What If I'm Homeless?How Can I Stay Warm?(Urban Edition.)

Introduction: What If I'm Homeless?How Can I Stay Warm?(Urban Edition.)

This instructable is designed to tell you how to stay warm, in varying degrees of cold.
There will be pics in a few days.
This article assumes you do not have a house or apartment.
Being homeless in a car is the luckier of the two situations in some ways, unluckier in others, and deserves an Ible of it's own.
This also assumes level of society is infrastructure-intact.
I believe infrastructure-hiccup homelessness, again, deserves an Ible of it's own.
Yes, those are challenges, smartypants!
Here's a couple more,btw....
Save Water, Make a Doctor Sink - a regular sink-to-footpedal sink mod...anyone?
Quiet Compressed Air Car Mod-Making your car run on compressed air. quietly.
How to get Friable/FoodGrowing Land to be Considered a positive factor in Property Equity in residential neighborhoods, so composting/working the soil would build property value by it's own real merit.
Starting a garden with your whole Apartment Building to Feed Yourselves from a secure Garden!Rooftop edition?
How to Save The World From Itself in Your Free Time
NewOrleans/Georgia Style Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Recipe

So, crap, guess what. You're homeless.
Things didn't work out for now, and now, well, ...now what?
Where do we go from here?
First things first.
What does a human need? (not Want, but Need.)
Quickly.....unfortunately, much of your Western civilization programming will be working against you in this process. We've been taught to gratify many of our less important whims.

Fundamentally, a Need is something required for pragmatic survival.
A Want is something that would be nice. Your priorities may vary, but what a human needs to survive
is pretty simple. Air, Water, Food, Shelter. Sometimes you may additionally need medicine,which can occasionally be improvised.more about that later.

If it's cold, you have to figure out the way to stay warm. If you're in a place where it gets much below the 40s(fahrenheit. About 4.4 Celsius), you'll need to do it fairly quickly. Before dark.
When the sun goes down the temperature drops quickly, and that's bad news for you.
Even if you're a husky fella,
your extremities will chill and cramp easier, and if you go to sleep, if you wake up, you may wake up with hypothermia. Not fun.
There's also frostbite.. Oh, buddy.
If you're caught homeless in the cold, don't panic. This is survivable, and a chance to prove you're resourceful enough to do it well enough to come out healthy.

Step 1: Things to Remember

Stay Dry - This makes your chances for staying warm much better. Your core heat can be leached out of you by the cold, so the drier you are, the warmer.
Layer up- Start with absorbant or moisture wicking long underwear if you have it, if not, you can improvise with
various materials.
Here's the idea you're going for.
The homeless guy from The Day After Tomorrow-he's got the right idea BUT if there is danger of getting wet, paper will not be your buddy. It'll stick to you and your clothes and keep you wet.
Find clean packing materials (platic/styro/cello, etc.)instead if you can, try loading docks behind stationary stores or hardware stores.

Keep your sense of humor and your temper- irrational thinking will waste your time and energy. Keep calm and be resigned to the idea that there is a solution to your problem, and you will find it if you focus.
Alcohol- a little might be okay, but a drunk homeless dude in the snow/rain is a bumsicle. not really a Need.
also, makes you give a lot of warmth away with excessive peeing.
Pee as soon as you need to.- your body puts the kettle on to heat up urine. It can use up body heat
you'll need to stay focused on surviving.

Step 2: Batten Down the Hatches

Tuck in all layers but the outside coat. if this is uncomfortable, remove 1 layer from belt.
the coat will flange over and protect the layers

If it's wet:
Garbage bags can be pretty good raingear.
if you have 3 large bags and three regular sized shopping bags, you can get it to stay
use one as a hoodie.
Hold bag upside down. make a face sized hole about a foot down one long side.
use the two others to make MC Hammer pants-you may look silly, but you'll prove you're 2 Legit 2 Quit this world! take a regular shopping bag and pinch both corners off the bottom.
push your already garbage-bagged legs through (cant touch this.)
take the bags, pinch off one corner of each, and push your foot through.
If you have shoes,take them off and put a regular shopping bag over each.
put the toe inside a corner.
tuck the ends inside.
your foot should already be through hole in one bottom corner of large trash bag and protruding out at about the ankle.
put the shoes on.

You should look kind of like Robert or Benson, the guys hanging around the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness.
hopefully,This is enough. if not, go to step 3.

Step 3: Get Down and Insulate!

If it's Wet and Freezing
You're basically water resistant at this point. are you still crazy cold?
Well, if you can't get a mug of hot cocoa, you need to insulate.
What to use, what to use?
My father told me this one, he actually had to come up with it in the field.
It probably saved his life.
Find a source for clean packaging materials, bubble wrap is ideal, but if you can find pallet cellophane and packing peanuts(make sure they're not cornstarch-based or they'll melt if they get wet)they'll work.
Look out for carpet padding, it can have mold or urine. or moldy urine.
Don't use pink or yellow fiberglass insulation. Trust me on this.
Put the peanuts between two layers then fold over.
Depending on how cold it is, you can pack your pant legs ,shirt, sleves, etc. or your stylish vintage early 90's poprap icon tributes. Take that, Kanye!
We're old school!
It goes without saying that bubblewrap makes a nice mitten,
and if you can make the rainhat beneath( baseball cap not required) and line it with small bubble wrap or another regular shopping bag, you can insulate your head a little better.
A lil somethin' fe ye head.

Where to find : this could be behind any of the big box stores, hardware stores ,or supermarkets.
You will improvise. That's how we survive.

Step 4: Shelter From the Storm

Scout around for areas:
Warmed by the sun
Sheltered from wind/water
Near Heat vents - usually behind or near hotels, or large heated buildings,like malls. watch for security.
you're the real reason they're there.
Multilevel parking lots sometimes have small nooks to occupy.
If you can find one lowkey enough, you can either get a few hours sleep, or if it's late enough and there's no one around, stay the night.
If you know you snore loudly, this may be a bad idea.
Camouflage your location to avoid detection.

Look out for areas water may pool later.
If you're really that worried about getting busted, It's not really that cold.
Jail has food, heat,beds, showers,libraries, phones, and of course the companionship of your fellow man. The jerk.
If it's really freezing and you have no other way, get yourself arrested.
It might save your life.
Or get you killed, but hey, you were already gonna freeze to death!
Getting beaten up or shanked is comparably better then hypothermia death or frostbite and gangrene.
Is it a Want or a Need to survive?

Libraries are open most business days as a source of:
Restroom/Changing Facilitites/ Washup stop.
(If your hands feel numb, try the water with your wrist to keep it just warm, and soak your fingers for a little while.Too hot too quick is bad.)
Be careful with electric hand driers,if you are frozen, you can get burned and not feel it at first.
If you're not too dirty, you can walk through heated Supermarkets , Shopping Centers, Hotel and other Lobbies and some bus stations without arousing too much trouble. wearing the garbage bag get-up will definitely get you noticed, though. luckily it fits handily in a large pocket.
If you can find a way into some apartment /motel building laundry rooms, there should be usually a soda machine and at least one drier.
Do this when it's either very late or very early to minimze contact you want to be a ghost
If you can amass a few quarters, open the drier door.
There should be a sensor on the dryer,
jam it with a little piece of wire and a piece of card about like a matchbook or business card.
it might have to be the plastic push-in kind, I'm not sure.

Improvised shelter
Find a source for clean packing material. This can be a dumpster near a loading dock for
Malls/Shopping Centers
Hardware Stores

Cardboard sleeping bag
wardrobe or fridge boxes are good for this. it's okay if they're flat, that's how they're used.
cover box with bubble wrap, pallet cellophane, burlap,painter's plastic, ag mesh, garbage bags, whatever you can find. cleanest closest, dirtiest farthest away.
layers of crumpled phone book pages/newspaper between full newspaper sheets folded at the ends.
if you can find aluminum foil fold it around and undeneath plastic.
if you can get a pallet,a few sheets of cardboard and bubble wrap, you can make a platform to keep you insulated from the concrete to avoid more chill.
this is enhanced greatly with a piece of carpet, again, avoid the pee.
You may find some uninterrupted sleep near the freeway behind walls, there tends to be more foliage,
Look out for other people's spots, some folks get real ugly and territorial, some will
walk up and be yer buddy.
It's your job to tell between one and the other or be prepared to avoid!

Step 5: Food Furnace

This is what you are. If you can't eat, ultimately you can't live.
You need water and food to function, but when it's cold, you need food
or you'll start getting weak, and that's....weak.
Things to Eat
You really want as much food value out of what you eat when it's cold.
This means nutrition as much as possible in what you're eating.
There are many inexpensive options. Some supermarkets, even one fast food chain I know of, have baked potatoes. These wrapped in tinfoil and put in a pocket will help warm you before and after you eat. If you have access to a way to heat things, this is ideal. you may not.
here area few options to improvise.(I love this website.)
other good lowprice options are
Cheap Burritos- be careful with meat burritos. this can, shall we say, backfire.
Restaurants will sometime throw away still-warm food, monitor a few near closing.
Sometimes bread trucks will give you older loaves they pick up from chain restaurants.
Be honest, don't be pushy, nobody likes an ENTITLED homeless person.
Besides, you're probably on camera, Duder.
If you can swing it from dumpsters or even in-store "samples",
eat a little spinach or tomatoes when you can. sweet potatoes, beans, corn, anything with naturally occuring nutrients is good. Dumpster locks are a sin, as far as I'm concerned.
They should just post a warning /waiver across the whole front
of the dumpster releasing themselves from harm and allow a little mitigation of the trash flow to the Dump. What, did you think that special locked-dumpster trash went to a magical fairy land?

Even If candy is all that's available any given time,
Look for the maximum food value. Instead of Smarties or starburst, get the candybar with nuts and nougat or whatever. If it's freezing, look for the most calories.
Granola works really well for this, but it's not usually cheap.
Dollar store places will also help if nearby.
Dumpster diving is a way to get food, try supermarket dumpsters for veg and fruit, damaged cans/ packaged foods, Donut stores and bagel shops have to throw away unsold inventory after some hours and daily respectively.
I'm not your mom, but brush your teeth!
Tooth related pain when you can't do anything about it in freeze, rain, snow is not what you want.
also, if you can, use conrstarch to keep yer pits and bits dry so they sweat less.
I have heard talc causes a similar reaction to the skin long term as asbestos, please relate in comments if this is so if you know! Thanks.

Step 6: Better Pics Coming Soon!

Thanks for reading, I'll update again soon, I want to go out when I can and take some better pics of the places I desribed.
Stay warm and have fun living the great adventure!

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    39 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Anyway to Veec who said this article sucks - you clearly have no idea about the realities of homeless. This article is a great source of knowledge for those who are clueless of how to survive by utilising free resources.

    To Amy saying you wouldn't be reading this if you were homeless - why not?? Grow up.

    And to Jesses6 - what so we are supposed not to give advice that might save lives because people shouldn't be homeless anyway? I think we all realise this. What's the alternative - let them die? Don't help at all? Roll eyes.

    To Chris - how are things turning out for you? I don't know if you will see this and I can't reply for some reason. I would like to hear how things have turned out for you though? I do hope they have improved. NO ONE should be homeless. It's shameful. I don't know what country you live in but the government should be ashamed of itself.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The reply button doesn't work for me here??


    5 years ago on Step 3

    or you can just end homelessness for people who want to progress in life :) there was a dude homeless for 5 years of his life because of some havoc in his past such as divorce and such played guitar for money since no employer would hire him sicne homeless until one day some guy decided to give him about 5 grand payed for his first months 1 bed room costed about 1500 bought him some new clothes and some gifts anyways the homeless guy ended up becoming assistant manager...i know we cant help everyone especially those who cant help themselves but if a person wants to be worth something to society society shouldnt be getting him ready to live his days on the streets XD lmfao


    5 years ago

    Suk it Veec. Lmfao!!


    5 years ago

    Sometimes being rude is being nice. Some people actually have no idea how blind they are.


    5 years ago

    Thanks for writing this man, it will come in handy as I've been homeless for a couple weeks and te first week was a breeze just staying with friends "couch hopping", but this week has been brutal Ive been managing to keep decently warm except for the other night when I woke up to myself turning purple and numb. Hopefully this transitional living program contacts me back soon but until then your guide is te key to my survival thanks man!:)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    obviously if your homeless you wouldnt be reading this lol


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I was homeless for five months. I used the internt daily. These is a new breed of homeless in the USA: educated, resourceful, too many bad turns. Then homeless. I once spoke with a CSR for our state's health insurance plan. My many addresses led him to query, to which I informed that I was homeless, and he intimated that though working and possessing an MBA, he to was homeless at that time. My spouse and I have a BA and BS respectively, and grad studies lead to financial hurt, then homelessness. Laugh all you want, but it's not funny, but tragic, and you'd be surprised how quickly turn arounds turn you out. We have been in our new, transitional apartment for less than one month.


    Reply 5 years ago

    I'm glad to hear your in a transitional program actually "living" now. I'm trying to get into one currently but the saw managers been out sucks for over a week and it's left me stuck in the woods. Also one question, do they place you in an apartment with someone or by yourself?:)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    You can access the internet for free from any public library. You must have a card, but they give it to you on the spot so if your homeless use a friends address. Also a good place to rest and warm up. If its a big library, and you fall asleep in a comfy chair with a book on your lap, you usually won't be bothered (unless you snore). Catching some zzz's during the day will allow you to keep moving at night.
    If your homeless it's vital to stay clean and neat, then you won't be run out of restaurants, etc. If you can get a buck or two for a cup of coffee, you can usually spend an hour or so in a restaurant late at night, especially if you order coffee and say your waiting for someone to join you. Don't overlook fast food joints that stay open late. One near a movie or other entertainment venue that gets a late crowd if good. You won't be noticed by the staff, and you can usually find a newspaper to read. If you can grab someone else's empty food container and sit it on your table, they won't ask you to leave, assuming you are a paying customer. Food courts at the mall work the same way. You can sit for an hour or longer, undisturbed.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for all the good info!
    In the winter, staying dry becomes more of a challenge, so it is important to use any available resources, including :
    laundromats (dual purpose)
    covered bus stops
    large chain bookstores
    multilayered parking lots.
    pay toilets(especially with hand dryers.)
    I spent a few nights in this apartment building's laundry room and used the dryer, it was a huge apartment complex and late at night. my story was to be i was new in the building.(not recommended)
    i found the door sensor and jammed it in and dropped in a quarter.
    beware of sleeping in trees. yes, you will escape park sprinklers.
    BUT you may roll off and get seriously injured(don't ask)
    99 cent stores have gloves and socks intermittently as well.
    Thanks for reading!


    Reply 5 years ago

    Actually you're very wrong sir. I am homeless, I sleep in the woods and I using the Internet. It's a thing called go to the library or if you're like me and have an iPod that runs off of wifi, then McDonald's is ideal because I can charge my iPod and use free wifi and that's how I read this sir. :D


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I wanted to go into a little more detail with some of the places to sleep, or get warm that were mentioned in this article. Awesome article btw!!!! Thanks for caring :)

    1.The laundry room of a hotel - They don't know who is staying at the hotel. For all they know you're with one of the people that checked in. Go in and find the laundry room, take your jacket off if you have one, and put it in the dryer. Sit in one of the chairs and go to sleep. If someone walks in, act like you fell asleep while waiting on your jacket to dry. Then walk over and take your jacket out of the dryer and leave. The laundry rooms are usually empty at night. I always use them late at night when I travel and no one usually comes in there after about 10pm.

    2.Hotel Lobbies - Find a book somewhere, check one out at the library or use one of the hotel lobby magazines.Walk into a hotel and go straight to the lobby. Sit in a chair and pretend to read if the desk clerk can see you. If the clerk can't see you, open the book, lay it in your lap and fall asleep in the chair. People will just think you fell asleep while reading. Most people are in bed by 10pm, and the desk clerks usually go in the back at night and sleep themselves, so no one will even see you until around 6am the next morning.

    3.Sporting Goods Store - You don't always have to sleep at night, you could go into a sporting goods store, find a tent that's set up, climb in, zip it up, and sleep away. If you have a coat, use it for a pillow. If you get caught climbing out of it, just laugh and say "Yep, I could sleep good in one of these" :)

    4.Walmart is open 24 hours. Not only can you walk around in Walmart when it's cold outside, but you can sit on the toilet (with clothes on) and rest for a while. Some Walmart have restaurants in them, like McDonalds, you could lounge there too.

    5.Public Laundry Matts are probably the best option if they're enclosed. I don't even know if they have those open air laundry matts anymore. But again, throw your coat in the dryer if you have one, unless it's too cold in there, and sit back and have a nap.

    6. Take a book into a doctors office and relax (a walk in clinic is best), but try not to sit in the view of the receptionist. If they ask you if they can help you when you first walk in, just say "no, I'm here with someone", and go sit next to someone and ask them a question, like where the bathroom is. Then go to the bathroom so you can get a good view of the room to find a seat that's hidden from the front desk. Try a few doctors offices to see which ones are the best. And use many different ones so no one catches on.

    7.The Emergency Room is a great place to rest. If they ask if you need help when you first walk in, again, just say you're there waiting on someone. There's usually a lot of patients there in the winter so you'll just blend in. Try to sit somewhere that the receptionist can't see you and sleep away.

    8.Dressing Rooms - The ones in department stores are the best because they usually have carpet in them and the doors have locks. Take quite a few items of clothes with you in case someone sees you when you exit the dressing room with nothing in your hand. Plus, if the sales person is cleaning up all the clothes that people left behind, she/he might knock on the door to see if anyone is in there, if this happens, just tell them you're almost done and you'll be out in a minute. Don't forget to brush your hair or fix it so it doesn't look like you've been laying down. Try to avoid dressing rooms if there's enough room for someone to crawl under it or kids might see you by playing around on the floor. And the sales person can look under them.

    I suggest taking a book where ever you go and read or pretend to read so you look busy and blend in. Although I've seen people fall asleep in doctor's offices while waiting on their relatives, so take a nap.

    I hope this helps, and good luck :)


    5 years ago

    I agree with all parts except the advice to get killed. I can't even stand the thought.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Ch. 3: Psychological Preparations

    Ch. 15: Improvised Clothing and Protective Items

    Survival Guide to Homelessness


    7 years ago on Step 6

    Thanks for sharing. You never know when you will have to use the knowledge you imparted weather homeless or lost. It's all about survival.


    9 years ago on Step 5

    I totally agree that locking/filming dumpsters is horrible. The warning/waiver is a very good idea!


    9 years ago on Step 6

    If you are interested in more on diving check out here:
    this is a documentary about the "diving" culture and politics of waste.

    thank you or your many good ideas - I pray my family or I never have to use them but even i not homeless - these are good ideas of items to give to someone who is... I stocked up on emergency blankets in my care and give them to the guys by the freeways rather than money...