12 Tips: How to Be Homeless and Survive

Did you know that one-third of Americans are one paycheck away from financial ruin? That’s a scary, but realistic, truth. Americans aren’t as financially prepared as we should be, and one massive medical bill can send your finances in a downward spiral. Homelessness is something anyone can face at any time.

Learning how to be homeless and survival is a skill set everyone should have, especially if you like to be prepared for an SHTF scenario. You never know if a situation will force you out of your home onto the streets.

Being homeless forces people to become resourceful and skillful. You learn how to take advantage of what you have available to you.

It’s easy to look down upon homeless people, but we shouldn’t. Even if they made mistakes, no one deserves to be homeless. Also, in the events of a massive disaster, they would fare better for than others, so maybe we should learn a few things from them about how to be homeless.

Layers of Clothing Are Key

Learning to stay warm is pretty important when you’re on the streets. Sleeping outside in the cold means you need to dress in layers.

Three or more layers is crucial. First, you need a layer that’s closest to your skin, then an insulation layer that helps keep you warm. The third layer is the shell that keeps you protected from the wind, rain, and snow.

You want to think about the choices of clothes wisely. Clothing can have other uses too like rope, bandages, shelter, or to collect water. Everything needs a purpose.

Most people assume bulky winter jackets are a smart pick, but you’re better off with multiple light jackets that you can remove or add as necessary. These lighter jackets dry faster too and make great shelter covers.

Use Newspapers

One of my favorite movies still is the Day after Tomorrow. There is a scene where everyone is huddled in a library and they’re trying to stay warm. With them, they have a homeless man who shows them to stuff newspaper into their clothing for insulation.


Newspaper can be used for several uses. They work as shelter, blankets, pillows, toilet paper, and fuel for a fire.

Pick the Right Place to Sleep

One of your biggest concerns, when you’re homeless, is figuring out where to sleep or rest. Sometimes. You can find shelters for the homeless or abandoned buildings that you can use.

When you’re picking an abandoned building, you want to make sure it isn’t a hazard. Safety is important. If you aren’t too sure, try to sleep close to an exit or under a support beam.

Most importantly, you don’t want to be alone. Finding other homeless people does help your situation. When you have a group of people sleeping together in the same area, the cops are less likely to bug you, and there is safety in numbers.

You do want to be careful because it can be dangerous to encroach on the territory of other homeless people. Depending on the people in that group, there might be risk involved, but it’s risky to sleep alone as well. So, you have to pick your battles. You’re more likely to be robbed or attacked if you’re totally alone.

Stay Warm

Staying warm is one of the most important things you need to do to stay alive. A large portion of our energy in our body goes to keeping warm, including over 50% of our calories. The colder you get, the more food you will need. That’s not good.

Dressing in layers and using newspapers like mentioned above are good steps, but you might want to try a few other tips, such as:

  • Put cardboard underneath of you like a layer of insulation between you and the cold ground.
  • Try a survival tent or mylar blanket to hold in more heat. They’re small and fit well in survival bags.
  • Gloves are a necessity as well as sock because fingers and toes get frostbitten first. Handwarmers are nice as well. If you don’t have hand warmers, add warm water to water bottles and hold between your hands, but wrap the bottle in a towel to avoid it leaking.

Try to Stay Clean

This one isn’t easy because you probably won’t have access to a shower with soap very often. Trying to keep yourself as clean as possible does help. Wet wipes can easily be stored in your survival gear.

Stopping at public toilets give you access to running, hot water, letting you clean yourself properly.

Staying clean may not seem like a big deal, but it does help with morale, and that matters. People tend to treat those who look nicer better, and you’re more likely to get help. Let’s not forget that good personal hygiene helps to reduce the risk of infections. Dirt rubbing on you can cause rashes or blisters.

Keep baking soda on hand. It’s one of the cheapest items for personal hygiene that’s versatile. You can mix it with water, and it can be used for soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and more. A box is less than $1, and you can find it at most stores. It’s definitely a survivalist’s friends.

Use Up What You Have

Figuring out how to use what you have is a mentality that survivalists need to have. You might not always have what you need brand-new from the store. Without the means to get those items, you have to figure out how to use what you have and make it work.

Creativity and imagination are necessary when re-purposing your items. Plus, the more things you get, the heavier your backpack will be. Since you’ll be walking a lot, keeping things as light as possible helps your back.

Don’t Leave Your Stuff

Your items are your lifeline, and you can’t afford to lose the stuff you do have. Everyone around you might be as desperate as you are, and leaving your things unattended gives people the opportunity to steal your things. While you might feel comfortable, never be that comfortable, even if you feel safe.

Have a First Aid Kit

If you were able to prepare ahead of time or have the means to get one, having a first aid kit is really important. Who knows what could happen when you’re homeless? Everything can get a lot worse if you don’t have access to a medical facility.

While you can recycle things that could apply to first aid, you want some medicines with you. Things such as antibacterial ointments, antiseptic solutions, and pain relievers are necessary. You also want ways to bandage up cuts and to stop bleeding.

Store Food

You won’t be able to buy food, and if you’re in a disaster scenario, heading to the store may not even be an option. Scavenging doesn’t always work either. So, keeping stored food in your survival gear ahead of time is a smart idea.

That means you need to pick food that can be stored long-term and food that won’t weigh down your bags. If you have a place to store things like canned goods, soups and canned meats are filling and give you the necessary protein.

Be Ready to Leave

One thing that homeless people understand better than others is being ready to leave quickly. Homeless people are always on the move, rarely staying in the same place for long. Law enforcement officers make them move.

In the event of an urban survival situation, you’ll probably be on the move just as much. Staying in the same area for long can be dangerous. Angry mobs or scavengers could see you as a target.

One tip to remember is to keep everything gathered up in your bag unless you’re using something. That makes it easier to leave quickly.

Avoid Conflicts

Whether you find yourself homeless because of a financial situation or due to a survival situation, avoiding conflict is the most important self-defense tip.

You don’t want any injuries when you live on the streets. Even a small injury can become dangerous without any close medical attention. It might seem like a small cut, but minor cuts can turn into infections quickly without proper cleaning and management.

Blend In

Have you ever thought about how many people are homeless but we have no idea? That’s why the homeless are called America’s invisible population. Most of the time, its because homeless people don’t want to be noticed. They’ve perfected blending in with the population.

When people know that you’re homeless, you tend to become a target for thieves, and being noticed means that you might be kicked out of whatever location, you’ve chosen.

This is something to consider when you’re in any survival situation. Blending in is key to preventing people from trying to take what you do have. For example, if your power goes out for the long-term and you’re the only person who has a generator, you quickly become a target to everyone else in your neighborhood because you have lights on and no one else does! Blending in is important.

Prepare Yourself for Homelessness

Being homeless could be a result of several events, but being prepared ahead of time is smart. It’ll be a test of your willpower and determination to survive and survive well. Remember these tips on how to be homeless and stock necessary items in your bug out bag now.

20 thoughts on “12 Tips: How to Be Homeless and Survive”

  1. There’s a great video from the Canadian Prepper on YT comparing the worst day of a homeless guy vs the best day in a EMP attack. Long story short the moral of the story is – when there’s no electricity, no clean water, no food, when you live in fear every day, you are going to “wish” you were homeless instead in a SHTF event as such. People often forget how bad it could be.

  2. Good article. Facing the prospect of homelessness in about a month. The irony is that I have money, just not enough. My credit score is 640, which took a tank from 880 after divorce. Been on a rough road of recovery since 2015. I was at the top, I had a million plus $ home, to go into what happened would be a novel so I’ll spare you the details.

    Bottom line: We are all in an illusion that you are above being homeless. 1 person, one bad break, 1 deceptive person can ruin your life, I know it’s a low percentage but it can happen and it happened to me. I have built a successful business but I am not in a situation where I can own a home, wish that were the case. Rents here have increased 50%, demand for housing is off the chart, and if you don’t look good on paper you are screwed. I’m very resourceful but I have no idea how to survive this without losing everything. I can sleep in my car with my dog, I guess that is something more then many have out there, but my business, without internet will be done. If I go down, I feel a lot for my employees, customers but especially my family that count on me.

    At the end of the day, I’m a fighter but getting old and don’t know if I have the strength anymore for any more crisis’. Here is hoping and praying for you all out there facing similar consequences, its a tough world out there for any but the most perfect of what the world now considers “normal”.

    • Hope you’re okay, John! We have no savings and it’s hard to find a place to move into for less than 2 grand. We have to be out by the end of the month, our rent just got too much with only my wife working. I was a nurse until last year, off for mental health reasons and physically I can’t do the work. I’ve thought about just staying in the car, but my wife works for Lyft and I don’t know how that would work. We have 2 big dogs and a cat Ava a tiny Mitsubishi that we just paid to save from repossession. Being homeless may be a very real thing happening soon. Thanks for the tips and the article. Good luck!

        • Anonymous? Why? Because you’re a cowardly bitch and wanna be able to judge others and talk shit about things you have no knowledge of? Or you wanna be able to operate as a piece of shit online belittling others that you know nothing about. Personally I would love to be able to meet you in person and put my boot in your teeth. Why can’t you do the work? Lazy bum. Why can’t you reveal your name? Cowardly bitch.

      • See you there . Will be by my own, so afraid. Don’t know how is it going to be… but have no other options anyway. God Bless the people whose reality are the streets.

    • That’s sad to know. I’m moving to the US to pursue my Master’s and I have a very strict budget as I’m not well-to-do and if I have to be able to afford the expenses I shall have to live very simply over 24 months. Flight tickets to the US are my semester fees here (includes both tuition and rent) hence it’ll be very expensive for me to spend money or ordinary things like coffee, fast food and all. I will not be able to spend 10USD on a single meal hence I might have to live scarcely and pursue my studies there. Just looking at tips on how to survive America!

    • I would get a good strong backpack do some research about that good brands are 5.11-savotta and more.
      Learn wild edible plants and poisonous plants wool keeps you warm best when wet weatherwool makes exelent clothing learn to sharpen/strop a knife with a belt and sharpening stone dumpsterdive at supermarket dumpsters recycle cans and bottles for money really think about the gear you are gonna take with you. imortant things are a stainless steel water bottle with nesting cup good clothing strong bagpack fire kit/bic lighter ferrocerium rod magnefying lens /use on charred material do research fishing kit is also handy does’nt have to be pole and reell do research a knife is also good and a multi tool i would say work with the system and with nature thats what i know i don’t know any more.

    • From a person who has run away from home, I want to let you know straight up that no one will care about you and in some places it’s illegal. The run-aways like me, who are still alive right now, are still ok mostly out of luck. However, the most essential thing to have is money! Gather as much money as you can before leaving that house. Also if you really don’t want anyone to find you don’t carry your phone and if you have a diary or journal or something where you’ve written any sort of phone numbers get rid of them. Also if you’re a female it’s good to carry pads. Honestly if you have friends or people you can go to who your parents don’t know about and you really trust, don’t even think about it that much run away. Just make sure to stay out of the eyes of the police, most especially, or anyone for that matter because the people you’re running away from are probably posting the incident on Facebook and trust me a lot of people actually use Facebook than you think and you’ll be found easily. But what if you didn’t have anyone like I did? I meant it when I said the main reason I’m still alive is out of luck. As I said earlier no one really cares about you out there. No one will look at you and feel sorry for you out there, those people are always too busy minding their own business. The main awful issue when it comes to running away is when nighttime reaches and I’m about to tell you the meaning of luck. They’re a lot of creeps out there and there was apparently this man who was physically attracted to me and so… I got a place to stay. He approached me when it was almost nighttime and I didn’t really know what I was going to do and I used his attraction to my advantage. It wasn’t really hard telling him that I wanted to stay in his house that night coz as I said they’re a lot of creeps out there than you think. Anyway I got a place to stay that night and it was actually raining that night so I felt so lucky. I could’ve probably been raped by some random person that night and left to slowly die in the rain of pneumonia. And I’m not saying the creep that I slept with didn’t want to have sex with me that night. Everything comes at a price. If you find yourself in this situation and you don’t want to have sex coz maybe you don’t want to get pregnant or other obvious reasons just keep saying that you’re tired and you’re gonna do it the next day coz I’m telling you these people don’t have protection and probably have a lot of STDs. But I’m telling you tomorrow will come and you’ll have to think of another excuse. Also this doesn’t mean you won’t make out with them though cause if you don’t they will either beat you up or kick you out of the house. Yes they kiss awfully and probably brush once a month but you have no other choice. I guess I could tell you another essential thing to know when running away is knowing how to lie and making up excuses, but don’t take them too far. For example, I lied to this guy about my name and where I’m from. Don’t trust strangers please. Anyway the next day I ran away from that man’s house. At this point I was honestly just thinking about committing suicide, just finding a random apartment and throwing myself off the roof. But I didn’t and got found by my parents because they tracked my phone and some random person saw me on Facebook and saw me just walking around and reported it to the account. My email is tofthis308@gmail.com incase you want to talk to me.

    • How old are you? The streets are not a safe place to live. Why would you choose to do that? If your family is abusive seek help. If not, stay home or find a friend to live with.

    • Idk if you did run away or if you haven’t yet, but your goal is not the streets. Your goal is away from your home and finding a place to crash. I am referring to shelters, there are shelters for youth too. Make calls and find the best place to go, reserve a space if you can, then go. This entire article covers the rest in the case you don’t find a shelter.

  3. Get yourself a decent older model pickup truck like a 2wd Ford F-150 and put a good canopy on top of it.. Gemtop makes a great steel canopy and it’s what I have on my truck. Make at least one bunk in the bed on one side of the truck, two bunks if you have someone with you. Put a 12v cooler back there and a decent solar panel or 3 on the roof to charge your stuff, cooler included. Maybe even put a Marine battery that will charge up when running your truck.

    Don’t go buying some beater looking truck. You want it to look like you just parked there for an overnight stay and to get some rest. Put blackout curtains inside the bed area so they can’t see what you have or even if you’re in there. A decent lock on the back that you can access from outside or inside 9Think of something along the lines of the front door to your house with a locking knob on the inside and a key lock on the outside but, all in one piece.

    Put a decent roof rack and maybe get a used cargo box or roof rack box to put up there so you can store away things you might not be using during the current time of year like winter clothes in the Summer months.

    Your bunks can be made out of 2×2’s and raise them up maybe a foot off the floor of the pickup bed to give you storage area underneath. Also put down a bedliner to help with insulation. Interior 12v lamo, 12v-110 plugin to your battery so you can run a coffee pot. Cook things like soup of other things right in your coffee pot.

    Blue water jug, at least 5 gallons. Porta potty that will fit under your bunk. Plenty of blankets (Can be stored as in above during the summer) . 12v USB fan as well as a USB charging outlet to keep your phone going.

    Park in Walmart parking lots out by all the other campers but, far enough away so that you don’t appear to be a moocher. Get a Gym Card so you have a nice place to work out and get a shower for a decent monthly fee.

    Do maintenance regularly on your truck. If it won’t run, you need to get it fixed ASAP before someone thinks it’s abandoned and tows it off.

    Look at a lot of Youtube videos on what other people are doing with their truck bed canopy’s and write down ideas that you want to check up on.

    Before things go totally off kilter, get a storage unit and put things in there you can’t live without.

    It always amazes me when you see a homeless village and everyone is living in blue tarps they’ve turned into some kind of tent. They leave all their trash in piles, they stink, and a large percentage of them just want to make a little extra money to get some more drugs or a pack of smokes to make it through to the next day.

    Get prepared before it happens.. If you and your significant other are both suddenly without a job, first thig is to have a big yard sale. Get RID of stuff but, make a few bucks doing it. Yard sale, yard sale, yard sale.. If you can afford a cargo trailer, you can pull that with more stuff behind your pickup truck. Stock up on coupons at local restaurants. Get a couple of decent RV chairs to sit outside the truck in.

    I mentioned yard sales as that one of my favorite places to go on Fridays and Saturdays. Great deals can be found, offer less, if they say no, walk away, sometimes they’ll change their tone and get rid of it. Bundle, bundle, bundle..

    I could write a whole book on how to get things you want at yard sales on the cheap..

    Got a laptop? Make sure it’s usable and somewhat current, otherwise get a Kindle and use the programs you can download for it. I use Samsung tablets a lot of the time. If I have a wireless or wired internet connection, it can be used as a phone, a place to watch TV, a radio, etc.. etc..

    Why have I thought this out so much and why is my truck set up this way when I have a house I’m paying on regularly as well as a 26′ RV in my front yard?? You never know what’s coming down the pipe. I guess you can say I’m a prepper and that’s probably the best thing to be when it comes to the point where you’re about to lose everything.

    Now I’m off to Craigslist to look for more deals..

  4. BTW, I’m sure someone will ask about why I run an older truck. I bought my truck at a GSA auction about 14 years ago and it’s been a great truck with the old faithful 302 motoe, dual tanks (35 gallons) and it gets 19mpg. No monthly payments, if it gets scratched up, that just adds to the patina like the rest of my truck..

  5. Thanks this article gives great tips I been a homeless high-school student and I can’t get a job cause I do not know my ssn number or have a ride to work any tips.


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