11 Survival Tricks Learned from Homeless People

By Jack April 4, 2017 12:19

11 Survival Tricks Learned from Homeless People

When we hear of survival stories, we commonly hear of people who were trapped in the wilderness in exotic locations and managed to find a way out. Very rarely do we hear about the homeless people in our background who struggle to survive each and every day. But I think that their situation is much closer to what we call SHTF:

If you lost your home, your car, all of your money, your relatives and most of your possessions, what would you do?

While you may believe that such extreme circumstances may never happen to you, the truth is that any large scale or long term disaster that could strike the next day could very well force you out onto the streets with nothing but the clothes on your back.

Related: 18 Must-Know Hints for Novice Preppers

TIP #1 – Newspapers Aren’t Just for Fake News…

First and foremost, newspaper is extra kindling to get a fire going. Simply light up a corner with a match or lighter and the rest of the paper will catch into flame.

But you can also use newspaper as bedding or as insulation. You can use it as a sheet to keep you covered while you sleep or crumple a sheet up to serve as a pillow. For insulation, you can stuff your clothing full with newspaper in cold weather to keep yourself insulated, or otherwise insulate the inside of your shelter with it.

Related: How to Make Firebricks from Old Magazines

TIP #2 – Why Do Homeless People Dress In Layers?

This may sound like a redundant tip, because homeless people don’t exactly have a lot of options in regards to the clothing that they can wear.

The best way to dress for homeless living on the streets is to wear layers and then add or remove layers as you see fit. While you want to wear plenty of warm clothes to keep you warm in cold weather, while moving you may actually want to take off a layer or two because otherwise you could sweat (which would cause you to freeze). Additionally, making sure you have extra layers is recommended since clothing has many uses. For example, it can be used as rope, bandages, napkins, shelter, collecting water… So, choose your clothing wisely! Everything must have a purpose.

If possible, you also want to hopefully have clothes that have plenty of pockets and compartments for storing things.

TIP #3 – A Trick to Keep You Warm While You Sleep

You may actually find it difficult to keep yourself warm when out on the city streets. Nonetheless, you have options. Building a small fire is definitely one way to keep your warm, but another way is to use cheap Mylar space blankets that can reflect your own body heat back to you. Yet another method is to fill up water bottles or containers with boiled water and then place them under your blanket with you just like some of the homeless people do.

TIP #4 – The Coffee Can Heaterpetroleum jelly coffee can fire

Out on the streets, you can actually build your own portable stove for both warmth and cooking purposes by taking a coffee can and then filling it up with petroleum jelly and lighting it up.

TIP #5 – The Unexpected Item You Need to Stay Clean

Sanitation standards are definitely going to be down out on the streets in comparison to what you’re used to, which is why it’s only more important to pay extra close attention to your personal hygiene.

Most city shelters have hot showers and parks should have swimming pool shelters that you can use to warm yourself up. Meanwhile, baking soda can be re-purposed as deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and shampoo and can be bought on the cheap in most stores.

Related: Homemade Substitutes for Toilet Paper

TIP #6 – The Free Breakfast Trick 

Something that almost all homeless people have in common is they know exactly where they need to go to find food. This means if you meet up with other homeless people, they should be able to tell you where you can go to get a good meal.

If you don’t find anybody however, you still have a few tricks up your sleeve. Most hotels offer free breakfasts that you can go to, but it’s important that you make yourself look clean and presentable before you enter a hotel (this is where good personal hygiene comes in). In addition, several fast food restaurants will have throw away food at the end of the day that you can ask for as well.

Related: A Prepper’s Guide to a Completely Free Stockpile

TIP #7 – How to Pack a House in a Bag

This is a little-known survival skill but also one that almost all homeless people practice: they never unpack. All of their possessions are instead always kept in their bags or pockets and ready to go in a second. This is because homeless people understand that they will never stay in one place for long, and other people could kick them out of where they are staying at anytime (ex. cops, other homeless people, restaurant managers, city authorities, etc.).

Related: 11 Smart Tips to Make Your Bug-Out Bag Lighter and Smaller

TIP #8 – Keep an Eye Opened at All Times

This tip goes nicely along with the previous tip. Not only do you want to keep all of your possessions packed at all times, but you also want to keep all of your items on your person as well. This is because when living on the streets, you will always be vulnerable to theft. While it’s understandable if you need to keep other items in your backpack, make sure that the pack is always in your hands or over your shoulder. When you’re sleeping, just use it as a pillow.

Related: Situational Awareness, The Key to Surviving Two-Legged Predators

TIP #9 – Keep to Familiar Ground

You will never truly know if an area is safe unless if you, well, know the area, right? This is why it’s important that you get to know the streets, restaurants, people, and other businesses around you as much as possible before you start to think about settling down.

 TIP #10 – Find Happiness in the Smallest Things

Many people don’t initially realize this, but the hardest part of survival is never the physical aspect of it, it’s the emotional aspect. When you’ve lost everything you had, and are now living on the streets, it’s easy to become filled with feelings of depression, desperation, anger, or sadness. Instead, you need to replace those feelings as much as you can with hope, and the way to go about that is to adopt a positive outlook on how things will be in the future (ex. that you’ll see your friends and family again, that everything will go back to normal, etc.).

TIP #11 – Have a Back Up Strategy

Finally, homeless people understand that they may not get to stay in one particular area forever, no matter how safe it seems or has been so far. You must be ready to flee at the first sign of danger, even if you been staying in your perfect campsite or bug out location. After all, no disaster plan is complete without a back-up strategy!

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By Jack April 4, 2017 12:19
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  1. Fr.Chuck April 4, 14:07

    M+ Stationed in Germany. At the Catholic Chapel we always had hot coffee and doughnuts available. wondered why we had to many “homeless” coming by. Simple: they marked the curb in front of the Chapel. Same for people’s homes.

    Reply to this comment
  2. left coast chuck April 4, 15:40

    Stationed at Camp Pendleton in 1955 as a private E-1, even in 1955 $30 a month didn’t go very far in California. We had a regular weekend circuit in LA when up there on liberty. Of course, the first thing to do on Friday night was to check in at the Victory Service Club which allowed servicemen to sleep on some cots. You could also sleep in chairs. I spent one long night sleeping on the shuffle board table. Hardest surface I ever slept on. Saturday morning there was donuts, coffee, hot chocolate, I think orange juice. Of course you had to listen to a sermon. There really is no free lunch — or breakfast in this case. You might have to actually buy lunch. No McDonalds in those days. But Saturday night was the Hollywood USO. They had lots of food and you might meet a Hollywood actress doing her patriotic duty. Sunday. The Victory Service Club was closed by the time the USO closed so Saturday night you were on your own. Sunday morning there was a church someplace near downtown LA that had a morning fellowship hall where they served sandwiches, coffee, etc. I don’t remember any more free eats on Sunday but that was a long time ago. Everybody at Tent Camp Two knew the circuit.

    Reply to this comment
    • Glaston June 10, 10:34

      LC Chuck: Intrigued by your statement “…. and you might meet a Hollywood actress doing her patriotic duty”. Was that free too or did you have to pay?!!

      Reply to this comment
  3. MMG April 4, 21:11

    A very interesting article! I must admit this is the first time I have ever heard the homeless mentioned for source material, but it is true… they are closer to shtf than 99% of all the pundits on the subject. Certainly from an urban setting

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck April 5, 17:17

      The only significant difference is that most of the “homeless” are drug and/or alcohol addicted or mentally ill or a combination of all three. Hopefully, none of the readers on this list have any of those afflictions. If you do, and you are unable to kick the drugs and/or alcohol, life is really going to be miserable if the curtain falls. When medication disappears we are going to see a lot more bizarre behavior in the world than we see now. Whether the criminally insane are turned loose or left to die in their wards will be a decision for whoever is in charge of that institution. There are some really scary people locked away that only the people associated with the court and mentally ill system see. Not to mention the prisons. There are folks in prison who really fall into the mad dog category and are so dangerous to anyone around them that they present an immediate threat to anyone they come in contact with. This is off topic on this particular article, but it is a realism that needs to be considered and constantly kept in the front of one’s mind in an EOTW situation. A psychopathic personality can be utterly charming but is totally lacking in any sense of morality. Hard to understand for the average person until you see it up close and personal and even then it is hard to comprehend.

      Reply to this comment
      • BroButchieFromStreets April 6, 16:24

        Ur right,
        and sometimes
        It’s best ta put a mad dog down.

        Reply to this comment
      • TaifunVickie April 8, 16:24

        Chuck has it on the nose: Yes yes yes. This is one of the things most insulated and privileged people have missed. I was married to a cop and three months of hearing his horror stories changed me from a kum-ba-ya Liberal to a SHTF Prepper. There are some seriously deranged people out there who behave so far outside the understanding of the average “nice” person that methinks the greatest danger to most would be the element of shock… the inability to even wrap your head around the level of insanity, psychopathy and cruelty encountered.

        I live in AZ, 180 miles north of the border. All those fighting the border wall have no clear understanding of what’s coming in. Cartels think nothing of beheadings and gutting people. They control the land 30 miles north of our AZ border. So you have those people to contend with in a SHTF situation as well. Google “BLM Sign southern AZ” – you’ll get a quick education.

        Not to mention that yard workers know our city like the back of their hands. Anyone who travels the city doing any kind of residential repair or maintenance has a very good grasp of where the food, money, vulnerabilities are.

        Not trying to enhance anyone’s paranoia, but just know the people who live on the fringe and who haven’t had it easy are the ones who will survive much easier than most of us.

        Find your tribe. Learn self defense. Simplify your life. Start getting rid of things that weigh you down. Learn to not be too attached to your things (unless they are things that will help you in a pinch.) And always have Plan B, C, D and E.

        Good luck people! Keep yer powder dry.

        Reply to this comment
        • daswunderkind April 12, 05:01

          Jeez, I could’ve written your post (married to a cop, live north of the border, though I’m closer to it than you). My spouse had a line of duty injury and is out now. I don’t think people in most others states have a clue just how unbelievably bad the UDA (illegal immigrant, for the non-LE folk out there) situation really is. Even one of my siblings didn’t realize; she asked though, honestly wanting to learn the daily impact here. She was completely stunned. Most simply don’t think about it. I’ll admit I didn’t before I moved here. 75% of our hospitals closing, roads decades behind in repair and replacement let alone keeping up w/population (roads are funded by fines, & UDAs statistically do not pay theirs), 30% of drivers are uninsured so insurance is sky-high, hit-and-runs are routine at dozens a day.

          Pardon my tangent. It’s good to vent to someone who can identify. It’s gotten so much worse the last few years. We’ve moved our preparedness into overdrive.

          Stay safe.

          Reply to this comment
        • Tom Catt n Snoball May 17, 09:17

          Couldn’t hv said it better

          Reply to this comment
        • Smalltown Roger February 3, 22:12

          I wish the Missus saw it the way you do. No willingness to prepare at all.

          Reply to this comment
    • Sideliner 1950 April 5, 18:20

      Right, SHTF would mean less of a change for the homeless.

      Reply to this comment
  4. poorman April 6, 14:04

    Don’t know how many restaurants still do it but in my younger days you could go to ” happy hour ” at restaurants and buy a drink of some kind ( soda was the cheapest ) and eat free food like chips, chicken wings ect.

    Reply to this comment
  5. sordin April 6, 15:08

    The premise that homeless people will do well in a shtf event is pure BS. The homeless live off the rest of us. They know where to beg to get hand outs of money and food. When the shtf all the hand outs will stop and they will be the first to go.
    Their only survival tactic is to beg for change that they use to buy alcohol or drugs which is the reason they are homeless to begin with. They should not be revered as survivalist.
    Start learning how to primitive camp and you will learn much more survival skills. Start in summer with weekend trips when you are comfortable with that move to late fall. Then winter camp. primitive camping will teach you to develop survival skills with out the reliance of begging.

    Reply to this comment
    • dance April 6, 23:50

      He walked slowly along a bustling city street, his eyes darting to and fro scanning for the scant opportunity to find ANYTHING to eat. There were no wads of dollar bills in his pocket but rather only a few coins that clinked together as he trudged in the rain. “When you’ve lost everything you had, and are now living on the streets, it’s easy to become filled with feelings of depression, desperation, anger, or sadness.” His response was eloquent, thought out and well stated when I asked him, in all sincerity, how he was doing. “Instead, you need to replace those feelings as much as you can with hope, and the way to go about that is to adopt a positive outlook on how things will be in the future.” I stared at him as he continued, “for example, you think how nice it will be to see your friends, your family again, and that everything will go back to normal someday. You know- things like that” I asked him another question. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the hardest part of being homeless? I mean, other than having no bed to sleep in?” He grimaced, “The hardest part of survival is not the physical aspect of it. I’d say it’s the emotional aspect. I try to keep focused on food, keeping warm and dry but not having anyone to talk to, well,” he paused for a second and looked down at the wet sidewalk, “people just don’t stop and ask questions like you’re doing. They see me as a bum and turn their face away, like if they don’t see me, I don’t exist. They don’t know I’m a man who had a job, a wife and two daughters… a LIFE! I made some stupid mistakes. I KNOW it and I’m paying for it! But damn … I’m still a person.” I didn’t know what to say. I thought about my current situation. Pay cut, mortgages due, other bills due, can’t find time to organize my desk or all my tools and then I remembered an old saying, ‘there’s always someone better off and someone worse off than myself.’ “All I have is this.” I handed him what I had in my pocket. He graciously accepted and quickly tucked it in his own pocket. “I wish I could do more.” He smiled, “You did more than I expected you would.” I don’t write this to boast but rather to prompt all of us to see beyond the troubles of our own world and expand our awareness. I remember hearing a cynic state, “I never give anything to a beggar! They’ll probably use it for booze!” To which I responded, “In the end, I would rather be judged for giving to the wrong person than be judged for not giving to anyone.”

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck April 7, 02:45

        If he is so together and articulate, what is he doing jobless? Oh, the job he can get is not the job he wants? It doesn’t pay as much as he is worth? A while back I watched a panhandler and a bank guard. The bank guard probably is making $12.00 an hour. He is not an armed guard which pays more. The bank guard gets social security and medicare taken out of his wages. He is not eligible for any of the social benefit programs because “he makes too much money”, but he is working and holding down a job. In the twenty minutes that I watched them, the panhandler made more money, assuming everyone who handed him a bill handed him only one dollar than the guard made in that same period of time. After 20 minutes the panhandler headed into the liquor store that was a few doors down from the bank. So back to your eloquent street person. He can’t find a job. Has he tried any of the fast food places? They are always looking for workers. How about temporary employment filling unskilled labor jobs? How about the local farms which are always looking for farm laborers? Probably not. You know why? There is always some sob sister who will come along and hand him and now her money so they can feel all warm and good about themselves. It’s called enabling. It’s not charity. You got snookered, conned by an articulate panhandler who has polished his line. He might have even cleared more tax free dollars that day than you did.

        Reply to this comment
        • cherie July 1, 16:31

          One thing I’ve learned, is when applying for jobs, they almost always ask for your home address. If you’re staying at the Salvation Army, you can use their address, but all the employers know it’s Salvation Army. People assume you must be a felon, or druggie, alcoholic, mentally ill- instead of possibly just having fallen on hard times. So, many don’t get hired, unless they have a “good address”. ..decent clothes, good hygiene. So it’s sort of a catch 22.

          Reply to this comment
      • Maah April 8, 06:40

        God bless you. Thank you. Good advice.

        Reply to this comment
      • Kingskid1990 February 11, 15:10

        I know I’m late, but GOD BLESS YOU MAN! @dance the world needs more people who think as you do.

        Reply to this comment
    • Dragonlordd April 11, 19:03

      Sordin: Not all homeless people are the way they are because of drugs or alcohol. Some just don’t have enough money coming in compared to what they have going out. Most of the homeless in my area seem to be senior citizens that don’t get enough money on there S.S.I. checks to cover home, utilities, food, and any medication they need. So most would reather live on the streets than starve.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tom Catt n Snoball May 17, 09:24

      I try to avoid the homeless, , most quickly become leaches, i camp as far away from town as possible, hunt trap n fish to boost my food supply,, some really good tips here, i will be homeless again in a few months n lookn foward to it,, what i have learned over de years could make a Intresting book.

      Reply to this comment
  6. BroButchieFromStreets April 6, 16:21

    Ur right,
    and sometimes
    It’s best ta put a mad dog down.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Maah April 8, 06:39

    Greetings. The beach areas of Southern California have a high number of homeless people living there, mostly because the weather is decent. 20 years ago the L.A. homeless newspaper, i forgot what it is called, estimated 30,000 people living on the streets. It must have increased since then. A huge number of homeless people are abandoned women and their kids with no support system behind them. I am surprised at the number of people commenting here, who think only bums or drug/alcohol addicts are homeless. It is a false assumption and cruel. Anyone could become homeless at any time. That’s why we prep and read tips how to survive when SHTF. If you are not currently homeless, consider yourself one of the fortunate ones, give thanks, and do a kind bit for those who are less fortunate. Nice article, by the way. Thank you.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Riptideouteast April 11, 06:26

    Dear left coast chuck, yes there are numbers of people addicted to stuf. Yet have you ever been or known of someone involved in an on the job accident ?? How long it initially takes to get that first penny from compensation. Then while you are completely immobilized and then seeing doctors, as bills pile, including rent. There are those that do not care that you may have been I valve in an accident etc. You may or may not win a settlement, but by the time you do. All those docs need to be paid off. All basic bills too. Before you know it it could easily be out you go. And then there are the soldiers who return and sometimes return to a life changed. So what appears one way may well be another. Also some of us hate to see family expecially children go without food. So what we have had you can make that car payment and see a child in the family hungry. Or do what you can and then watch the repo from the bank come when you were close to paying it off and ruin chance at getting to a job on time because no you’ve got a bike if your lucky. Try riding that in 17 degrees. When you try to rent now your credit rating in fully blown, not to mention a few thousand more tacked on the bill by the bankers that take your car. Bob Marley had the words rat race quite well done. As for a panhandler. I’ve held out food I already had when they say they are hungry, if the take it they probably were. But if I ever gave a dollar as long as my heart was in the Wright place, the Lord knows the difference and my intentions. Who ever takes it it is upon them to have free will to choose. But I usually offer food or to buy food. There but for the grace of God go I.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck April 12, 03:15

      When I got out of the service my wife was pregnant with our first child and so ill with morning sickness it was a chore to get out of bed and eating was almost out of the question. Within a week I had landed a job. It was a job a hated but I went to work every day anyway. Any time there was an offer of overtime I took it. I didn’t have a car. I rode a bike or took the bus. When my wife was ready to deliver I took her to the hospital in a taxi. Brought her and the baby home in a taxi. Enrolled in night school. I left at 6:30 in the morning and got home by 10:00 or 10:30 pm five night a week. I worked Saturdays because it was an overtime day. I took care of the grounds of the apartment house where we lived on Sunday because it got me a 20% discount on the rent. I never missed a day of work the whole time I was in school even though there were days when I was really sick and should have stayed home. I didn’t get my first car until I got a job in my field of study and started making good money. I didn’t get a new car, I got a car that cost less than one month’s pay and paid cash for it. Of course it had a few problems but fixing the problems was less money than buying a newer car. Plus no payments. I always bought within my budget and didn’t have any payments except rent and utilities. When I bought a house, I bought one that was well within what I could afford even if I lost my job. I didn’t get a newer car until I had been in my career job for a couple of years. We didn’t have TV for a couple of years after I got discharged. Finally a service buddy gave me his old set when he upgraded. That was our first TV and lasted us until we were well settled in our first home. The first year and a half we lived on a lot of soup and boiled rice. So, yeah, I’ve walked the walk. I have always lived well below what I could afford. Even with working and going to school we still put away a little each week in savings. Tight? you’d better believe it. My wife washed diapers by hand and hung them on a line in the “yard” of the apartment house where we lived. She made all of our kids’ clothes from clothes that we couldn’t wear because parts of them were worn out. She turned the collars on my shirts and cuffs on the sleeves and darned my socks. When the collar and cuffs of my shirts were finally totally worn out the body of the shirt became a blouse for her or clothes for the kids. While I was in school I worked jobs didn’t pay much and were tedious dead end jobs but I did my best at them and always went away with outstanding recommendations. When the place where I worked burned down my boss got my a job at another company with better pay and I didn’t miss a day.

      So perhaps you can see my questions to “dance”. Why the moocher on the street wasn’t working. If he is so articulate and able to bemoan his fate because of “mistakes” why is he unable to find a job? Any job? Flipping burgers? It ain’t much but it is a start on a satisfactory employment record. And in your spare time when not flipping burgers you are out looking for something that is better and pays more or you take part time work when you are not flipping burgers. You work days at the burger place and nights doing janitorial work. Oh, yeah, you can do it. If it is 17° out and you have to ride your bicycle you bundle up. If it is raining, you take a change of clothes with you so you have dry clothes when you get to work. You tough it out. You hang in there. You do your job to the best of your ability and you strive to do better. Numerous Vietnamese families came to the U.S. with absolutely nothing but the determination to make a life for themselves. I read of one family who lost everything on their trip to the U.S. They even lost family members to pirates in their escape from Vietnam. Today the family numbers doctors and college professors in their ranks. They worked in restaurants busing tables. They worked as janitors. They worked as laundry workers. They were never without a job. They worked while they went to school. So from arriving speaking no English at all, the children graduated from college and went on to earn high degrees. They didn’t owe a fortune when they graduated from college because they worked the whole time they were there and lived frugally while in college. It still can be done. It can’t if you squander your money on manicures and tats and cable TV and the latest in cellphones and sit on your butt waiting for someone to stick the teat in your mouth, it requires gumption to get out and hustle after work, taking the scut jobs and applying yourself until you either move up or out on to something better. End of lecture for today. By the way, I spent a year working at the California worker’s comp board, so I am very familiar with workers comp.

      Reply to this comment
  9. The Great Gatsby June 23, 13:23

    Hotels offer free breakfast?

    Not in my neck of the woods.

    If you just walk in the door and say you want free breakfast, I think you will be shown said door very fast.

    Reply to this comment
  10. seen November 30, 00:35

    you are all stupid with your comments. you think people want to be homeless. sometimes shit happens and not because of drugs and or alcohol. just walk past the homeless like they aren’t even there. pricks

    Reply to this comment
  11. fvygubhj February 7, 20:30

    boiii chiilll da fuk out dog u a-whole

    Reply to this comment
  12. Jeff October 16, 05:37

    Some great comments and information. Thank you! I think both sides are right, there are some homeless who like it and are doing well and others who should be helped. Everyone, has to do what they think is best to do. Our experiences have shaped our opinions. God bless everyone!

    Reply to this comment
  13. Sal Yodada December 4, 04:49

    I have worked with homeless people for years. Some are what people think that all of them are – addicted and/or mentally ill. These are the ones that everyone sees in the parks or on the streets, but they’re only a slice of that population. There are mothers with children living in cars. There are students who couch-surf. I have personally talked with secretaries, teachers, builders, even one doctor and a lawyer, who became homeless after a personal disaster (or 2 or 3).

    There are also homeless people who work two jobs but can’t make enough to rent even a studio.

    It’s so easy to judge what we don’t understand. We have a massive homeless population in this country. I view them as economic refugees, ignored by their country, their government, and everyone else.

    There is an industry of “helping the homeless” with food, clothing, etc. This is admirable but we have to be careful of becoming enablers. These businesses and nonprofits depend on a steady stream of needy people so that they can take home their paychecks.

    One last point: being homeless breaks people. If you think you would never self-medicate to combat the misery, you’re either stupid or a liar. If you think you wouldn’t go a little crazy, do things out of desperation, maybe even try to go to jail so at least you’d have a place to sleep, try living on the street for a weekend.

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