Urban Survival: Homelessness
Urban Survival: Homelessness
By: Christopher Williams
Disasters can take on many forms, from unnatural (wars and terrorist attacks) to natural (hurricanes and earthquakes.) It is important to be properly prepared in order to survive all of them and then some.
Many people in the financial meltdown found themselves out of a job and, after months of job searching, to no avail, quickly had their houses foreclosed on, and, with no place else to go, wound up homeless.
47 million people are now living below the poverty line, while tent cities are popping up on the outskirts of large towns throughout the country. There are very few options left besides trying to survive on the streets.
If you find yourself in this position, having access to the internet is a must in order to get off of the streets. Shelter is also important, but the only way to truly get out of this situation is to find a job.
There are dozens of people who stand on street corners at busy intersections on a daily basis holding up cardboard signs that read, “Looking for work,” or, “Will work for food.” Their chances of being hired by someone who sees them and reads their sign are slim to none. After all, their cardboard signs do not contain a resume or job history. The most effective way to get a job is by using the internet to look for jobs on craigslist, as well as send out applications and update multiple resumes. A cardboard sign will not cut it. The internet is a priceless resource for a homeless person because online, everyone looks the same, and potential employers will not be made aware that the person applying for the job is living on the street.
Although someone who just lost their job and their home is most likely short on cash, if at all possible, the purchase of a very rugged computer is highly recommended. The Panasonic Toughbook is basically built for the homeless. This piece of technology is able to withstand freezing temperatures, multiple drops, and it even has a waterproof keyboard. Extra batteries are recommended.
And here is where this gets interesting, because while a homeless individual can go the traditional route and find a job at a brick and mortar business, it is also entirely possibly to turn the internet into a direct source of income, depending on his or her skill level. Several websites that offer freelance work to those with writing, editing, computer programming and photo editing skills include oDesk, Amazon Mechanical Turk and Elance. These are websites that offer the opportunity to build a professional profile in a particular specialty, and pick up odd freelance jobs full time. It is also the perfect way to lead a vagabond lifestyle if one chooses.
Most likely, these odd jobs will not be consistent work, and will not pay very much, but they do pay something, and the money is easily accessible through a bank account or PayPal. The trickiest part can be finding a free wi-fi or other internet signal, since a homeless individual will obviously not have his or her own broadband connection. Some places where a free signal can be picked up include libraries, unprotected private signals (as long as precautions are taken and Hotspot Shield is used) and Starbucks.
Owning a car is the ideal situation for someone who has just lost their house and their livelihood. A car makes for great shelter, as well as transportation. Gas and insurance are expensive, and the car is often one of the first things sold when money gets tight.
Because of this, shelter is the most immediate problem that the homeless must face. And while there are many places in the city that could act as shelters from the weather, there are laws are in place in most cities that outlaw homelessness and prevent homeless individuals from setting up tents and other temporary structures on public property.
Homeless shelters are not always the best option. These places are filled with the truly homeless – those with mental illness and those who are addicted to hard drugs. These places can be more dangerous than the streets. Residents of illegal tent cities also suffer from these problems. Illness can spread in these areas quickly because there are many people who live close together and who have poor hygiene. Shelters should not be dismissed completely, especially when the weather is bad, but safety precautions should be taken when staying in one.
Wooded areas tend to be safer. These areas can be found in many forms (such as forests, valleys, parks and ravines) and can be found throughout many cities. It is easier to be concealed in a wooded area than it is out on the streets. For this reason, many homeless people are able to build semi-long-term shelters using cardboard boxes, plywood, tarps, and whatever else they can find. Remember to be resourceful and improvise with what is available. Also, do not invest too much into these shelters, because the authorities will almost certainly find the encampment and will disassemble it. Also, be wary of thieves and squatters, because they will be everywhere, trying to cause problems.
A pop up dome tent is easy to build and transport, but has several weaknesses. The main weakness is that it needs to be set up in a clearing. This makes it visible to thieves and squatters.
However, a hammock tent is a great idea. A hammock tent can be pitched up in the trees, and will be much less likely to be noticed. A hammock tent can be pitched in a much smaller area, making it easier to hide. One disadvantage is that since a hammock tent is suspended in the air, staying warm can be difficult.
The best time to pitch a tent, no matter what kind, is during sunset, and it is recommended that it be taken down before sunrise the next morning. This keeps it hidden. Moving around from place to place and finding a new spot every few days or so is also helpful.
While it may be scary to sleep outside at night, as long as the tent or shelter is hidden properly, the more safety there is. Police will be less likely to spot the encampment, and drug addicts and thieves looking to cause problems will be much less likely to find it. Plus, the local fauna, including trees and shrubs, will provide much needed cover.
If purchasing a dome or hammock tent is completely out of the question, then a bivy tent is a good alternative. A bivy tent is a zippered bag that is large enough for one person. When it is not in use, it folds down to the size of a standard water bottle. A bivy tent is made from a waterproof, breathable material. The main disadvantage of a bivy tent, is that it does not hold anything besides a person, as it is significantly smaller than a standard tent. It will also get dirty on the ground and needs to be placed in a flat, clear area.
Google Maps satellite images are a great way to quickly find dense woods in your area. Satellite images are a better way to gauge a good place to camp because unlike the map image, the satellite image actually shows a picture of the greenspace, not just a box of green indicating a park area. While you are searching for a good dense wooded area in your area on Google Maps satellite image, search for areas that are overgrown and wild. Avoid places that are mowed and maintained unless there is no other alternative. These places can be OK, but they are at greater risk of exposure and are not ideal.
When you get to your spot, choose an area that is completely hidden from the street and the trail. Find spots which are totally hidden from both the trail and the street. Don’t travel too far to this wooded area. If the dense places are miles and miles away from where you want to go the next day, then use the best park nearest to you, or catch a bus back in town if you have the money.
If, while living out on the streets and trying to survive, do not try to weather a major storm in your little tent. The security that they seem to provide is largely psychological. Instead of trying to set up camp in your tent when a big storm blows into town, go to an airport and wait it out. The airport is open twenty four seven and the airport is a place that is designed for people to wait in. An airport has bathrooms snack bars, seating and wi-fi is becoming more common. You can sleep in a seat if you want to. Note: to not stand out, keep appearances up and sleep at a terminal that is full of people waiting and sleeping; make sure to switch terminals every so often to avoid confrontation. Some other places that offer the same resources are often bus stations, train stations, and hospital waiting rooms.