How to be “Stealth” Homeless

Universal Squatting symbol from Wikimedia Commons“There, but for the grace of God, go I” goes the old canard, usually in reference to a disheveled homeless person, dressed in rags sitting on a street corner begging for change and smelling of b.o.

What you are seeing is the result not of homelessness, per se, but dysfunctionality in general, due to substance abuse, mental illness and a host of other contributing factors.

You may see homeless people everyday and never suspect them. Conversely, that panhandler on the street corner may not be homeless at all. But, perhaps, you have that fear in the back of your mind that such a fate could happen to you. Maybe you work a crappy job, living from pay check to paycheck “one paycheck away from living on the street” or maybe you remain in an abusive relationship in exchange for the security of a place to live. Perhaps you find yourself making the choices you feel forced to make rather than the ones you want to make. You may be putting up with that abusive boss, that demeaning job or crazy roommates thinking that the alternative is much worse.

If so this guide is for you. You may never be homeless but knowing what it entails and that you could probably pull it off may give you the confidence to take more risks and fewer compromises, and thus make better choices toward leading a fulfilling life.

To escape a horrible environment, You may have to abandon/throw away all your shit. I will say this: You will miss it a lot less than you think. If you were a fox caught in a trap you might have to chew your foot off, so if your living situation is sucking the life out of you or putting you in physical danger, losing material possessions is a small price to pay. You can probably sell your books and CDs to used book stores for cash which you’ll need. Often what they won’t buy they will let you dump there so they can donate it to Goodwill. If you have any sentimental items that you can’t bear to part with, mail them to a relative sandwiched between two books to send at the cheaper book rate.


Assuming you work close to minimum wage and have no savings, you probably make around 600 bucks every two weeks. If you skate on all your bills for the next month and move out that means you will have at least 600 bucks cash or more to make your getaway.

That’s actually enough to get established somewhere else. What you will need:

  1. One person tent from Army surplus store or department store: $100.00. (Pass on REI-too expensive)
  2. Set aside some $ for a PO Box using this website. That shouldn’t be too much.
  3. Sleeping bag from Goodwill$: 12.99
  4. Get a Virgin Mobile pay as you go phone for $15 with a $20 top up card.  That gives you 400 minutes. You might want to lose the Droid/Iphone if you pay a lot month to month, or it might be worth it to you to keep it. Either way you’ll have a phone. People don’t need landlines anymore, so that’s all you’ll need in order to maintain contact with civilization.
  5. Book bag/backpack, tooth brush, deodorant, two changes of clothes (one to wear, one to pack), and seven pairs of socks and seven undies. (Hopefully you already own most or all of this)


If you live in a big city, walk, hitchhike, or take a bus ($2.00) to the suburbs. The best place is a medium-sized college town. Look for a little patch of woods in a park or even on a college campus. Hopefully the college has hippies that enjoy communing with nature and that you will be mistaken for one of them and blend in. One huge advantage to camping on a College campus is that everyone walks around with back packs, and if you are fairly young you won’t stand out at all. Even if you are older you will look like a “non-traditional” student.

Camp in a clearing in the midst of a patch of fairly thick woods that is not on a path. You may have to hunt around a little for a suitable spot. The best place is where no one normally walks, but fairly close to a road so it’s lit up and you can find it at night. Don’t allow yourself to be observed coming and going from your camp. If people are around, act like you are tying your shoe or texting and then jump in the bushes when the coast is clear. Don’t bring food to the camp,(besides unopened canned goods) don’t store anything valuable there (or anything that has your name on it and can be traced to you), and don’t wear a path to your camp. Approach it from different ways and step lightly. Go there at dusk, set your phone alarm on vibrate and wake up just before dawn.

Follow your instincts. You may find you have survival instincts you never knew you had.


You may have to be a little counter intuitive on this: You may be tempted to find a place out of the way, like the parking lot of a public park or in a quiet suburban neighborhood, but that’s totally wrong. Cops will harass you if you sleep in your car at a park and homeowners will call the cops on you in a “nice” neighborhood. Hiding in plain sight is best. Good sites are in low-rent busy areas with people coming and going at all hours, like where college students rent. Also, Walmart Parking lots are safe: just hang some shirts over the windows and sack out in the back. Crack the windows so it won’t fog up too much and keep a towel handy to wipe off condensation that does occur on the inside of the windows. If you don’t have a hatch back and seats that fold down, you will get cramped knees after a couple nights, though. As long as you don’t accumulate a lot of crap in your car and fold up your bedding and put it away, no one will suspect you are living out of your vehicle. Once again, when it comes to material possessions less is more. Avoid hoarding.


It’s really easy to get food stamps if you are homeless, especially homeless and jobless. You just have to sign up for them at the Department of Health and Human services. If you don’t know where your local one is, ask a bus driver. When you get there, just tell them you are camping out and they will expedite your application. You will then get $200 a month on a little card that looks like a debit card. Be sure to cancel  your benefits when you get a new job and a place to live:  If your income goes up, you may have to pay the money back.

Wherever you find yourself, as long as you are in a medium sized town, there will be food banks and places where you can get free meals. Most towns have enough free meals for a person to get fat on. If you wanted to, you could eat six times a day if you timed it right, plus load up every few days at a food bank, plus buy food with your EBT (food stamp card). No one needs to starve in the US and no one is panhandling for something to eat. Panhandling is for cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and money to get  hookers. That’s simply the facts, Jack! You are naive if you think you are keeping panhandlers from starving to death by giving them spare change. You are at the very least helping them buy cigarettes, if not drugs.

HOW TO GET CASH (besides panhandling):

  1. You can donate plasma twice a week. You may have a Plasma center in your area. They actually don’t want homeless people, so keep a piece of old mail, like a utility bill from your former residence, and say you still live there.
  2. You can do day labor at Labor Ready or similar companies. You sign up for this, show up at five a.m. and hopefully get sent out on a job, usually cleaning up construction sites. They will give you cash at the end of the day, which usually amounts to $50. Be smart. Don’t blow it on fast food. That’s what food stamps and free meals are for. If you work fairly hard and don’t look/act semi-retarded, the Company sub-contracting to Labor Ready might hire you. It happened to me.
  3. Volunteer for a Clinical Research Trial. (Click to read my previous article on this topic.)


Brush your teeth in public restrooms, wear deodorant, scrub your crotch daily and change your socks and underwear. It’s important to take your socks off at night, otherwise you will develop athletes foot from always having shoes and socks on. This is really important. I am a guy, so I just shave my head and face all at the same time with an electric battery powered trimmer I bought at Walgreen’s for $20. Its in style now to have a shaved head and your hair will never look greasy. If you are camping out and keeping your job, just do laundry regularly. No need to stink or look dirty unless you are an alcoholic and don’t have your shit together. It has nothing to do with being homeless. If you don’t have a job, you can still get free clothes at Clothing banks and Free Stores too.


I avoid shelters since I camp out if I have to. It’s natural to seek rapport with the people you are hanging out with, but you want to avoid having dysfunction rub off on you too much. You don’t want to start thinking its normal to stink and be dirty and drunk or stoned all the time.

Homeless shelters suck unless you enjoy sleeping on a mat on linoleum floor surrounded by rows of people hacking, coughing and farting all night and talking in their sleep and occasionally vomiting. Plus, they often have bed bugs. But some shelters allow you to take a shower there, do laundry and eat meals without having to stay overnight. One of these might be a good place to find information and access goods and services that will enable you to find day labor opportunities and a new permanent place to live.

One thing that should give you peace of mind: Most homeless people are harmless. They are not criminals; just sad, passive people generally. Some are actually pretty intelligent, many are kind of crazy.

Plus, here is another thing to keep in mind: People work at shelters and food banks because they want to help people. It’s more fulfilling to help people that can actually be helped, but in any given shelter there will be 80 to 90% hard cases that will continue to drink, not wash regularly, smoke meth/crack etc. and stay homeless. Only about 10 to 20% will be normal middle class type people that have found themselves in a bad situation. This is you. People will go out of their way to help you, even the other hard case homeless people might. So if you swallow your pride and accept the help, you may soon find yourself with a new place to live.

I am not promoting this as a lifestyle. I am just saying if you had to do it temporarily you could.


If you practice normal hygiene, wear clean clothes, have a cell phone and a PO Box, then there is no reason you can’t get a new job and a new place to live. Check out Craigslist

While being Stealth homeless, You can keep your job, camp for a while, and save enough money for a down payment on a new apartment, or for for a clean start you can migrate to a new town get a PO Box there camp out for a while and look for work. If you move to a new state and still have your out-of-state ID, you can take a break from camping and stay at a hostel for a day or two for $10 to $30 a night in order to have a warm bed and a place to take a shower. Everyone else will have back packs too and nobody will know you. You might even hook up with an attractive stranger looking for a one night stand. Foreigners staying in hostels are looking to hook up with Americans. It’s part of the adventure they are looking for. You could be anybody. You aren’t homeless: You are traveling.

There is also Couch surfing where you can find places to stay for free on a temporary basis. Keep it positive: You don’t have to share all of your depressing problems. Once again, you are traveling not homeless. Once you stop paying rent and utilities and start camping out, you will have more cash if you have any self discipline at all. So, if you do quit your job and leave town, have some fun. See the sights, do free activities, join clubs of people with common interests and attend free lectures (and eat free refreshments afterwards!) Find some anarchists at an Infoshop, or giving out free vegan food for “Food Not Bombs”. They might hook you up with a place to squat for a while. Hang out with some buskers playing music for beer money. It is important not to be isolated from others. Maintain and cultivate social contacts.

Think back to a time in your life when you may have been homeless without realizing it, maybe when you were in college or the Army and making a transition. Recapture that excitement. Hike the Appalachian Trail or even fly abroad and backpack around for a while. If you find yourself homeless but have a couple grand, (from not paying that months rent, from selling your car or as a refund from a tax return) do something fun and not worry about rent while you are doing it. You might make some new friends that will lead to a new job and new place to live. It has happened to me. It’s all about having a positive mindset.

You can do this. Live the Life you want to live, not the one you think you have to for fear of the alternative. The danger may not be as bad as you think. Hopefully this little guide can help you out of a bad situation or at least give you some peace of mind. Good Luck!

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  • zobop republic

    In order to be this kind of homeless, you still need money. Why would anyone want to be homeless on purpose? Still need money! How are you gonna pay for that PO box?

    • Roger Mexico

      Rent is fucking expensive. And losing a job without any savings can be brutal. Typically moving into a standard lease requires three months’ rent on hand. This stuff isn’t bad advice.

      This sounds like Portland–Labor Ready, plasma clinics. Wasn’t ‘homeless’ but I’ve done both of those. I have a kid–not gonna do outdoors with a toddler–so I was shelling out $40 of my $$60 daily take from LR on hotel rooms for a little while last summer. That was brutal, but eventually I found a Craigslister who let me rent out a living room for $65 a week.

      • Ted Heistman

        Yeah Craigslist is a life saver. I rent from an artist and pay month to month. Lots of hippy type people that just go on their intuition of weather to rent to you or not. No credit check bullshit.

        • Pamela Kennedy

          No, actually in some parts of the country everything on Craigslist is still demanding credit and reference checks and income/employment verification. Yes, to rent ROOMS. In most of the parts of the country I’VE been to these past few years, it seems that not even the fact that you can still write them a check that won’t bounce (i.e. proof you still have a checking account, stupid people!) is enough to dispense with the credit-check nonsense.

  • Ted Heistman

    I’m online now if anyone has any questions, and zobop, that questions actually answered in the article. Plus there is busking if you have musical talent.

  • mole_face

    I’ve considered being homeless in the past, but a huge hurdle for me is that I have celiac disease. I develop severe arthritis symptoms, get violently sick up to a dozen or so times a day, and rapidly drop to cancer victim weight if I regularly eat even traces of wheat, oat or barley products. Otherwise, yeah – food banks and soup kitchens are a great idea and could probably sustain a person even without an EBT card. It’s also quite easy for a person without dietary restrictions to maintain a high calorie diet even with a limited budget and no help from soup kitchens – $1 boxes of pasta, the occasional dirt cheap high calorie convenience food, etc.

    • Ted Heistman

      I actually eat gluten free too. Gluten makes me sick but I actually tested negative for it. But it could have been a false negative. I have all they symptoms including white scars on my teeth. Foodbanks are heavy on the bread products but if you tell them you can’t eat wheat they will usually try to help you out. Plus Trader Joe’s donates to Food banks and donate Gluten free bread. You can also dumpster Dive at Trader Joes. They try to accommodate people.

      • mole_face

        Yeah, the tooth enamel problem was the dead giveaway for me that I had celiac disease. Until I lost huge chunks of enamel off two of my front teeth literally overnight, I thought I just had severe arthritis and IBS.

        One thing I never considered was how much celiac disease would profoundly change my outlook on everyday life. Walking through a grocery store is a surreal experience to me, now that I’m aware that the vast majority of the products on the shelf are toxic to me.

        About testing negative – did you eat gluten before the biopsy was done? The only way they can detect celiac is by checking for the antibodies your body releases when you eat gluten. So if you’d been gluten free for awhile, you’d test negative for the disease.

        Lately I worry about how I’d cope in a postapocalyptic scenario where I was forced to eat whatever food was available. If you have to split from your group to go violently shit yourself behind bushes every hour or so, odds are you’ll eventually get picked off by the zombies.

        • Ted Heistman

          “If you have to split from your group to go violently shit yourself
          behind bushes every hour or so, odds are you’ll eventually get picked
          off by the zombies.”

          …so true. I also forage for wild plants and occasionally dress and cook fresh roadkill. Good skills to have.

    • Ted Heistman

      Incidentally, mole face, I have a theory on this. People like us can’t eat gluten, plus have a desire to be nomadic, due to being throw backs to a lost tribe of hunter gatherers. Its actually related!

  • rose2372

    you will have to prove your address at the PO to get a PO Box ( like a car registration or lease, NOT a utility bill) or else you have to use General Delivery service

    • Ted Heistman

      “Prove it” as in just put something down? Yes. IME experience they don’t give that much of a shit. Your experience may vary. I would just pick a random house # nearby, or your former residence. Worked for me three times in different places. Obviously don’t just say “OH, I’m homeless.” but that might actually work.

      Some Homeless shelters let you get mail there. But the Plasma centers know these addresses and reject them.

      • Barbara Bosworth

        if you have family you can use their address, my dad couldn’t let me stay but he let me use his PO Box and we still have it.

      • rose2372

        I work at the P O :( and now we make everyone show us a document that “proves” their physical address (see above) but I believe some PO’s are probably lax about it. Our boss just happens to be pretty strict @ rule following. That said, we also hand out blank lease forms and tell people to go have their landlord fill it out/sign it. It could be anyone filling it out……. I won’t even go into the whole “book rate” thing tho.

        • Ted Heistman

          Ha ha! Yeah….

        • Pamela Kennedy

          Some of us out here know all about the blank lease forms and what constitutes a “book” for “book rate.” I mean, it’s not like they X-ray the package or anything….in one medium-sized city I know, the post office which they call the “General Delivery Post Office” lets people rent a PO Box without checking more than one piece of I.D. or at least they did back as recently as 2008….of course the problem with that is that only Outsiders don’t know which Post Office that is by the ZIP Code on your P.O. Box….

  • Andrew

    There should me more articles like this. Kudos, Mr. Heistman. Good work.

    • Ted Heistman

      Thanks man. There will be!

  • anonx

    I had to do this for a good part of the summer. This is good advice, I wish I had it when I first started out

    • Ted Heistman

      Live and learn right?

  • BuzzCoastin

    it’s good advice in general
    but it’s still up to the individual to create their own home-free experience

    about 12 years ago I gave away everything, including the money
    just to see if that “the Universe will take care of you” bullshit was bullshit or not
    for me it’s not bullshit, for you I dunno
    since that time, I’ve been around the world multiple times
    lived in a lot of different places & free enough to stay where I felt like staying
    I’m never on a budget, always have more than enough

    never have been hungry, never without shelter or clothing, rarely have a job
    whenever I do work, it’s always, a short gig easy gig, interesting work & pays well

    a friend of mine lives in mansion on beach in Hawaii
    (he doesn’t own it, he’s paid to live in it)
    last time I visited him he showed me a lamp
    a friend of his found it & sent it to him from SFO
    he said: “When I was a kid my mom had a lamp just like this.
    “I used to look at the carved hula dancer on the lamp and think:
    “One day I’m gonna live on a beach in Hawaii.
    “And now, here I am years later.
    “What a trip, huh?!”

    • Ted Heistman

      What gives you the impression I would think the premise “the Universe will take of you” is Bullshit?

      • BuzzCoastin

        what I meant to type was
        just to see if that “the Universe will take care of you” bullshit was bullshit or not
        (since edited)
        the I dunno about you

        was a rhetorical general you
        and not the specific singular you

        the pronoun you being plural and singular is a rather strange anomaly
        in what is otherwise a rather precise language

        • Ted Heistman

          Oh, no worries. Wish I knew Mandarin, seems like there are many advantages over English…

  • halfwitt

    I went “homeless” for a year in 06, but not really in my humility. I had a minivan that held a twin mattress in the back perfectly. Also, I was renting a storage/business bay at a warehouse facility to store my tools and household stuff. I was working as a handyman pt, had a one day a week labor job and a cell phone bill with gas and insurance on the van. I set up the storage unit as an apartment like, with a used fridge I got off craigslist, a microwave, toaster oven and hot plate.
    Set up my desktop computer, tv and bed in the back behind a temp wall made of salvaged wood, even found an a/c unit since the electric was included in the rent. only problem was I couldn’t sleep there, so getting a decent night sleep was hard, but it happened.

    I say not homeless cause of all this because it wasn’t out in the woods with a tent, much different. It was actually very comfortable at times when the weather in Florida wasn’t too hot. Just working out a place for my dog to stay while doing handywork was hard and places to park and sleep was shameless. Luckily when the cops would stop and check me out at 3am cause of the dog prairie-doggin the front seat of the van, they were pretty understanding of the situation. No arrests just one out of ten times did the cop threaten to run me out of town, fascist that he was. After a year I found a job and moved into a temp house, but lost the job after 90days cause the first two weeks until the house opened up, I had the dog with my at work in the van. That iced it for the beotch anal retentive owners wife/mother. I almost went back to the storage unit as it was still rented, but I had found a girlfriend that was getting divorced and we moved in together. Five years down the road and four jobs and two business failures later and I am ready to go back just to get away from the witch. Storage is full at the cheap rent place and everything else is too much to afford since I don’t have the van anymore to sleep in, and now the dog is getting old and needs more comfortable digs. Can’t carry him around on a scooter that I have now. Can’t give him up either, if it weren’t for his love, there would have been none these last few years. Having the dog is one of the reasons I couldn’t find a cheap place to live since everybody charges pet deposit and extra rent here in Florida. This state sucks in almost everyway except the warm weather in the winter. Only a few days near freezing each year if lucky and the rest of the season is great, but summer seems endless. Luckily, the storage was near a trailer park that gave covert access to a pool, hot tub and showers with coin op laundry. Things worked out well also being near the beach as there were showers there also. So it was great on one hand that for a couple two or three day of part time work kept me in a pretty luxurious “homeless” situation, but it wasn’t ideal living at all. But food from the pantries, an all you can eat buffet would fill my belly for the day if I went mid afternoon before the evening rate kicked in and cheap food from the kitchenette at storage was great. Storage was midtown so the beach the shower/laundry and work were close by. Actually sounds great compared to the grief of being under this bitches thumb since she is the employed breadwinner of the house. (btw…she would never be where she is if not for me getting her into the habitat home, finding free insulin for her diabetes and keeping her son fed and from failing out of school like he was under her master plan. but that is a whole other diatribe)
    Great article, it is encouraging me to step out again to make things better, like out of the frying pan into the fire. But freedom is precious, and change is inevitable and good to embrace. Just hard to give up comfort and stability when it is working out even a small part of the time…best wishes and God’s blessing to all who find themselves struggling to make a life in this troubled time. Jesus Christ, be our guide, our light and our provider, keep us safe and free from tyranny and disease of all kinds. Fill our hearts with love that overcomes the world and come back soon to clean up these evil banksters and politicians. We need you now, Lord, in your father’s will I pray amen.

    • Ted Heistman

      Thanks for the heartfelt reply Good luck man!

  • Barbara Bosworth

    Keeping the car helps a lot especially when you go to job interviews, also stockpiling as much stuff in your trunk as possible like food and extra shoes I was “homeless” for 6 months.Also switching all your statements to paperless you can go to the library for free to check up.It was a depressing time, I applied for food stamps and didn’t say I was homeless and they denied me but live and learn.

    • Ted Heistman

      Well I am sorry to hear it was a depressing time for you. You look pretty so looks like you got through it!

    • Pamela Kennedy

      That’s why people who may not be completely “homeless” are told to put that on the application anyway, just so they GET the darn things. If you’re in a battered womens’ shelter, for instance, even though you’re getting 2 meals a day every day you put “homeless” anyway so you GET the darn things. They roll over and they don’t expire.

      To illustrate: without mentioning the city, I will say that one medium-sized city has a tick-box on its application for “homeless” and if you tick that box, (this is the online application) the areas for address “grey-out” and what happens after you submit the thing is that you get notified somehow to come to the office and pick up the card. It’s during the telephone interview…which you can have done at the number of a local shelter or drop-in or day center.

      Again without giving away the exact location it bears mentioning that in the jurisdictions I’m thinking of, by their laws of “what constitutes homelessness” anything less than a year-long lease in YOUR name on an apartment or a house, constitutes “homeless.” Even renting a room month-to-month, constitutes “homeless.” Couch-surfing is “homeless.” Residing in a battered womens’ shelter, constitutes “homeless.”

  • Aram Jahn

    Great article, and thank you. I fear being homeless and will be re-reading this over time. This article – gritty, pragmatic, would-never-show-up-in-a-corporate newspaper writing, reminded me of some of the wild and edifying stuff Loompanics used to put out before they went under. Heistman? You rawk!

    • Ted Heistman

      Hey thanks man! I’ll google Loompanics.

  • Moziq

    Very much appreciate this. I am a musician (“busker”) and was traveling around and living just like you detailed in your article for 6 months.
    It is completely doable, having a nomadic lifestyle if you stay right and don’t get caught or involved with anyone stupid.

    I am currently at the parents house, for want of “doing things right” and it is difficult to do when you’re called to that nomadic lifestyle.
    There is most certainly and sustainably a way to do it that isn’t buying into all the bullshit that people have become accustomed to needing these days. (as in: STUFF, STUFF,STATUS,STUFF,STATUS,STUFF!)

    It is a battle to do things the way everyone else does them, when you just know it’s not right and not for you.. hard work and payoff aren’t bad at all, and it should not be equated with laziness to be “homeless”. As long as you are taking care of yourself and not mooching off of other people.
    It isn’t “homeless” it is “Houseless”, as everywhere is home, and what better a thought than that??

    “Anywhere I want to be, anywhere I want to go, Everywhere and everyone for me is HOME.”
    Thank you, Ted… for reminding me.

    • Ted Heistman

      Yeah, that’s awesome that you have musical talent. I really wish I did. I’ve hung out with some “travellers” which is kind of its own subculture. Maybe I should write about them some time. You probably know who I am talking about, often people with dreads, home made leather clothing, often dogs. I try to be discerning, because just like everyone else there is good and bad.

      I prefer a more intellectual crowd, it makes for better conversations when passing a bowl around! Some of these people are deep! I was talking to the one dude that knew all about the finer points of train hopping and then we started talking about Greek mythology and the Illiad, then somehow the conversation drifted to cephalopods. I spent a weekend hanging out with some dudes camping in the woods that had a van and were traveling around the country. All awesome musicians. Three guitar players, a violinist and a drummer.

      I learned some petty scams from this crowd, but decided not to include that because I don’t do them as a general rule. I was so good at it I decided I didn’t want to do that. I just tried a couple for the experience. But it taught me that if my back was against the wall I can talk my way out of almost anything. My goal is not to be a con artist though. After I did a scam, I got ripped off a few days later and figured it was Karma catching up to me! I didn’t even get mad!

  • server

    Having done much of this, I’d also throw in that if you have any research universities around, they often will pay for being a human subject for various experiments, often VERY simple psychology experiments (generally, reacting to stimuli on a computer screen). And if you’re crafty, of course you could maintain a presence on sites like Etsy. Nobody thinks twice about a business mailing address being a PO Box…

    ALSO: GET A LIBRARY CARD IF YOU DON’T ALREADY HAVE ONE. Crucial. Internet, and plenty of reading material for when you’re bored, and would rather not just end up hanging out with other homeless people. Many big cities have comic books in the library stacks…so much the better.

    And while you’re at it on the Internet, it may be handy to get a shell account (yes, they still exist), or even a VPS (such as the free ones from Amazon, or paid in a variety of places). While you can’t, say, run bittorrent on a library computer, you can onto a VPS, and then simply sftp it to the library computer, and onto a portable device such as an mp3 player. Meanwhile, the shell access should double as a solid SSH socks proxy tunnel, thus bypassing any firewall restrictions you may encounter. You’d be surprised at some of what libraries tend to firewall.

    As for storage, geocaching can be handy here. Ammo cans and other storage containers are available cheaply at surplus stores, and many fairly cheap mobile devices tend to have GPS capability these days. Heading out to the woods, if you have some available, and burying an ammo can, keeping the GPS coordinates stored somewhere, allows for retrievability and eases up on restrictions placed on how much stuff you can have that tend to occur naturally with a nomadic lifestyle. Good for storing a few week’s worth of preserved food at the very least…frankly, not a bad idea even if you HAVE a home, just in case of emergencies.

    And if you’re aiming for lots of internet use, it’s best to be in an area with a lot of free or easily accessible wifi access, and to NOT bother with 3g/4g service. Handle any long downloading over the shell account, and then just grab it next time you connect. The money you save here can be fairly sizeable. To go further with savings, cut off the phone entirely, after setting up google voice, and simply respond to voicemails, rather than ever answering calls in real time. People are fairly used to not having calls answered these days in most areas, so if this is feasible, it’s another expense saved. It IS worth having a Go phone for emergency purposes however, which can be acquired for $10 with ~100 minutes included.

    Anyway, good writeup, just figured I’d add in a few more ideas to help!

    • Ted Heistman

      Hey those are awesome ideas! Thanks. You are more computer savvy than I but I agree about a library card being crucial!

    • Pamela Kennedy

      Libraries also have BOOKS you can read, too. I know that sounds old-fashioned, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

  • InfvoCuernos

    The first time I read this article, I was thinking “hmm interesting info that I will probably never need”. That night, my landlord called to let me know that I had to move out by December. I am not in any kind of financial situation to move and I certainly don’t have the deposit most places require, but I bet if I can keep my business rolling for a couple of months while I go homeless, I can make it happen. Thanks for the article.

    • Ted Heistman

      Wow, glad I could help. Yeah in these times more and more people may need this info. Feel free to pass it around.

  • Anon

    A lot of this info is good, but some of it is stupid bullshit. I personally know a few people who are homeless that aren’t allowed get foodstamps and are actually panhandling on the streets so that they can eat. I’ve had them spend some nights at my place, but I can’t afford to keep them all the time.

    Some of the stuff said in this would just make people hate the homeless, or to look down on them. Whoever wrote this needs to re-evaluate themselves.

    • Ted Heistman

      Yeah, that’s definitely what they will tell you.

    • Pamela Kennedy

      Yes, we need to clarify that only SOME STATES will allow homeless people to get food stamps. MOST STATES require a physical street address and so many “proofs” of it that you wonder if you’re applying for a job with the F.B.I or something….

      • Ace Krauser

        It depends if it is a red state or not. Arizona gives you the run around for sure.

        I applied for Medicaid through AZ because of my unemployment. I check my status on the online system and it says I don’t exist, but when I apply again it says I can’t cause I do exist?!?

        No email to contact them so I call..


        There is no place to go in person. Only some third party company that matches you with insurance options (i think only a few actually use medicaid) so they say they can’t help me. WTF?

        I left the state a few months later so I let it dropped the issue. But seriously, the federal government needs to sue AZ for breaking federal law by not providing medicaid to its citizens in an adequate matter!

  • Grim Singmuf
  • Joe Schmo

    tent? car? WAY better to sleep (and store what little stuff you keep) in a storage unit. I’ve slept in many, at times for years, and no one ever said a word about it. I still do. During the day, I go to libraries, hotspots, canvass for work at small businesses (day jobs, PC repair, etc), take the bus to free museums and zoos and exhibits, to the soup kitchen, food pantries. My storage unit it temp controlled. I shower at the gym. I live on under $300 a month, have total freedom, no worries, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been and loving it.

  • Baelphol

    Interesting article, Heistman.

    I lived homeless for several months during 2006 in medium sized east coast city. The reasoning behind my homlessness was flawed for sure, but I learned many invaluable tricks along that not so bright path living on the streets.

    In my case, I was recently divorced and living in a bad situation. One day I decided to use my veteran status to take a free military hop to the west coast to meet up with a woman I had for months communicated with online – on a political forum of all places. Don’t know what I was thinking, as I was turned away at the gates of an air force base because I had not server enough time to qualify for a free military flight. Either the policy had changed, or I was not thinking clearly.

    I had used all of my resources to reach the air force base, so upon being turned away, I found myself homeless. I will not go into a detailed narrative of my time on the streets, but will add a few pointers for others who find themselves in a similar crisis.

    – Camp close to a large indoor mall if you can. Many malls have a multitude of small shop kiosks run sometimes by young people who will hire you part time. In one day of filling out applications, you can greatly increase your chances for employment in a place that houses so many businesses. Also, the mall provides a place to walk around and stay out of trouble without being questioned for hanging around on the street. Finally, you can use the restrooms to brush your teeth, etc.
    – Free Hotel continental breakfasts. I ate breakfast free for months this way. You just have to be careful to not visit the same hotel/motel every day. Usually morning front desk attendees at larger hotels have not memorized the faces of all the guests staying there, so you can get away with slipping into the breakfast room for free fruit, muffins, bacon and cereal, etc. Just do not try this if you look homeless.
    – Many YMCAs have coupons in the lobby for free weekend or three day trial memberships. That means a few days of free hot showers and even longer if the people who work there get used to seeing you. I took advantage of this tip for over a month before management realized I was not a paying member.
    – Camp near a semi seclude lake. Great place to bathe, wash your clothes and catch fish to cook.

    • Pamela Kennedy

      The free hotel continental breakfast thing is spot on. Emphasis on the “don’t go to the same one twice in a row” part, though. If the hotel is next to or near a Motel 6 or “lower quality” hotel than that, the staff there DOES check and scrutinize. They’ll be constantly on the lookout for what they call “the Motel 6 guests” (and that’s if they’re being polite about it).

  • Ian Monfred

    I would like to thank you for this info. I’m in quite a tight spot and really am about to lose “it”. Can’t deal with not knowing how to get help. I’m couch surfing and occasionally staying with my father, who at 61 years of age just got kicked off food stamps when he makes $1300 a month and the bills are $1100 a month, and now I moved from MD to FL and was told to transfer my food stamps but apparently being homeless in FL is almost taboo as there’s so many unwanted people here they don’t give benefits out easily. Anyway, your article is helping me stay positive… So thank you for that. :-)

    • Matt Staggs

      @tedheistman is one of our longtime contributors, and a real benefit to our site. You should find him on Twitter or Facebook if you can. He’s got lots of interesting things to share.

    • Pamela Kennedy

      I might say that if there were any way you could keep your MD address and keep the MD food stamps, if they’re on an EBT card like the rest of the states’, that is, and just USE the thing in FL, you’d be good to go… least for the first few months. In other words don’t tell the MD food stamp office you’ve left for as long as you possibly can.

  • Pamela Kennedy

    If you have a cell phone and a PO Box, and start applying for jobs and places to live off of sites like Craigslist, it just SCREAMS OUT “homeless.” Even when I’ve been in battered womens’ shelters and use that as an address, even THAT screams out “homeless” in the job search and the housing search. Housing and jobs screen THAT much. Yeah they’re THAT anal or whatever, about screening out the homeless, especially if you’re female and the only thing wrong with you is getting smacked around by family members because in spite of multiple college degrees from top universities no one will hire you once they SEE you (“it’s an Indian thing, you wouldn’t understand.”)…

    …OK, maybe part of it is that no matter where I go in the country, I keep my cell phone number area code based on when I was at and living at Yale….hey, Princetonians do the same thing, keep their (609) area code….Harvardites keep their (617) ones and it doesn’t screw up THEIR job search….

    • Falcon D. Stormvoice

      If you’re homeless, you don’t need to be thinking about jumping straight back up to fantastic wealth.

  • Deaux

    A $30/month Gym Membership to a national franchise gym will get you a hot shower and a workout.

    For $18/Month the UPS Store will give you an address that looks like a REAL home instead of a P.O. box.
    The address looks like:

    John Smith
    1234 East Oak Street
    Puptown, Texes 90210

  • House_of_Mayhem

    Not mentioned in the article, but you can usually shower at public swimming pools for free/small fee. Some places will even supply you with a small bar of soap and a towel for the fee.

  • VoxMagi

    Been there and did that. Age 21 then. We were the cleanest looking homeless folk you ever saw. My clique and I worked odd jobs, camped out when we didn’t have a crash pad, bathed in lakes and streams, did our other ablutions in gas station rest rooms and generally knew every way to squeeze a dollar until it could slice atoms. Homelessness doesn’t have to be a complete train wreck…and recovery is way easier when you still have a vestige of your sh*t together and can segue back into grid life at the first opportunity. In my case it was getting three jobs one after another, mostly thru false address info and very good first interviews, then working 60+hrs a week until I piled up enough cash to afford deposit and first months rent. That portable alarm clock was my best friend…but it helped that I slept light in those days. Good guide full of useful info. I highly approve.

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