night, especially in city parks teeming with raccoons.

You should still have some means of cooking food. Needless to say, a big open fire in the woods would give away your presence. My personal choice was a Jet boil propane stove, with an Emberlit stove as backup. The Jet boil may be the fastest, most efficient means of boiling water outside, making it good for preparing instant foods and purifying water. The Emberlit stove is a wood stove. It folds flat, taking up almost no space in a pack, and its fuel is essentially free. It lets you cook with a very small fire well suited to stealth camping.

Look into the ultra-light, compact kitchen utensils that backpackers use. Such products are designed to fit inside each other and take up minimum space. I fit my two stoves, fuel canisters, two bowls, pot, mug, cutlery, can opener, and even a Steripen water purifier into a bag less than 9” wide by 11” tall.

Cities usually have places to fish. Take advantage of this free food source by carrying a compact fishing rod. The smallest rods fold down almost to the size of a pen. For tackle, all you really need are a couple of floats, some hooks, sinkers, and a lure or two, all of which will fit in the palm of your hand. Add a package of scented Power bait, or some similar product, to always have bait on hand. Look for live bait beneath fallen and rotting logs, or use pieces of food like bread or corn.

I’ve heard you can cook and eat practically anything that walks on land or flies. But be very careful with plants and eat only those you can positively identify as safe. (The color illustrations of plants in the pocket version of The SAS Survival Guide can help with this.)


This should be the least of your worries. Drinking water is readily found throughout cities. You should carry at least one 1L water bottle andget in the habit of topping it up every time you come to a tap or drinking fountain. Once you get used to water, you need never pay money for drinks again.

In the woods, large rivers are the preferred water source and you’ll want to camp near one if possible. A fast moving stream will be cleaner than a pool of standing water. Of course any water drawn from such a source must first be purified, just like in the wilderness. That means boiled, filtered, or treated with tablets or UV light.

Water purification tablets (easily found at camping stores) are the easiest way to treat water without additional apparatus. River water should never be your first choice for drinking, but is good to have nearby when you run out of water collected from the city. Remember that almost all purification methods will remove the biological pathogens but not the chemical pollutants.

If rain is forecast, leave your collapsible pail outside to collect it. This water will not have to be purified.


Internet access is essential even when homeless. It is how you will look for jobs, send resumes, learn survival tips, and keep in contact with the wider world. You may even use it to earn money directly, using something like Amazon Mechanical Turk, or to offer your goods and services on EBay or Craigslist (the “gigs” section of Craigslist contains short-term odd jobs that pay cash). Under normal circumstances, this would hardly be enough to live on. But without rent or utilities to pay, the economics of a nomadic lifestyle are somewhat different.

Fortunately there are more and more places to use the Internet for free, especially if you can provide your own laptop, iPad or netbook. Find out all the freewi-fi zones in your vicinity. There will be some in places you never knew or expected. Large district libraries and reference libraries can be ideal. There you can find computers, cubicles, outlets to plug into, and some portable chairs to sit in all day. (Note: When using public wi-fi, always use a Virtual Private Network or VPN, like the free service Hotspot Shield, when entering passwords.)

The online environment looks the same whether you are homeless or not, and so can be a source of comfort and consistency as your living conditions change. When immersed in online activities, it almost doesn’t matter where you are. Even a homeless person can spend the day playing online games, watching shows, listening to music, writing a blog, and reading the news, much like a normal person would. If you have the need and the money, consider a rugged computer like the Panasonic Toughbook. Able to withstand drops and freezing temperatures, with a waterproof keyboard that glows in the dark, this laptop line is practically built for homelessness.


You should have a radio, like any survivalist. The lightest might be something like an armband radio for joggers, with readout showing the time and an alarm. Use it to check weather reports daily, and choose your attire and shelter areas accordingly.


Cellphones make having your own phone number as an urban nomad very easy. Remember to charge it and your other wireless devices whenever you come across an available outlet.


If you need to receive mail, one choice is renting a PO Box. There are also services that can provide you with a real street address if you want people to think you have one. You will get an address like “99 Paladin Street #1” where the number actually refers to your box. This is useful when you have to give your home address to obtain services.

This is the essence of “distributed living” – your shelter in one area, your shower in another, your mailbox in yet another. All are components of your “home”, you just need to travel a bit to get to each one.


Your own two feet may serve as your primary mode of transport. For this reason, don’t skimp on your footwear and make sure it fits perfectly.

If you can still afford gas, auto repairs, parking and insurance, then by all means keep your vehicle as both transportation and shelter. If not, consider a bicycle as a substitute. Having a bike makes everything seem much closer than if you were walking, and will expand your range considerably.

I already cycle everywhere and now prefer it to the often poor and overcrowded public transit system. Add a Bob Yak trailer, or almost any child bicycle trailer, and you can bring all your survival supplies with you. Some child trailers turn into strollers when detached from the bike. You can then push your belongings along the sidewalk in something a little more stylish than a shopping cart.


Not everyone will have concerns about winter, depending on where they live. For me, the problem of surviving a Canadian winter without a heated shelter must be treated with deadly seriousness. Many homeless people die on the streets of cold countries every year. Throughout Europe, we have just seen how extreme cold can strike even in unlikely places and kill hundreds without warning. Without going into all the details of winter survival, here are some tips:

You must test out your cold weather gear before trusting your life to it. For example, camp out in the backyard during a deep freeze. Winterized sleeping bags have temperature ratings but their effectiveness varies depending on the user’s own body heat, metabolism, and clothing. Sit in the park for several hours in your full winter outfit to see if it’s enough. The amount of insulation needed for sitting still in the cold is greater than what people typically wear for dashing from one heated structure to another. Dress in layers and always cover your head, even when sleeping. Wool is arguably the best material as it insulates so well, even when wet.

A sleeping pad is just as essential as a sleeping bag. This item is easy to overlook, but without it you will get cold no matter how great your sleeping bag is. The ground has a way of conducting the heat right out of a warm body. (For the same reason, never sit directly on the ground without a thermal cushion like hunters use or some such insulating barrier.) The warmest sleeping pads are also the bulkiest and cannot be carried inconspicuously. I chose to focus on the smaller self-inflating pads and get the one with the highest ‘R-value (insulation rating) I could find. Without a sleeping pad, you will have to sleep on cardboard or newspapers just like the homeless do, or use pine boughs when in the wilderness.

From what I’ve seen, gadgets like electric sleeping bags and propane space heaters are not practical or effective. And building a fire is usually out of the question. So you will be relying on your own body heat for warmth. Don’t lose it by leaving your shelter at night. If you have to relieve yourself, use a bottle instead. Study the survival tactics of winter campers and arctic explorers.

Anything that does not take well to freezing – laptops, cell phones, water bottles – should share the sleeping bag with you, down near your feet. Some winter sleeping bags have extra room at the bottom for this purpose. If you fill your water bottle with hot water before retiring, it will help warm you. Use extra layers of shelter if you have them. For example, using a bivy sack inside a tent may seem redundant but it will increase your bag’s effectiveness against the cold. So will using a tent inside a larger structure.


The U.S. Army Survival Handbook adequately covers the wilderness side of homeless survival. It takes into account the soldier’s need for stealth and concealment when stuck in enemy territory. Where other survival books tell how to remain visible and attract the attention of search parties, this one shows how to conceal your presence, move stealthily over terrain, and to build fires and shelters so that they cannot be spotted by the enemy. (For our purposes, “enemy” can refer to anyone – police, park rangers, security guards, neighborhood watch, etc. – who tend to make life extra difficult for the homeless.) This no-nonsense guide also has surprising and innovative ways to treat your own injuries and illnesses in the field using common materials.


Thanks to odd jobs, credit cards and help from relatives, I remain housed for now. But the threat of homelessness still looms large. My debts are such that I do not know exactly where I will be living three months from now. But even if homelessness never strikes, I won’t regret the time and money spent preparing for it. The increased confidence and peace of mind have been worth it. I know that, whether housed or not, life will go on. Even the idea of spending winter without a permanent shelter is no longer unthinkable, and that is an amazing thing. Preparing for homelessness has incidentally prepared me for other scenarios, like the furnace breaking down or a sudden evacuation. And I can go camping or backpacking at a moment’s notice.

Homelessness has to be one of the gloomiest things to think about, let alone prepare for. But realize that not thinking or preparing will make the reality of it worse. If you do find yourself out on the street, having a plan of where to go, what to do, and what to take with you can make all the difference. If it helps, don’t think of yourself as homeless but as a nomad practicing an alternative lifestyle. Without such an attitude or plan, you will start to resemble the typical bums who wander without direction or purpose. Who have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing to hope for. Homelessness does not have to look like that. Develop the skills of the urban nomad and practice distributed living. Keep your basic needs met and your mind clear, and you can always live a dignified existence whatever your situation may be.

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  1. One of the best articles I have read in a long time. Emotionally pertinent and full of valuable insight.

  2. Diana Smith says:

    My uncle told me that if you are ever homeless or traveling in a SHTF scenario, you must do all you can to NOT look homeless and more like someone hiking, as if for a cause. If the SHTF, the homeless will be among the first picked up and taken to camps “for their own safety.” Many would even go willingly if approached during times of bad weather or ensuing violence.

    This was a good, well-thought article.

  3. yep hes right ,,,thats how i do it ,,, cash jobs though are getting harder to find

  4. grandma bear says:

    A wake up call for sure! You may need to put into practice just to get home. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. Great article! I agree, people are much more likely to shun you if you are dirty and/or smell. One of the thinks I have is the Scrubba. You can wash your clothes before coming into town, and will be much better receive. I am not sure about the all black, as most people tend to view all black as suspicious where I am from. I like kaki or brown pants and a green or black button shirt. (5.11 are my favorite as they are Teflon coated and you can usually clean them up with an damp paper towel and are wrinkle free). You can wear it loose over you underarmor and a polo in the winter or just t-shirt in the summer. It is easy to button up and tuck in going somewhere more formal and you blend right in. It can keep the sun off you and coupled with a Tilly hat you just look like a tourist, which most places are happy to receive and don’t question the day pack or why you are cleaning up/shaving in the bus terminal bathroom. But the browns and greens can help you complete fade into woods once you step off the trail.

  6. A good reminder of the possibilities out there. One of the best reasons to stay out of debt too.

  7. mom of three says:

    WOW! What a powerful article, I always have told my children, that we could be homeless, in a heartbeat. We have bought property, have a travel trailer, and a camper pop tent, as long as we can pay for the taxes, and water/ sewer, and power we can live ! If we loose our other property, then we still can live in our trailer, and be in camp grounds. There are lot’s of place’s and thing’s we can do to help ourselves. Water purification tablets, are on my list to buy too.

    • Look at the Sawyer water filters. Their $20 “mini” fits in the palm of your hand and will filter 100,000 gallons to .1 microns. It’s the cheapest and best solution to purifying water that I’ve been able to find.

  8. Great article for those who find themselves without a home other than the streets. After my own bouts with homelessness, I would add two things, one: that in a city it is also mandatory to have some means of defending yourself against criminal predators or mentally-ill persons who might attack you, even as you sleep.
    Number two: with cities enforcing laws targeting homeless persons, it’s often preferable to find a safe remote location just outside of the city limits. These allow you to not be found easily by city predators or local PD’s, (county sheriffs tend to be more lenient with the homeless than city cops) and it also allows you to build a campfire for cooking and staying warm in cold weather.

  9. Really well written and informative article. One consideration when couch surfing is to be a blessing to your host family in whatever way you can for a greater chance to be allowed to stay again. (doing dishes etc)

  10. just may come to this!

  11. A great article. I have lived in very small communities and in rural areas for most of my life. I have never lived in a city. I have always felt anxious when I read stories of how cities are treating their homeless, and wondered how they ever get a break. It is reassuring to know that there is a way to get through this obstacle and help yourself get to the end of the road. It starts with yourself. It really is to bad that a lot of homeless people have more ‘baggage’ to carry than just survival gear.

  12. I have to agree, a very well written article. I hope that I will never be in this situation, but it can happen to anyone in the blink of an eye, so best to be prepared ahead of time and have a plan. Having a 72 hour BOB is one thing, but to have nothing to come back too (flooding, earthquake etc., or loss of a means to make an income) is another thing. It is good to think about “the what-if’s”. A former neighbor of mine had a similar issue. She worked several part-time jobs as she wasn’t able to find full-time employment. I gathered her credit was sketchy as well because her car payment was extremely high and she kinda hinted that she couldn’t get out from under it until she payed a certain amount to the company so she was locked in, and needed transportation to work. When she could no longer afford the home rent, she tried a month-by-month lease which didn’t work out as the home owner wanted a contract. She temporarily moved in with her sister, saved some money and bought a used camper, moved it to a campground and is quite happy with the simple life. Lot rent and lower utilities afford her some extra money, but some of the people living in the campground are a little sketchy, but at least she is not on the street. I try to help her out with extra food, an occasional hot meal and provide myself as a resource. Would love to help her get out from under that crummy car lease she has gotten locked into. Anyway, good article!

  13. Look&lern says:

    Excellent article.
    Good things to know, but, hopefully never have to use. Although looking beyond the ‘debates’ and current facade of ‘we’ are doing better, I really think I need to print this and keep a copy handy.

  14. Jean, it sure would be terrible if that car was found burning in a ditch 20 miles away while your friend was working. Or lost in a river while on a fishing trip. Devastating.

    • You got that right!

    • Ever heard of Karma. Do good, receive good. Do bad, get bad in return.

      • mom of three says:

        I agree, I have a friend, who bought a 4×4, and it had some electrical issues it did burn ! They still had to pay the loan off because they did not get enough from insurance to pay it all off. So yes, it’s better to return a car, and have some kind of forgiveness, then ruin it. We bought our Suburban, from a bank it was a volunteer repossession, so the women’s credit was not trashed as bad as not volunteering it back. So it best to do the right thing even if you have to still pay part of loan back.

        • mom of three says:

          One other thing is save $1.00 bill’s, or get a stack when you get paid do this if you can each month. Keep them in amounts $25.00 they are lighter then coin’s and way easier to use $1.00 bill’s, then the larger bill’s. Keep a stack, in your vehicle, many places to put money, just don’t forget it. I keep my coin’s in the coin slot in my truck full, at all times. Thst way in time’s of distressed or a breakdown you have a little extra to carry with you.

    • I read the article out of curiosity, thinking it would be possible to glean information for someone stranded away from home in any SHTF possibilities. There is a lot of good suggestions here, both in the article and in the comments. After many years as a professional soldier, and many miles of carrying overweight rucks, I find the need to express my opinion. #1: You actually want to load so as to carry the weight on your shoulders, assisted by the waist belt. Therefore, load heavy at the top as much as possible, and load the most used items so as to easily access them. #2: I’ve heard & read over & over about the atributes of wool and down vs man-made fibers. I prefer man-made fibers, they are lighter, warmer by weight, and dry faster if they get wet. Wool or down gets wet and it actually takes days to get them dry. Been there, done that!

  15. Great article. One other tip I would like to add is try hammock camping. The advantage is that you can camp in hilly areas that are not conducive to tents or even bivys. The downside is convection, which maybe an upside depending on where you live. Here in Ohio, in the winter, it would be a death sentence without an under quilt and/or sleeping pad in the mix.

    Another tip would to be owning a dry bag. If you get completely dumped on, whatever is inside stays dry. Plus it can be used as a bucket and also a washer “machine” just put your clothes in it with some hot water and soap, seal and adjudicate.

  16. TYVM! An eye opener, 4 sure…. There will always be homeless & those beneath the poverty level of income….. The numbers will continue to increase in the United States (note I didn’t use the word: America) as the push towards socialism is not pushed back against. Looking for the government to ‘help out’ only gives the govt more power, while subtracting the same from our ‘liberty bank’. Teaching children properly is paramount, ‘those who don’t know history are ‘doomed’ to repeat it’ said Santayana. Recognizing its demon & cherishing its angels said the Durants. Nowadays, many organized religions & charitable organizations want govt to provide prosperity for its citizens. As gov’t always ‘tends’ toward more power said Lord Acton, it will impoverish most, rewarding its ‘cronies’. edward the longshanks rewarded the traitorous nobles to undermine Wallace…. adolph increased bureaucracies for their votes till he could consolidate power….the tories here undermined the Whigs during our fight for independence, they were loyal to the despotic crown for their daily bread, oopsies for ‘their fair share’ of the Whigs Daily Bread….

  17. PrepperDoc says:

    One of the best articles yet! Thank you very much. I’ll be sending this out to several people. Including my own sons! We have a nephew that my wife put up in a hotel, this article would’ve done some good for him I think.

  18. we live in South Carolina, flooded up to our door steps, power out, phone service on home line is out because of box is under water, just having fun, living like it was 1950’s, cooking on alcohol stove, eating real good from canned items, do not have to leave house, using cell hookup to send emails, so
    now we can survive what the world throws at us,

    Ms Sara

  19. Marcianne Miller says:

    My gosh, what a terrific, sad, informative, uplifting article. Thank you so much.

  20. I very much enjoyed reading this article. Lots of useful info!

  21. Excellent point, but what I’ve considered many times is are homeless people more prepared for SHTF than us? They’re use to scarce resources, having to scavenge, living without niceties, and basic hygiene, all things that an everyday man would lose his mind over. They live in extreme conditions everyday. In Nevada they panhandle in 120 degree heat every day and it barely phases them…

    • Homeless are already living in a SHTF world. I have been homeless unless you call having a car to sleep in a home. You learn to get by on very little. I was watching the movie The Book of Eli again the other night and always thought the quote from Denzel that we used to throw away what we kill for now is the most appropriate statement on SHTF and what it may come to.

  22. Great article! When our home burned, we lived in a tent for two weeks until we were able to buy a camper which we lived in for 7 months.
    We live just outside a small town. Losing your home can be devastating, but if you have the right attitude you can overcome it.

    • Attitude always makes a huge difference. Lost our home to fire also. Fortunately, my husband’s employer let us use a company owned townhouse. But we arrived that night at the townhouse with the pjs we escaped our home in plus the items neighbors brought to as we stood outside in 17 degrees watching our home disappear. Attitude, especially at make-do attitude helps in all these situations where you must begin again. Now, I have started over once, I know I can do it again if needed. We are all more resilant than we may think.

  23. Excellent article. A lot to think about. Knowing edible plant food in the woods would be a great help or in parks in the urban areas.
    Many old neighborhoods in cities and small towns have fruit trees, nut trees, and brambles to obtain fruit, nuts and seed. If you are brave, some areas have planted gardens but maybe I am stretching it too far. Just thinking.

  24. this is a great article

  25. I took a friend in for a year at one time when he lost his job then another 6 months after he got out of the hospital from having diabetes. On the later I made dinner the first night when he came up from Alabama, I then went to work for 9 1\2 hours plus drive time came home with him standing there saying what’s for dinner tonight, with dishes piled up in the sink from him that day. Trying my patients!!! Then he had the nerve after 6 months to ask me for a loan of $300 so he could buy a Camp 32, he had a colt 45 gold cup, a Glock 40 cal compact, a SW 50cal and a browning high power 9mm, a Baretta 25 and a ruger 22 single action. He also had in rifles a Winchester Laredo in 300WM, Winchester model 70 in 270,AK47,SKS,mini14 ranch rifle and several shotguns. I was giving him free room and board and although his taste in firearms is exceptional. He should not have asked me for money. His Dad’s estate gave him $1800 a month. Thoughts???

    • Sadly, I would be rethinking the word “friend”. He certainly wasn’t acting like one. Then I would have to think long and hard about being available if he comes knocking at the door again.

      Being a Christian or a Good Samaritan does not mean you have to be taken advantage of or a door mat.

      My neighbor took in her daughter and family for several months while their house was being settled and the stay came with a whole lot of rules, from what the daughter had to buy for meals to splitting bills to when they could watch TV. It was understood from the beginning that the daughter and family was not at a hotel with room service, and the house did not belong to her to do as she pleased. Worked out fine though, and they still speak to each other:)

    • Sounds like your friend got a little too comfortable with the situation and forgot his situation. His excellent taste in guns can’t put a roof over his head, or cook him a meal, so time to explain you are friend, not a relative, and perhaps he forgot the fact. He may lose a good friend, but I wonder how his actions would be different if it were a SHTF situation where you both had to bug out (him being brought with you as a friend)’ if he would be different and pull his own weight – this is of course if he were healthy and such.

    • Really, just hand him a bill and say saranara baby. With friends like that who needs enemies. If you don’t work you don’t eat so says the good book. Sounds like you need tough love.

    • ….if I’m stung, I prefer it to be a worker bee…..let it be. He share expenses? He’s got income….amf I’m thinkin. I’ve had it w/peeps wanting heaps o praise for minutia contribution, too. Of course, are there other good qualities offsetting the negatives you described? Does not seem too likely, but all lasting relationships are a trade off. Him wanting $$$$ on loan & he has income? I see distance looming….

    • a couple more….regarding tradeoffs….have let son of church acquaintance stay here…..plenty of negatives regarding pitching in, he mooches-not horribly, hygiene lacks a few components, on time w/other aspects…..very conservative, very Catholic, appears quite trustworthy, rather (but not outstandingly) well mannered. Frankly an old descriptive but rather derrogative word comes to mind: clod….. he just can’t see how to coordinate his actions w/others. If/when shtf, I’m in a quandry as to whether to keep or toss. I can’t carry others. Reminds me of joke @ end of movie annie hall…. regarding brother who thinks he’s a chicken, fella replies to friend asking why brother’s not committed: I know he’s goofy, but I need the eggs….ah yes, good old life. TCGB all!

      • Thank all of you for your comments. I did have to make the choice again when at least his story, somehow lit himself on fire in his truck. I started thinking how does one light himself on fire??? He smoked which I asked him not to do in my house but found out he was when I let him stay at the 6 month time and told him he had to leave. When he called me from the hospital I kept thinking was he on crack or did he fall asleep in the truck with a cigarette. I told him I could not take him in again. He cried on the phone,hard to hear a grown man cry but had to think of self preservation. I didn’t want to die in a fire plus my new wife could not have handled his slobishness. New word. I have not spoke to him since and am not even sure if he is still alive. Live and learn.

        • Giving up a friend is never easy, but a friend once told me people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime. When I look back over my life I see the truth in that.

  26. Very thought provoking. I would suggest, albeit based on zero practical experience, seeking out churches as a place for meals and shelter in winter might be good options with regards to safety and good food. Plus, I would think conversations with the people putting on the meal or shelter may produce some options for getting steady jobs or a place to stay, especially if you are well groomed, polite, helpful and well-spoken as the article mentioned. You would be seen more as a productive citizen that has fallen on hard times rather than the typical homeless person. People like helping those who are trying to themselves.

    • Churches would be more inclined to help if you volunteered to do some small jobs around that need doing – could be lawn care, painting, etc. So many churches get inundated with requests to help, they run out of funds to help. But most would try if you look presentable and offer to work in exchange for help. Unfortunately churches are seeing more and more “street” people coming into the church during services to try to panhandle as services dismiss. This has lead to having to lock the doors during services and having armed security teams and guarding the nursery/children’s areas.

  27. Vandwelling is very well known all over this country.Yes I have done that, still have the Van, always ready to go. Just don’t stay to long @ any one spot & Never leave any trace of mess.

  28. brother steve says:

    I followed “van dwelling” for a long time. This was decades ago and it’s booming now more than ever. I was intrigued by the idea that even during real estate and economic highs that people were living in their vans. Yeah, some in cars. And they were living quite well. There was a Yahoo group dedicated to that lifestyle and they shared their experiences and tips on living well in conventional vehicles. If push came to shove, living in a van is much preferred to living outdoors among strangers. You could still utilize the amenities afforded homeless, like meals, free stores, cell phones, going online, etc., without being insecure in your person and possessions. Van dwellers parked at Walmarts, on busy streets, side roads, wherever they were no a problem to others and for the most part lived that way undetected. I haven’t checked on it in ten years or so, but I suspect they are having a good laugh for all the criticism they received for living so carefree. Something to consider.

  29. Ariel Gail MacLean says:

    I don’t find this topic gloomy at all. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but I have gravitated to outside survival since I was a preschooler and began to “run away” as my poor parents would call it with a smile and a snicker. They never ever understood the glorious joy I felt every time I would choose to remove myself, of my own free will — even at age four, from people and things I considered unhappy and threatening. The outdoors was so much less threatening that I never understood why no one else ever wanted to be homeless on purpose. Living in my car, I am 69, and currently officially considered a “Homeless Person” while I am also successfully self-treating multiple complex cancers. And here’s the crux is this: I have always dreamed of this reliable back-up plan and can remember distinctly the sheer joy of making a little home for myself somewhere, of saving and then savoring a peanut butter sandwich, and the bliss of lying on a soft bed of leaves and moss and grass, where I could gaze uninterrupted, deep into the sky. So this story is so far from depressing that I have to say this: The one contribution I can make to this excellent article is the psycho-spiritual preparedness aspect: we choose how we “experience” and what we think about things. Whatever forward work we do will manifest in our favor, when it is needed. The most important prepper work we can do in or whatever will come, is to pay attention to and choose the concepts and labels we assign to the experience — to reflect about the meaning, purpose, and benefit of the experience. What you can gain from it and how you can maximize the learning. Think of this analogy: Just like we need to periodically inoculate our gut with the therapeutic beneficial microbes only found in things like live kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, yogurt in order to repopulate our gut with the healing warriors which will literally arm us against the worst enemies, so too must we consider repopulating our minds with word warriors. The words we choose to imagine things become us. Facing the oft-unheard language we assign to our experiences, which belie concepts which involve a sense of failure, loss, rejection, danger, fear, and lonliness, these word-songs roll over and over inside our heads and program us to feel and experience in a way that fails us. My chosen habit is to assign never-ending layers of meaning, purpose, and value to my CHOSEN homelessness, because when the time comes — if it ever does, everyone else will look to me for ideas and strength. I start each day with excitement and intense awareness of what I have learned and need to learn today. I will have worked through as many challenges as possible PRIOR TO disaster, as opposed to living a disastrous lifestyle. It all gets down to seeing how and what you THINK, and then shaping your FREE MIND.

  30. “Your clothing is the most important survival tool you have. Dress properly and any emergency you may have to endure becomes more manageable.”
    Mors Kochanski

  31. Revisiting this thread….I am take aback by the posters having experienced homelessness themselves. My emotions get going…

    I would love to have a like minded room mate situation but for the reasons mentioned in other posts, have not come across such a person ( willing to pull their own weight, etc. )

    • I was one of the “could never happen to me”crowd. I am a in my late twenties.I work very hard.I figured that I would always be able to avoid this.I am now an example of “ANYTHING can happen”. The way it all evolved into this predicament was this. Was in LOVE with gf. Lived together 3 years.Planned on marriage. Even went so far as to sometimes not being careful when “intimate” , cuz we planned on a family someday anyway. Long story short.I REALLY messed up and failed her; and myself. I am a bartender. Started dabbling in MDMA. Liked feeling euphoric so much so, that I began to seriously abuse.Vicious cycle, cuz since I was perpetually on “cloud 9” , It really ddnt impact me that we were drifting apart.And I started to focus on ways that we WEREN’T right for eachother. She also has/had a drinking problem.Like, a big one. We were both in serious denial, because we both function, work full time etc.Anyway…what could have/should have …didn’t. We broke up. Her situation was such with her credit that she would NEVER get another place. (The realtor even said to leave her off of rental app.cuz would severely hurt our chances of getting it. I wanted to be the gallant, so I agreed she could keep the apartment. Went so far as to plead w/owner to switch lease to her name, which he consented. After I was off lease, this girl I loved w/all my heart did things I would have bet my life she could never do to me.I had seen the “mean drunk” bit w/other ppl, but never me.Until then.This girl I had financially carried for over a year so she could take classes/get certified for her eventual career gave me a week to leave.I am AWFUL (as is she) w/fiscal management. I told her I needed time to find a place, save more etc.Come home a week later, the locks were changed.Never so much as raised my voice to her and was being treated like Mark Wahlberg in “Fear” lol. I am not from this city, don’t have really any family.I had to stay at hotels.In Boston, the cheapest u will find are $150 a night.Flew thru my savings.Was/am still working full time.But savings went fast, and was working just to pay for room for the night and day to day living.Days off such a stress cuz still gotta pay w/no money coming in.Can’t get a place cuz can’t save 1st/last/security, cuz of room cost. Friends at work that offered to help me took weird turns.One buddy was doing drugs/party ppl there 24/7…honestly, I will still dabble but ddnt want to be in that situation all day everyday. A friend Kendra said I could stay w/her to save $. Was stoked till she started trying to hook up all the time.I am no prude.Were I attracted to her I would have.But I wasn’t, so kept saying no. Was sorta’sexually assaulted by her, I guess. Was really weird.I was having a really vivid sex dream and woke up w/her riding me.Got pissed/sketched out, so pushed her off. To which she said, ” I am letting you stay here, You can toss me a bone”.Exact words. I bailed. Then a friend Lainie made same offer to stay w/her and save.She is married and husband cane into work alot so sorta knew him. One night , admittedly we were rolling on M.She wanted to hook up and said her husband was okay w/it.They did swinger type stuff. Unlike Kendra, was super attracted to her and under the influence. Anyway, we are going at it and yhe husband came in and was watching/whacking.Fine, just dont come near me.haha. However, it was obviously super awkward next day, sober .So I bailed.Next thing I know, I am literally”homeless.”. Still work full time, B.S about where I stay so nobody will know.But super stressed and hanging on by a thread. I spend most nights dropping M so I don’t have to sleep.Go to the gym, then walk around/read etc.ALL NIGHT.I am lucky in that I make very good $ at a high end gig.On my day or days(depending on the week) I get a hotel room and CRASH/sleep all day and it is bliss. Only getting rooms 2 days I am able to save a good chunk of $ a week.Just this time of year impossible to find a place in Boston, cuz all the students have just snagged everything in Sept. I feel SO spent and weary. I miss my ex(even after everything. I am a mess.haha) and have regret there.I get so depressed and won’t let myself sleep outside, so I take M to cheer up/stay awake.Isn’t good for me….and starting to REALLY stress about getting a place ASAP…cuz like the Starks say…WINTER IS COMING

      • You’re young enough to pass for a college student probably. If you have a college nearby, there might be a library open all night. Get some library books and find a couch to crash on. It’s not all that unusual for legit college kids.

  32. ever been 2 chicago?

  33. Sadly homelessness can happen to basically productive people.
    This truly is devastating to a city dweller; especially without
    outdoorsman experience. I lived for years without a home in
    mountain forests. Provided there is a clean water supply, the
    woods provide a healthy life capability, shelter and all. I worked
    in the timber industry to sustain myself. That is why bushcrafting skills are an important study

    • Jim, I have to respectfully disagree,,,, not always, but people who look for answers usually find them, then live them…. it’s key to get beyond learning to incorporating sound financial principles. I did so & it’s reaped dividends. As in prepping, it’s a lifestyle…. it’s the story of the ant & the grasshopper or the 3 little pigs…. You doing what you have done is highly commendable! It was an opportunity you actively pursued, you did not mope around about tough times befalling you! Kudos! Congrats & keep it up! Most commendable you did not look toward govt as a benefactor. My endeavors have changed somewhat to meet my retired lifestyle, but I dabble in different areas to keep my mind sharp as I age, hoping to meet the challenges of life as I don’t know it…Time to hop on mtn bike! TCGB!

  34. Although this article was captivating with revealing insights into a real world scenario, it appears with a similar aspect to many Hollywood movies produced today; that is a world without the Lord God.
    What if ….
    What if the King James Bible is true: Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”
    What if the blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy 28 are what are being effected ?
    What if there was an attempt by you to to keep the Lord God’s 10 Commandments, Statutes, Judgments, and Ordinances, not for salvation, but for life’s blessings ?
    What if upon repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, then maybe He could use you to help administer His Laws in His coming Kingdom: Revelation 5:10 “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
    What if you do this, and see how you will be blessed, and then write a sequel article telling of how it works !
    What if ….

  35. Bob Ocean says:

    Really well written article. Inspirational. Lots of “Kaching ” moments. It CAN happen to ANYONE through no fault of their own.
    “Home is where the Heart is” as my Parents were wont to say.
    I have lived in tent, 4wd, flat, house and Yacht. All were/are Homes to me. Others think it strange, (Family) but I’m comfortable with it as Now, I KNOW HOW LITTLE IS REQUIRED to be content. Yes I’ve “lived rough” Eating out of trash cans. Had to due to circumstances, as have others. “Life always gives you a second chance, it’s called tomorrow” Keep the faith and upskill.

  36. Your post pretty much just scares me.

    I see a lot of wisdom in it. I get the point. And if I were faced with the difficulties you point out, I would likely heed most of it. I have visited with tramps who were “old hands” at it. They gave similar advice.

    I think, though, that rather than SURVIVE homeless, I am more interested in thriving. And I think that kind of idea quickly moves into theo/religio-politics. I am not commenting here to preach, so I will end that line of thought there.

    Thank you for the post.

    It helps me.

  37. Ron Perez says:

    I would like to add that if you should rent a mini storage unit immediately if you are facing being homeless. One with 24 hour access although less common, is preferable. If you have to sell a few of your belongings to afford it, then do it.
    Set it up so that when the door is opened, it doesn’t look like you are living in it by stacking boxes or items neatly, forming a wall that blocks the view inside. You can do all the things you need to do inside from sleeping, grooming, etc.
    Put some carpet, a dresser and other conveniences arranged for your comfort.
    If the manager asks why you are there frequently, tell him you run an online business or sell at the swap meet and must pick up and drop off items that you sell.
    You can use the space to store things you will actually sell at a swap meet by duster diving at night and visiting swap meets on weekends picking up discarded items that people leave that they didn’t sell.
    I have done this as well as rented a garage for $50.00 per month at an apartment complex which was even better.
    I converted the inside into a great living space, had a camping toilet, coffee maker, a hot plate and a 5 gallon water bucket with a stainless steel bowl that fit perfectly over the top for bathing.
    I actually framed a wall with a nondescript door 3 feet in, that was as tall the garage door, so that when the door was open, it touched the top of the wall and blocked the view inside.
    Keep it clean, odor free and organized. Make no noise.

  38. Ron Perez says:

    I would like to add that you should rent a mini storage unit immediately if you are facing being homeless. One with 24 hour access although less common, is preferable. If you have to sell a few of your belongings to afford it, then do it.
    Set it up so that when the door is opened, it doesn’t look like you are living in it by stacking boxes or items neatly, forming a wall that blocks the view inside. You can do all the things you need to do inside from sleeping, grooming, etc.
    Put some carpet, a dresser and other conveniences arranged for your comfort.
    If the manager asks why you are there frequently, tell him you run an online business or sell at the swap meet and must pick up and drop off items that you sell.
    You can use the space to store things you will actually sell at a swap meet and acquire those things by dumpster diving at night and visiting swap meets on weekends, picking up discarded items that people leave that they didn’t sell.
    I have done this as well as rented a garage for $50.00 per month at an apartment complex which was even better.
    I converted the inside into a great living space, had a camping toilet, coffee maker, a hot plate and a 5 gallon water bucket with a stainless steel bowl that fit perfectly over the top for bathing.
    I actually framed a wall with a nondescript door 3 feet in, that was as tall as the garage door, so that when the door was open, it touched the top of the wall and blocked the view inside.
    Keep it clean, odor free and organized. Make no noise.

  39. I’m working on my old Chevy van -I changed all the door gaskets (JC Whitney) what a big difference, now removing the carpet & adding 1/2″ sheet of insulation board put the carpet back down- less heat loss through the floor. changed the antifreeze flushed out the heater core—works a lot better now.
    stay warm people.
    keeb in the southern woods of Va.

  40. Christopher Balmer says:

    If anyone has any questions about the article please contact me. I have put together an alt-living kit. I live in Canada, we get -40 windchill -30 that is the harshest of temps ever recorded. This article actually confirms that this Canadian who wrote the article thinks alike as I do or vise versa. His methods are actually what it takes to survive these Canadian winters. Now there are personal touches for each individual based on things that were mentioned here such as metabolism and such things like location. I will be adding my extra touches I have made to my sleep system as I put it thru more testing. See yall again.

  41. Alexandria says:

    Have been homeless many times before for short periods of time. Homeless as in living outside and sleeping outside in the elements. I don’t consider couch surfing homelessness as there is a big difference. I have never really had a home or any real stability. All of my family passed when I was young and having been through the foster care system and having experienced many other trials and tribulations, a lot of these little details I found to be helpful to improve the situation. It is now winter and I have never had to brave winter outside until recently. This article was very helpful for preparing for this weather which I will have to do very soon. Storage space and hygiene was always my biggest problem and the idea of a mesh bag to air out toiletries is a great one. I always had to keep mine in a grocery bag which always had to be renewed everyday given it would get damp and could leak onto the other things in my backpack which was very bothersome and inconvenient. A good bag is also a must as everything you own is on your person. This can get very cumbersome when carrying it around all day to prevent from theft etc. and without a sturdy bag can lead to very sore shoulders and even blisters due to the weight and friction of walking all over for long periods of time. Thank you for sharing all these tips and making for a better experience overall. In times such as this any helpful hints can make a world of a difference. I know it will for me. Especially with all the ideas for the conservation of space. It makes me feel more human and less animal.

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