Why Homeless People Are Expert Preppers

Are you familiar with the expression “street smarts”, or “upping one’s street IQ”?

Point being, learning street smarts should rank high on every prepper’s “bucket list”, at least in this writer’s opinion. And if you’re asking yourself why, well, the premise of this article is that homeless people, also known as hobos in the past, are born and bred survivalists. I am referring to homeless people as survivalists because living in the streets is not actually living, but surviving, and you can learn a lot of things from survivors.

Especially if you’re a prepper, because after all, prepping is about surviving in harsh conditions. It’s pretty much self explanatory, right?

I don’t know about you, but I have the utmost respect for anyone who struggles (and manages) to survive out there in the “wilderness of the urban jungle” each and every day, using nothing more than his/her wits.

And the philosophy about learning survival skills from homeless folk is that any long term/large scale disaster, natural or otherwise (like a civil war/nuke strike or whatever) may force you and millions of others out in the streets, fighting for your everyday life, having nothing more but your wits and the clothes on your back. To achieve the “hobo state of mind”, try to take a break from your (more or less) comfy life and contemplate what would happen/what would you do if confronted with an extreme circumstance, ending up with losing all of your money/savings, including your car/home/relatives/earthly possessions.

There are over 100 million people in the world in this situation currently, hence this is not an unrealistic scenario. It’s the way of the world, and poor people are here to stay. Just take a look at the streets of San Francisco or Los Angeles, the tent cities and all that.

Survival Tips and Tricks from Homeless.

The general rule of thumb in a shtf situation can be described as “the hobo’s holy trinity” of sorts: stay warm, stay clean and stay sane. As in, don’t lose your mind.

Stay warm

being able to maintain your core-temperature in a survival scenario is of utmost importance. If you don’t know what I am talking about, consider this: 50 to 80 percent of your calorie intake goes to keeping your core body temperature in normal limits. If you’re cold, you’ll require more calories, as in more food.

Even if we live in the era of “fake news”, newspapers are not just for fake news. Joke aside, you can use newspapers to keep warm in more than one way. For example, newspaper is excellent for getting a fire going, i.e. for extra kindling. Moreover, one of the most important survival lessons to be learned from homeless people is that newspaper makes for awesome bedding and/or insulation. You’ve seen those poor people sleeping on park benches, covered in newspaper? At first sight, covering oneself with newspaper may not seem like a great idea.

However, if you use newspaper to cover your body while you’re sleeping, and, most importantly, in the same time you stuff your clothing full with the same stuff, you’ll be able to stay warm even in cold weather. If there’s no newspaper around, napkin or tissue paper is just as good for insulating purposes.

Another thing that you will notice studying how homeless people dress is the layered-clothing thing. Layered clothing is great for survival-purposes, as it comes with numerous uses: first, layered clothing keeps you warm via the same insulating properties described above. Then, clothing has may uses in a survival scenario, ranging from collecting water to bandages, rope or even shelter (the tent/poncho thing). Dressing in layers presents an obvious advantage in terms of adjusting to changes in temperature. If it’s too hot, you can remove one or two layers of clothing. If all that you have is a heavy duty winter jacket, you’ll have problems with sweating, then freezing from being wet. Having multiple (lighter) layers of clothing that can be removed or added when necessary is the way to go. Also, they will dry quicker too, right? So, choose your “bug out” wardrobe wisely, it may save your life some day.

In wilderness survival scenarios, it’s essential to create a layer of insulation between the cold ground and your body when you’re sleeping. Cardboard is great for such purposes. A high-tech method for keeping warm at night would be to use a mylar blanket sandwich, i.e. mylar put between 2 regular blankets. For keeping your hands warm during cold nights, you could always improvise a heater from a coffee can, your own portable stove so to speak. Here’s a video:

And speaking of keeping warm at night, homeless people are great at finding good places to sleep. Now, the most obvious emergency shelter would be one’s car, provided you have one. Also, it would be a good idea to invest in a high quality tent for your bug out bag. Abandoned buildings are the next best thing for emergency shelters, or, worst case scenario, you can DIY your own survival shelter. Here’s a video with detailed instructions for an improvised survival shelter. If an unfortunate event forces you to live on the streets, always remember there are shelters for the homeless, where you can sleep at night, at least temporarily.

Another thing I’ve learned from homeless people is that they’re always staying in familiar places. For example, some of them choose to sleep in subways, while others don’t. The general idea is, stay where you know, stick to safe/familiar terrain. This advice is particularly good for preppers planning to bug-out in the wild. Do your recon first, as in scout the terrain, see where it’s best to camp (near water), see if there are food sources available in the vicinity and so on and so forth. It’s always much safer to stick to what you know.

And speaking of surviving in unfamiliar situations/terrain, homeless folk never take their pack off, as one’s survival pack is one’s lively-hood when SHTF. Homeless people always sleep with one eye open, and with their survival pack strapped, so no one can steal it. Also, homeless people never get too attached to a particular place, and they’re always ready to flee at a moment’s notice, in thirty seconds flat if they feel the heat around the corner. The name of the game is chess, not checkers, hence always include a contingency/backup plan in case you have to hit the road fast.

Clean look

A clean look boosts one’s self confidence, and gives you a more optimistic view of life, even if you’re homeless.

Homeless people manage to keep themselves clean (and healthy) by using wet wipes, so always remember to pack baby wet wipes in your emergency survival kit. Another trick to clean yourself properly would be to go to public toilets, where there’s free access to running water. Also, you can take a proper hot-shower in city shelters. Staying clean is very important in a survival scenario; for example, even a minor cut can easily get infected if you’re dirty, not to mention rashes and blisters which appear due to poor hygiene. Keep in mind that big stores and shopping malls (or McDonalds franchises) also have (free) public restrooms, where you can also use a proper toilet.

This Timeless Collection of Forgotten Wisdom Will Help You Survive!

Homeless people are experts with regard to finding “free food”.

You can check local restaurants/fast food establishments for leftovers at the end of the day. The same goes for groceries, where you can get free bread (day-old bread) or even free samples. You can also try churches, as some give away free food, or farmers’ markets at the end of the day. Dumpster diving is always a viable last-resort solution. However, in a SHTF survival scenario, I doubt there would be restaurants, malls, groceries or hotels nearby, so you should learn hunting/fishing skills, and also have an emergency survival food stash ready for emergency situations.

Situational awareness

That is the key in any survival scenario, and that’s why homeless people are known for keeping an eye opened at all times, even when they sleep (I think I’ve already mentioned that). Living in the streets is not easy, and you’re always vulnerable to theft. And speaking of living in the streets, here’s what I’ve found on an old blog dedicated to homelessness (guide2homelessness.blogspot.com):

There is nothing so bad that it will not pass. If there is one thing the world teaches it is that all things change. If you cannot think of what to do, if you believe that all hope has gone, if you are tired of trying, then pause. Breathe deeply. Do you have any money at all? If you do, spend it on a good meal, even if you are spending every dime. Get a good meal, and sit in a warm place eating it, with friendly people serving it. Eat and enjoy, and think about good things. Think about your favorite color, your best friend when you were in grade school, how flannel feels when you rub it between your fingers. Think about those gold coin chocolates that always made you feel rich even though the chocolate was waxy and tasted like tin. When you were a kid, you had a knack for feeling rich when you had next to nothing.

There is nothing so painful as desperation. Nothing so counterproductive. Now that you are feeling good again, nothing has changed, except you. You are different. Now you can think. Where will you sleep tonight? What will you do tomorrow? Don’t focus on what you can’t do or haven’t got. You have a lot of resources, if only you will recognize them. Try to identify your most pressing problems individually, and find a straight line to a solution. You need a warm place out of the rain? How about a hotel lobby, or a hospital waiting room, or a laundromat, or a bus station, or a fast food restaurant? You need to clean up? That’s easy. You need some food? You can fill your belly on less than a dollar’s worth of rice.

The point is: keep calm and control your desperation. Fear is the mind-killer. Try to find comfort and even happiness in small things. It’s always darkest and coldest just before sunrise. Have you ever noticed how many homeless people have a pet as a companion? Besides having a real friend keeping you company at night (and keeping you warm by the way), a stray pet dog would also protect your stuff from thieves and serve as lookout.

I hope the article helped. If you have ideas or comments, feel free to comment in the dedicated section below.


Written by

Chris Black is a born and bred survivalist. He used to work as a contractor for an intelligence service but now he is retired and living off the grid, as humanly possible. An internet addict and a gun enthusiast, a libertarian with a soft spot for the bill of rights and the Constitution, a free market idealist, he doesn't seem very well adjusted for the modern world. You can send Chris a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • That’s ridiculous. The homeless live off of soup kitchens, by panhandling, and by getting things given to them, other than what they pick out of trash cans. They are NOT self sufficient the way a preppier should be. There’s a huge difference between a preppier and people that eat garbage and live in squalor, and who open themselves up to be potential victims by anybody and everybody. The homeless I’ve seen are NOT clean, they smell like they haven’t bathed in a year, and their bug out bag is a grocery basket. I’ve read WAY better articles from you, surprised you wrote this…

    • I liked this, thank you. I lived free for two years. Nobody gave me a thing, but I worked for it. No free food, clothes, nothing. If I had no work, I could still bathe in a creek, even if it meant breaking ice and making a little homemade soap. I never stole, tried to avoid fights and thieves and rapists. If I had to, large parks provided free food like rabbits, fish, and ducks, greens, and even grain (amaranth, lambsquarters, and so on). There’s a vast world of difference between the free people, and bag ladies you see. Bag ladies (and men/hobos) often suffer mental problems, PTSD from the war, and so on. Free people, even whole families, simply do not want the trouble of being one of the sheep. Again, I took nothing, but worked for it. Most do, and most of the people you’d never know were homeless. I was farm-raised, well-educated, and taught what I knew and am still teaching people.

      • I was going say everything you said. In fact, one gets the impression that if most homeless people had bothered to prepare it would have improved their situation ( at least somewhat… I am not saying prepping can always prevent homelessness). I don’t think I have ever seen a homeless person with a proper pack to speak of.

        And most of them are not anywhere near “ clean” on the continuum. Granted, this might not be completely their fault as it isn’t easy to find a public free showers. I honestly don’t know if shelters have showers or not since I haven’t been anywhere but to help in the kitchen.

  • Blend in. Don’t look like you have something that someone else may want.

  • Also, form alliances with others who may be homeless but who don’t want to stay homeless, and work together as a team to get OUT of that situation and INTO a safe, legal and stable living situation as quickly as possible. Choose those people wisely. Many people are homeless because they are running from the law or from responsibility, or they lost their homes due to drugs and alcohol, and those are not good people to hook up with.

  • First off, the article itself has a lot of good info, tips, insights and suggestions, etc. But as a matter of comparing the Prepper with the homeless — as different as night and day. Like comparing fresh apples and rotten eggs. I very much disagree with your premise. I do agree with Rick Handlin above. I’m from Calif where there are probably MILLIONS of homeless — and I’ve seen them up close & person. They are a plague; a menace; a blight and a scourge to society. It’s a horrible problem. Many are druggies, etc. The article is terribly naive and out-of-touch with the REAL world of homeless. Preppers are a whole different breed from the majority of homeless. Just my 2c and MHO.

  • I pretty much defy you to find a public restroom anywhere in downtown Minneapolis. I occasionally have to do some work at the Wells Fargo Center in Minneapolis and all of the ones there and the surrounding skyway areas have been closed off or otherwise repurposed as they’d be taken over by the homeless.

  • Have you been to San Francisco lately? Those living on the streets are filthy and disgusting. They are peeing and crapping everywhere and anywhere. Most are drug addicted or drunk. They are begging on every corner. If that’s prepping to you then I think you are diluted.

  • Good article! I lived free for two years. Nobody gave me a thing, but I worked for it. No free food, clothes, nothing. If I had no work, I could still bathe in a creek, even if it meant breaking ice and making a little homemade soap. I never stole, tried to avoid fights and thieves and rapists. If I had to, large parks provided free food like rabbits, fish, and ducks, greens, and even grain (amaranth, lambsquarters, and so on). There’s a vast world of difference between the free people, and bag ladies you see. Bag ladies (and men/hobos) often suffer mental problems, PTSD from the war, and so on. Free people, even whole families, simply do not want the trouble of being one of the sheep. Again, I took nothing, but worked for it. Most do, and most of the people you’d never know were homeless. I was farm-raised, well-educated, and taught what I knew and am still teaching people. Niio!

  • If I were to ever end up homeless, I would look for a place that is wooded and not too far away from stores, diners, grocery stores, ect.. There is where I would construct my shelter. Next I would go on a scavenger hunt and try to locate a 55 gallon metal drum and some sheet metal or piping. lay that down inside my structure and now I have a wood stove for heat. During my hunt I would pick up plastic sheeting, blankets, old mattress, tools, and hopefully a good knife. I would try to stay as clean as possible and may even get a job at one of the nearby stores. If the manager is a decent person, maybe they would let me use the store’s address as my own that way I could open a bank account and use other services as well.

  • Homeless folks are not hobos. Hobos wondered across our nation catching free train rides and gathering with like minds to combine forces for protection from railroad bulls and combine resources in making a foraged ingredient soup. Rather like the story of stone soup each added something and if there were a large pot a stone added as the soup bubbled away over an open fire kept food from sticking to the pot.
    Most picked up odd jobs and found a place such as farm work to over winter really cold weather. Many homes gave them token small jobs in exchange for a meal or a safe spot out of a storm.
    My close relative who started hoboing during the depression as a teenager, knew how to forage and do farm work. He wasn’t a thief. As an old man he taught scouts wild foods, medicines, and camp craft. He and my father taught me and mom made sure I had other things as well like honors in knot tying, tracking, et. We all could tell basic directions and knew star constellations for night direction finding. The old time hobo was a real survivalist. My relative bathed in lakes and streams and used baking soda as a deodorant and tooth paste.
    Look up Steamtrain Maurry Graham. His legacy is online and utube in a 3 part utube that was a PBS special about him with a lot of footage of him telling about his life. Most was filmed at a boy scout camp.

  • I have to agree with the opinions that the overwhelming majority of homeless, no matter what the reasons are they are in the situation, cannot really be compared in many, if any, ways with preppers. They are certainly survivors, most of them. Even survivalists, in a very loose definition. (This does NOT apply to people that, due to circumstances mostly beyond their control, are homeless and work as hard as they can to become not homeless and get back to having a job, a regular place to live, and the means to care for themselves by themselves. Those people I only have admiration for, because they are in a nearly impossible spot in today’s society, carrying a stigma that they, as individuals, do not deserve.)

    However, preppers can certainly learn from them. Many do have skills that can be adapted for prepper use. Besides actual skills, many have developed techniques, found resources, come up with ideas, and gleaned information that ‘regular’ people would not be in a position to ever come up with. So, I add those tidbits to my prepper repertoire, in case I ever need them.

    One thing not likely to learn from them is wilderness survival. Most homeless cannot survive in the wilderness. They are dependent on modern society, even if it is part of the reason they are homeless, for most of what they have, and what they get that keeps them alive. Sure, a few homeless are ex-military with field experience, practiced campers, and have the types of skills that would allow them to survive for a while in the wilderness. However, even highly skilled bushcrafters, campers, and outdoors people would be hard-pressed to survive more than a few weeks in a wilderness environment if they did not have tons of supplies cached in the area where they were trying to survive. Especially if there were dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of others trying to do the same thing. Modern homelessness is an urban phenomenon. A few perhaps are in some suburban areas, but the vast majority are in cities, often even the CBD (Central Business Distric, not cannabis) of a metropolitan area.

    Having been almost homeless three times in my life, and barely managing to avoid it each time, here are some of the things I learned when I researched the subject when I thought I might have to try to survive in a metro area and could not get to a wilderness area with all the resources I would need to survive there. I realized that these things could be very useful if I did become homeless in the future, if I needed to appear to be homeless, if I needed to temporarily live on the streets for a variety of reasons, to go ‘gray’ for a while or until I could leave the area, or if I needed to transition from one situation to another and would need to be incognito for a while to get things set up.

    My thoughts on prepping for being homeless (or appearing so):
    Being homeless has many common elements with being a refugee. The main difference is a homeless person usually does not have to move long distances very often, if at all. There are some differences, of course. One is that a homeless person will usually have many more resources available to them, since this is primarily about an urban environment. Refugees traveling openly or clandestinely will not have much access to anything, either because things have already been picked over, or they will be with a group so there simply is not enough to go around. And often the locals will not share anything with refugees anyway.

    A homeless person, as well as a refugee, needs to learn some specific skills, which will be as important as what they have with them. Learning gray man techniques is obvious. But other skills are necessary, too. The ability and knowledge on how to scope out safe places to stay and sleep, to get potable water, places to avoid, places to hunt/fish with minimal equipment, and how to hide effectively. Another major skill is concealment of possessions both on your body and in caches.

    The following is from a post I did on refugees, but much of it does apply. I will add some additional thoughts below it.

    I see at least two options here. Both are basically INCH situations. But one is such that you are travelling mostly alone, with no assistance, and little interference. In this case, a full INCH kit, on a cart or bicycle with trailer, so you can start over in a self-sufficient method with the basics such as hunting, gardening, shelter building, etc. You would be able to stop anywhere there is arable land, put up a shelter, hunt or otherwise acquire meat, start up a business, and go from there. You will still need all the paperwork that has been mentioned, including forms of ID, ownership papers, licenses and permits, insurance info, financial records, ‘paper’ assets, etc. Finances may or may not be extremely important, though you do always want some form of ‘money’, plus you can have trade/barter goods.

    The other is still an INCH situation, but one where you will not have the opportunity to take a full self-sufficient INCH kit. It might be impractical due to location, the authorities are confiscating everything, there are lots of people and your gear is likely to be taken, you have to travel set routes where a heavy cart is not practical; or you will have the opportunity (or requirement) to travel on transports that will not be able to take large amounts of gear. In this second case, you will need to travel light, and be as ‘gray’ as possible to blend in with everyone else. In order to start over, it will take monetary value, since you will not have the means to do things with your own gear, equipment and other resources. So ‘money’, and other lightweight, concealable valuables that can be easily converted into acceptable forms of payment will need to be carried. So will the same paperwork as stated.

    To make this as easy and secure as possible, some specially made or modified clothing can be used to carry these valuables clandestinely. Hidden pockets to carry items, or having some of the items completely sewn in or constructed as part of the clothing, and a small pack or bag. Anything of any size might not be allowed to be kept with you, or at all. So keep the carrier small. In some cases wearing all, or most of your clothing, in layers, is better than carrying them in a suitcase or such. If nothing else, have plenty of cordage so you can tie slings on clothing and parcels and carry them slung over a shoulder, or tied to a belt. As part of the clothing, PMs can be incorporated in the design and construction.

    As a refugee, you are probably heading for ‘civilization’ where such things can be converted into spendable resources. The same goes for being homeless during ‘normal’ time In a true PAW situation converting raw materials could be a real problem.

    At the refugee destinations there will most likely be people eager to take valuables off your hands. Some will give real value, others will try to lowball you, but that is the case now, anyway, if you are homeless. You just need to learn some trade and barter skills now, so you can get the value of the items that is reasonable. Just remember that what you paid in current FRNs now for that item has no bearing on what that item will be worth in disaster refugee situations.

    Things like real gold or silver buttons, collar stays, belt buckles, purse hardware, and such; plus ring/bracelets/necklaces with or without real gold coins; watches, business card cases, pens, key chains, and all sorts of items that most will take to be costume jewelry or just gold toned, silver toned, or just base metal. Precious metal items should be a minimum of 14 carat gold or sterling silver or better.

    They will need to be carried concealed, for the most part, with one or two items such as an extra wedding ring or a gold chain necklace worn openly. I would do only some jewelry, with much of the value in simple gold and silver items so there is not much additional cost tied up in the design. Chances are, as a refugee or a homeless person, you will only get the bullion value anyway. There is always a huge difference of opinion on how much a fancy or elaborate piece is worth. Most people that buy gold and silver buy only for the metal. The design means nothing to them.

    The same goes for jewelry with stones, especially colored stones. Since stones, including diamonds are very hard to value to start with, even now, getting anything from someone not actually in the investment diamond business will not give anything near true value, not matter what the quality of the diamond. And since colored gems are even harder to price, the chances of getting anything for them in a jewelry piece is pretty much slim and none.

    It is much better to have $500 in gold bullion value in a $550 item than $200 of gold value in a $500 gold and diamond necklace. You will only get the $200 for the gold, if that.

    If you do have enough money that you need concentrated value, investment grade diamonds are an option. But only true investment grade stones. And they should only be used if somewhere close to true value can be obtained. Although, as with PMs, it is not what you actually paid in FRNs when you acquired them, it is what you can get for them when it really counts. But you do need to get value for value, if at all possible.

    Gold and silver coins, and any investment grade gems you might acquire, should be kept carefully hidden for use in extreme circumstances. The other items are to be converted to whatever is the local currency, whereas the coins can be used as actual currency, most likely. Everything of value should be spread out over the body, in the clothing, among any bags, and across the group if you are part of a group.

    In terms of non-financial items, a second, and possibly third set of clothing already prepared for the situation should be carried. At the very least several pairs of socks and two or three sets of underwear should be kept on your person. Some personal sanitation items, including small containers of cleansers for yourself, your clothes, and your eating instruments should be on you. And do take your own eating tools, at least a tablespoon size spoon. A fork should be okay. A table knife might or not make it. A sharp knife if at all possible. A multi-tool and/or large Swiss Army knife could take the place of table knife and fill several other functions, too. These should not be a problem for a homeless person, except in some shelters. A refugee might not be allowed to have anything at all sharp.

    Carry a folding handle stainless steel cup of at least 12 ounces, up to 24 ounces, with 16-18 ounces probably the best. If it has volume markings, so much the better. It can be used for drinking or eating, and cooking in some instances.

    Have two or three bandanas, for use as handkerchiefs, dust masks, first-aid uses, water filtration, hair band, and all the other hundred or so uses bandanas have. A wide brimmed hat and inexpensive but UVA/UVB sunglasses can be important in some situations. So can gloves. Socks have already been mentioned. If you do not have gloves, having lots of warm socks means you can use a pair or two as mittens, if needed. You want good, but worn in, low hiking boots. Sneakers may sound good, but you might have to traverse some rough ground where sneakers will not hold up. And you sure do not want expensive looking, not even fake, ‘collector’ type footwear.

    Make sure none of the items make you stand out or tend to catch the eye. You do not want gold or silver flashing, you do not want bright orange beanie, colorful clothing, expensive looking clothing (even if it is expensive due to its construction or materials, you do not want it to look that way). The same goes for handbags, packs, and such. A really good leather jacket, that is not too adorned, would be the high limit of something that might look valuable or coveted.

    Have a good water bottle. Normally I would recommend a large stainless steel water bottle, but you might have trouble hanging on to it. Better as a refugee or as a homeless person to have several small plastic water bottles that you can stash in your gear so you never look like you have a lot of water. Might have one uninsulated SS bottle to heat up water for warmth or to purify water. Or the folding handle stainless steel cup can be used for that.

    The same goes for food. Small individually wrapped portions are better than large packages of food. Try to eat and drink privately, if at all possible. And never eat or drink very much at a time, unless your times are very limited by circumstances or the authorities.

    When traveling, and usually when making stops, try to stay with a group of people. But stay near the edge of the group so you can break away if needed. But you do not want to be a lone target under most circumstances. If you are travelling with family or a cohesive group, have at least one person travel separately, but close enough to help from the outside if needed. There should be no contact between anyone in the group and the person, except for the same type of casual, minimal contact one would have between all refugees.

    If homeless, being with a group still has some advantages. But there are significant risks, as well. You are very likely to get rolled, or if female, rolled and assaulted. It often pays to get away from the group to eat and/or sleep in a private spot that you can either defend or get away from easily, unless not being with a group is significantly more dangerous for some reason.

    If you are a refugee, once you get to a place where you can safely separate from the refugee group and set up your own operation, convert a portion of your assets to usable currency and start getting some type of homestead started, if possible. If not, arrange for a place to live; start a viable business or get a job to get an income stream started. Then you can decide what you want to do permanently.

    Just my opinion.

    Some items that might be useful for someone in urban/suburban homeless situation. It would be best to obtain these items now, when a person has the means, though some of them might be found after the fact.

    Dickies work shirts and pants are a good choice for clothing. They are sturdy and are good enough to be repaired if needed.

    Several of the better quality water bottles. Better not to have really large ones. And stay away from the really flimsy cheap ones. You will need to be able to refill and use them several times each.

    A 4-way outside hydrant key to access water hydrants that do not have a handle on the outside of buildings

    2 to 4 direct kill rat traps to catch squirrels and pigeons. Modify them by drilling a hole through the base and attaching a cord that can be secured to something so the animal or bird cannot drag it away. Or a cat or other animal grab the animal or bird and try to make off with it.

    As many abandoned newspapers you can get and keep dry. They can be used as tinder for starting fires, and have long been used by the homeless and refugees as insulation for their clothing and especially for their bedding.

    A long wool overcoat. Does not have to be pristine. It should be in decent shape, and not infused with really bad odors, but it does not have to be show room floor new looking. Better if it is not.

    A wool blanket if you can acquire one at a thrift shop or military surplus store. Get some blanket safety pins, too.

    Since the risk of losing things to theft or having to abandon items if you are rousted from where you are without a chance to gather up things, keep your cooking kit simple. Get a decent side cut can opener so you can make your cooking kit out of canned food cans. By using the side cutter can opener, the open cans will not have sharp edges, and neither will the lids, which will fit back on the can nicely for a lid. If you keep some small screws, a piece of wood can turn into a lid handle. And a metal coat hanger makes a good bail. This is where a decent multi-tool comes into play.

    Try to always have some food with you. But be practical. It should be shelf stable, of course, even in hot summer outside temperatures and cold outside temperatures. It should be as nutritious as you can afford, and must be able to be prepared with the gear you have. Always try to have some things that do not need cooking. Do not forget some comfort food. Everyone needs something they really like to eat to cheer themselves up occasionally.

    Several Zip-lock bags can be extremely useful. Some smaller ones can be pretty lightweight, but having a few heavy duty large ones can be very useful for some things, especially your extra socks and underwear.

    A set of toiletries should be carried in a Ziplock so any spills do not get all over everything. The toiletries are important so you can keep yourself not only clean for health reasons, but presentable in case you apply for aid or for a job. The small trial size versions are good. Do not forget a plastic mirror so you can shave or put on a bit of makeup as the case might be.

    Have a few needles of several sizes, including curved ones, with some good thread. Not only to repair clothing, but to modify it if you have to replace your original modified clothing. Adding inside pockets is very good. But actually opening a seam and sewing things inside is often a better way to hide things.

    Keep a few small garbage bags. You will be less likely to be hassled if you clean up after yourself and keep any place you occupy clean and tidy. Use the smaller garbage bags to bag up your trash and place it in a dumpster or street trash can. Using small bags will bring less notice than trying to stuff a 33-gallon trash bag in a 20-gallon street trash container.

    But get some heavy duty trash bags as well. Contractor’s clean up bags if possible. These are very useful for shelter, sleeping bag covers, use as a poncho, making a water crossing raft, and many other things.

    Especially useful are pockets inside the sleeves of a light jacket. Sewn to the lining, the stitches cannot be seen on the outside of the jacket. Down a few inches in the upper arm and/or up a few inches from the sleeve cuff. Unless you are forced to take the jacket off and someone turns the sleeve inside out, the pockets are not likely to be found. Be careful to only put flat items in them so they do not imprint on the outside of the sleeve. These are a good place to stash paper currency.

    Other ways to hide currency are in a person’s shoes, especially between the sole and a removable insole. In the palm of your hand when wearing fairly tight gloves.

    Keep a few ones and a five or two in your main wallet with some type of ID, that you use most of the time and people will know you have it. But keep most of your money other places, so if you are rolled or robbed, hopefully they will take the wallet and leave it at that.

    One good reason to carry a decent walking stick or staff is that you can tightly lace a leather grip on them, with a bit of cash underneath. And it has many other uses, as you can imagine.

    Keep a second wallet, well hidden, with additional ID, money, a debit and/or credit card, and a few specialty wallet tool cards. Ready-Man wallet lock-pick, survival, and E&E cards; and a folding knife card.

    Always try to keep a bottle or two of quality multi-vitamins. It is especially important if you are not getting a balanced diet. They will not keep you going by any means, but they will help keep you healthier.

    While the standard carrier for homeless people tends to be a (stolen) grocery cart, or a large back pack, and sometimes just garbage bags, a couple of alternatives are available, if obtained whenever possible. A child size wagon, if a decent one like a Western Flyer, a small garden cart, or a folding four wheel cart will all do.

    One other alternative I have used (not because I was homeless, but as a bugout test), is a pair of 5-, 6-, or 7-gallon buckets with lids, and a broom stick or old closet pole. If you can get them before hand and do a few things to them, so much the better. But even scrounging them up later is fine.

    Drill through the ends of the pole, install a small J-hook in each end, with a washer, lock washer, and nut on each side of the pole. Using old cloth, towels, scrap foam, or pretty much anything soft, wrap the center twelve to eighteen inches of the pole, and Gorilla tape over it to make a thick pad.

    Using either some light dog chain, rope, or small diameter steel cable, with a couple of S-hooks, you can suspend the two buckets, one at each end, from the pole, and carry quite a bit that way.

    You do have to be careful with the pace of your walk so the buckets do not start swinging together in sync and through off your stride.

    A better alternative, if you can swing it, is to get a canoe portaging yoke and cut it down to an appropriate width so you can put your hands on the bucket handles to steady them when the yoke is behind your head on your shoulders.

    Even if you are using some type of cart or wagon, having the buckets and carrying them in the cart or wagon is still a good way to go.

    Some other things to have, if at all possible, are a small roll of Gorilla duct tape, a real cooking pot with lid, several pads of toilet paper in a zip-lock bag, coil of mechanic’s wire, multi-tip screwdriver, pair of water pump pliers, a good roofing hammer, and a hacksaw blade. Keep a container with a few odds and ends of screws, nails, and bolts.

    Try to hang onto some quarters so you can do laundry once in a while, if you cannot find a shelter where you can do it.

    And while I know there are often shelters for homeless in many cities, do check them out before use. Find out their rules. And do your very best to find out if bedbugs or lice are a problem. You do not want to be dealing with either one.

    Depending on circumstances, you can add various items of camping and survival gear, and if you can, considering some of the places you may have to go, a much more extensive EDC that can include some of the items listed.

    One other item that might be of help is a Scott EVest, which is an internal pocket vest similar to a fisherman’s pocket vest, but with the pockets inside rather than outside. But a bit expensive.

    Some additional skills it would pay to learn and practice now.
    1) Learn to keep an eye out for suitable shelter spots. For sleeping, for staying warm, for staying dry, for staying cool, for hiding out, to get out of the wind and dust, and for fallout protection, just in case.
    2) Learn how to make small caches for your various pieces of gear. You want them to be fairly accessible, but not obvious. Some do not need to be very big, just large enough to stash a Ziplock bag of items, though some might need to be big enough to take a 5-gallon bucket.
    3) Learn how to use various items for creating windbreaks and simple shelters with items found in suburban neighborhoods.
    4) Learn how to use various items to insulate yourself and make insulated beds.
    5) Learn how to use plastic sheets, garbage bags, and tarps to make dry bedding spots.

    Just my opinion.

    • What are the meanings of the acronyms you used, such as INCH, PAW, etc?

  • I doubt this Article.
    “Homelessness” is NOT a “Survival” lifestyle from experience,
    and isnt a Comfort lifestyle either
    Living in the Woods can be.

    Also People may need to know how to Work the System.
    Call it whatever you want.
    It can be done.
    Example- Free Dental {Find a Dentist willing to do Pro Bono work}.
    Personal opinion


  • Hi Chris,
    Thanks for taking the time to write this piece on homelessness but I need to submit a quick summary of corrections. As other commentators have said, Homeless people rarely rise to the level of Peppers and they are definitely not “Born and Bred Peppers”. Peppers are skilled survivalists whereas Homeless people are usually willing participants of the homeless lifestyle but are often, lazy, desperate, neophytes in the survivalist landscape.

    Many people become homeless after a series of misfortunes in which they mentally break down and refuse some of the help from family, state and Federal governments. Some have decided to its better to live on the street after years of battling mental illness and unemployment and alcoholism . Many feel they don’t have a choice to live a “normal life” and they can not bear to be restricted by the rules of self sufficiency in a socially acceptable lifestyle. Unemployment, Divorce, Bankruptcy, poverty, overwhelming stress, drugs, and social alienation are among the major causes of homelessness and almost always in combinations of all or partial listing from these multiple reasons. It is not the common myth that we are “all one paycheck away from homelessness” . The ” one paycheck from homelessness ” excuse is an urban myth that financial advisors and accountants use to manipulate clients into a lifetime of obedience to thier financial planners or CPAs.

    There are many myths and misconceptions about Homeless people. The fact is that nobody wants to confront the awful truths about homelessness but we need to see the truth. Most homeless people are mentally ill and it is their choice to become homeless and remain homeless. Many homeless people steal food and property and money , drugs, and alcohol from other homeless people to survive. A little known fact is that many homeless people receive state and federal benefits, including welfare, Food stamps, and SSI etc on a monthly basis. Homeless people use addresses from friends and family or even P.O Boxes to have their free benefit checks sent to them. Often receiving $800.00 to $2,500.00 a month many homeless people live a good life at tax payers expense. Another myth about the homeless ” yes most have cell phones and laptops and steal power from loitering in fast food restaurants while plugged into electrical outlets in the walls. Often you will see these vagrants going through trash at fast food restaurants where they Wolf down all the eaten sandwiches, French fries and more. In these fast food trash cans homeless pull out the empty cups and go to the self serve soda fountains and make multiple refills as if they purchased the drinks there and are refilling their side pops like any other customers. While they are at it, the Homeless steal , plastic silverware and as many napkins as they can for cleaning themselves. In the restrooms, homeless people shave, brush their teeth, take “Sponge baths” in the stalls, clean infected wounds, steal all the toilet paper, and paper towels, defecate and fill their canteens with water. The cost of homeless people squatting in fast food restaurants and libraries ,parks, mall food courts, office buildings, airports, etc is very high and public safety is endangered from theft, diseases, and safety hazards homeless people cause.

    In addition to collecting and redeeming cans, and bottles for nickles, Homeless people collect pallets, metal for recycling, especially copper which they often steal and other metals like brass, tin, aluminum, and steel. In popular tourist attractions Homeless people aggressively panhandle and haul in vast sums of money, typically $200.00-500.00 a day, all tax free . Most of that money you naively give to homeless people goes right to pay for alcohol and drugs, as homeless people receive steady government subsidies from Sates aid and veterans agencies or advocacy groups. Homeless people often sell drugs and alcohol is cheap currency used to barter for more drugs, or sex, or tools and clothing.

    Some homeless hold signs “Will work for food” while many work handyman jobs and “day labor ” jobs available in parking lots at Home Depot,, Lowe’s , OSH, and other hardware stores. Another common way to get their food is stealing right off the tables of outdoor restaurants where I have seen loaves of bread and steaks swiped right off the tables of shocked diners., and fast casual restaurants where homeless people come in and eat right out of the busboys carts where large, deep trays hold uneaten food from diners. Dumpster diving, or late night begging at donut shops and grocery stores also yields large bounties of food for homeless.

    So you see, homeless people ,or vagrants, iindigents are nothing like the romanticized peppers you want to portray them as but are actually parasites and pariahs , a repulsive pestilence and blight on society. It is very offensive and naive to compare them with survivalists.
    When homeless people are very sick or need a break from street life they will often commit crimes and are easily caught some that they can obtain “3 hots and a cot” and rest in peace at a jail, meet their friends, get free medical treatment and take a vacation from street living. . I knew homeless people who wiukd intentionally lay down in the street or sidewalk and sleep there until someone calls 911 and ambulance gives them a “free” ride to the ER where they get “Free” medical attention, food, drugs and TV and wi-Fi. .