Author Topic: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A  (Read 3684 times)

Offline Alfonso Crawford

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When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« on: March 18, 2013, 08:07:11 PM »
Hello, everyone! As well all know, one is more likely to experience an acute disaster than a wide-scale catastrophe: I've experienced a few myself, that have resulted to me living on the street. Things are better now, and since I'm terrible at writing guides, a thread wherein I answer anyone's questions about living outdoors within a city or suburb seemed like a good idea.

I'll start off with two easy points, though:
  • Always remind yourself that, even in good times, you typically don't spend the day at home. When the sun's out, you have just as much opportunity as everyone else; and you do not stick out.
  • Even though it's fun, eating nothing but what you get out of a Dunkin' Donuts trashcan for a week will cause you to hallucinate.
That's all for right now~! I'll answer your questions to the best of my ability, and even make videos when I can. Thanks for your time, and let's hope you never have to use anything you learn here.  ;)

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 09:42:45 PM »
How about cleanliness?

Offline Alfonso Crawford

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 10:13:26 PM »
How about cleanliness?
What you're gonna need here is a bathroom with a handicapped stall that doesn't see much use by handicapped people. Scout the area out some, beforehand. If you've got two rags (one for scrubbing, one for drying) and a bar of soap, you've got everything you need to get your body clean. Just like the George Carlin joke goes, focus on the stank bits first. Keep sandwich bags handy, too.

If you practice, you can be in and out before anybody suspects a thing. Oh! You'll be washing yourself in the sink. WikiHow's got the hook-up for in-depth instructions; but the gist is "take your shirt off and start scrubbing." Make sure to keep the washrag only kinda damp so you don't get your pants wet. I've yet to devise an elegant way to wash your junk, but I'll start experimenting if there's call for it. When you get to somewhere outdoors and private, lay out the rags to dry.

Your teeth work the same way as when camping or on a road trip: the cargo and techniques are all the same.

For clothes, you can do a lot of the same routine; but with different soap. I'll get some powder detergent and make a video for how to wash your clothes. Drying? Wring 'em out, fold 'em, bag 'em, lay 'em out on a rock when you can. A park would be my first candidate; or the safety rails on a train-bridge (assuming... ah, I'll get a picture of what I'm talking about tomorrow or so). If you've got dark stuff, you don't mind the feel, you can wring well, and you're damn sure you've got time to walk around, you can wear your outfit immediately; but, obviously, that's a lot of ifs.

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2013, 10:25:43 PM »
Interesting stuff!

How about sleeping?

Offline NWPilgrim

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2013, 03:39:39 AM »
Wow that is some background!  Lots of interesting things.  How about where do you choose to hang out?  Say you lived in the suburbs and became homeless.  Do you hang around the same area because fo familiarity and friends, or move toward more population density for more opportunities to find facilities, etc.?

endurance

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 09:29:57 AM »
What are your most important items that you keep with you?  Do you keep a full change of clothes, just the underbits, or manage with just one set the best you can?

Offline Alfonso Crawford

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 10:31:09 AM »
I hate college. I hate college. I hate college. I hate college. I hate college. I hate college.

Due to extenuating circumstances, your questions will need to wait a day or so to be answered! I don't like it anymore than you do, but I'll knock out one just 'cause I can touch on it quick.

  • 2-3 extra shirts
  • 4-5 extra briefs
  • 2 pairs of socks

You gotta be wise with how it's packed, but that was enough for me to get by if you don't have a campsite. I specialized in ultralight living, so I neither had a hideout nor a large backpack. There's more to share, but I've got to go hate college some more. If anybody wants to come down to Florida and, y'know, shoot me, you're welcome to. I'll even move a little; make it interesting.

Offline rikkrack

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 11:21:06 AM »
Reminds me of SLECO. Real experiences, and sometimes are not what you think they would be unless you did it. Watching for more info.

I am interested in how did you recover?
Were you able to get any money?
What about shelters?
Were friends/family not available?
Since there was mention of location, winter was not an issue. But there are food sources in that location for foraging. How much did foraging (not dumpster diving, not to dismiss that) play into food sources.
What about water availability for drinking?

Offline Alfonso Crawford

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2013, 12:50:39 PM »
Hanging Out & Sleeping

I loved hanging out at libraries, myself! Internet, romance comics... internet. Oh, and water. Water was easy to come by. And romance comics. (I'm a simple man.) Higher population density means higher population of homeless, which typically leads to higher population of people helping the homeless. In Gainesville, on Saturdays, you can get six meals if you're willing to put in the legwork!

Sleeping is a pain, but pretty straightforward. What I do is walk around looking as normal as possible, scanning for places that can hide somebody. Once got caught behind an abandoned church, 'cause people were using its parking lot, while another dude was chilling behind its dumpster! Two important things to know:
  • Test a place out by just reading a book there. If you can get pretty far through it, and you don't hear a lot of traffic going by, you've got a place.
  • Have more than one place.
  • If the cops come up to you, be polite. Explain what put you there, and what you're doing to get out it. Think of it like getting pulled over: fighting makes it worse... unless a few nights under any roof is what you're looking for. (It is a strategy, for storms and such.)
If you're in a place with 24-hour establishments, you might want to become nocturnal. Sleeping in a park during the day, when it's open, won't get you in trouble like sleeping in it after hours. Hell, I had a netbook on me in Gainesville, and I just hung out in the corner of a copy-place every night watching anime on YouTube. Good times~

Offline MTUCache

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2013, 01:17:05 PM »
So, without getting into anything personal that you don't want to share, was this a voluntary lifestyle choice that you took?
What was your EDC (Every Day Carry)? What kinds of tools or weapons did you end up carrying?
Did you have ID on you or were you looking to get really off the radar?
What was the worst situation that you found yourself in? Safety-wise? Medical-wise?
Was there a fallback option in a worst-case-scenario, where you could hit a payphone and get picked up by a family member if things just got too far messed up?

I'm curious as to what decisions went into that, and more importantly what your long-term plan was for that...

In my opinion, if I didn't have the family/career life that I've chosen, I still don't think I would choose to go without the security that comes with some place or the options that come with having a regular paycheck (no matter how small). The freedom that comes with that life would be freeing for a few weeks, but once you get past the "camping out" phase that you could get from a hike along the AT, that doesn't sound like all that much fun.

How much more effort would it have taken to live the same sort of way, but live in a "tiny house" that you can keep some supplies, food, and "stuff" in and sleep in a locked up place? Even if you've got to rent a truck every month or so to move it to another locale, you're not putting all that much money into it.

I see all sorts of different homeless types around downtown Chicago, and I know there's a lot of resources around for them to keep warm and eat. The panhandling around here is out of control, to the point where they laugh at some of my coworkers when they ask what we make per hour... they make more in handouts everyday than many people do working full time.

I was an avid watcher of skipperfound's on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0BEFFB20ACA146EE) when he did some similar adventuring (shanty-boat from Michigan to Florida, and then living among homeless for a few weeks). A lot of his videos were really informative and insightful, but I think eventually it just got old for him. He's actually now in the Red Cross and getting ready to ship off to Africa for a Peace Corp adventure.

Offline Alfonso Crawford

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2013, 12:30:52 PM »
MTUCache's Questions
  • Real talk? I pursued it because I always felt (and still do feel) that it's all I can amount to. Living comfortably on the street looked like the most I could ever hope for, even since I was a kid.
  • The only weapon/tool I ever carried was this folding hunting knife. I'm a large scary-looking brown guy with a very disarming personality, so I very rarely need to get into fights.
  • I wasn't trying to go off-radar. I did have my ID on me.
  • Worse scenario? When a cold snap came through Florida and I had the bright idea of sleeping by a pond. I couldn't sleep, and it felt like my legs were slowly being submerged into icewater. Or the time I was raiding the Dunkin Donuts trashcan I mentioned at the beginning and this one drug-addled dude started ranting to me about how much he hates Chinese people. ^^;
  • I've got a degree of familial support, yes. I'm relying on now. There are also networks out there that I'll get to in a second.
MTUCache's Comments
  • My "long-term plan" was just to get by. This thread isn't about my history of depression, so let's move on, eh?
  • It all depends on what you want out of your day-to-day life. Places like Squat the Planet have been something I personally have found inspiring, but it's entirely understandable that one wants something else for themselves. I want to pursue game development, myself, and that does require some level of consistency. :)
  • There'd be very little extra effort, eh. My own financial situation is far too meager for buying much of anything. It always has been. One does not start eating out of the garbage if they can still afford a $1 cheeseburger.
  • Defending every person that lives without a house would be foolish on my part. It always infuriated me that, after an 8-hour day busting my ass as a dishwasher, struggling to hold onto the dilapidated apartment and scrappy kitten, I learned that some dude sitting by the sidewalk outearned me! AUGH! As a contrast, I'll simply tell you that I've seen men that did day labor and bought silver while sleeping on a park bench: they were waiting for their daughter in Montana to get things in order for him to live with her.
  • I'm trying to get my life into a different place, myself. This Q&A is one step towards learning to interact with and help others. I've seen a lot of families stress over being too close to the rock bottom that it only seemed right to orient new people that find themselves there. Unfortunately, I'm one of those artist-types, so I have to keep my poverty-skills sharp: teaching some ought to help.
Okay, now which one's haven't I gotten to yet...?

Offline MTUCache

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2013, 12:49:24 PM »
Real talk? I pursued it because I always felt (and still do feel) that it's all I can amount to. Living comfortably on the street looked like the most I could ever hope for, even since I was a kid.
Wow... that's a pretty profound statement. A lot to process there.

I don't know if your interested in hearing it, or whether it would help anyway, but I can GUARANTEE you that I've met, worked with, and probably even lived with people who are less worthy of what they have in life than you are. There are some serious dirt-bags out there with really comfortable lives, and there's some really good people who have never gotten what they deserved.

Wanting something different out of life is one thing... but thinking you don't deserve a life is a whole other story.
I hope that you've gotten some satisfaction and pride out of the things you've learned and done, even if it would't have been your first choice.

Offline Alfonso Crawford

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Re: When It Hits YOUR Fan: A (Sub-)Urban Homelessness Q&A
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2013, 11:19:17 PM »
Reminds me of SLECO. Real experiences, and sometimes are not what you think they would be unless you did it. Watching for more info.

I am interested in how did you recover?
Were you able to get any money?
What about shelters?
Were friends/family not available?
Since there was mention of location, winter was not an issue. But there are food sources in that location for foraging. How much did foraging (not dumpster diving, not to dismiss that) play into food sources.
What about water availability for drinking?

  • I recovered by reporting that there really isn't any work enough to live off of anywhere, no matter where I looked.
  • If you can establish a mailing address in an area, selling plasma is an option. One dude did day labor, as I mentioned.
  • Shelter are an option I didn't explore. If you live where there's snow learn where the cold shelters are and plan your day around them. People show up in line 6-7 hours early. Your life is on the line: don't mess around. In urban areas, it's feasible to find an abandoned house to crash, but that requires a hardiness on your part; being typically on the bad side of town.
  • I was pressured out. A friend did my laundry.
  • What I did was try to volunteer at any outreach program I could. Nobody needed extra help. Ask the people in line with you for more sources. Funny story: one time, I was sleeping in the park, and a dude wakes me up to tell me there's a van giving out vegan gumbo (it was the bomb) and that a music festival was setting up. At that festival, I met a bohemian type that gave me some fresh mustard leaves. Do not eat those raw.
  • Water was one thing that I never had to worry about. Keep a good bottle with you, and mind where the fountains are. You'll never go thirsty, if you're homeless in a developed area. ;)