How Do The Homeless Survive?

Jake Buckland Dangers & Hazards Do-It-Yourself Emergency Kit preparedness

How Do The Homeless Survive?


The homeless situation in the United States is nothing to laugh about. Through the last couple of decades, we’ve seen an increase in this problem, with a real surge in homelessness caused by the 2008-2009 housing crash. As the cost of living continues to rise, more and more people are having trouble making ends meet, even if they are working.

Homelessness itself is even changing. Whereas before the homeless were mostly people with underlying psychological and health problems, which made it difficult for them to keep a job, today there are homeless who are holding down a regular job, yet still can’t afford the rent. This is especially true in high-rent areas, like southern California and Denver, Colorado. I’ve seen stories about people living in tents, just off of Google’s campus.

But those are exceptions, not the norm. While there are a few homeless people who are working, the vast majority of them are out of work, down on their luck, and just don’t have any hope to go on. For them, life has boiled down to a day by day existence, just trying to make it through.

So, how do these people make it?

They’re expert networkers

Although it may not look like it to us, homeless people make up their own community. They gather together at various places you and I don’t see, because they mostly try to stay out of sight. At the same time, we are conditioned to not notice them, so that we don’t have our conscious bothering us about their lives.

But these people don’t get together to play cards or talk about hunting; they get together to share their stories of the road. When one finds a good source for some needed resource, like food, they’ll share that information with others, including all the details about what they have to do, in order to gain access to those resources.

What I mean by that is that some shelters and missions require that the people who are getting their help meet certain criteria, such as not drinking or using drugs. That’s important information that they pass on to each other, so that they don’t waste their time going someplace they are going to be rejected.

They actually have a lot of self-control

Since they already know that they have to be clean of drugs and alcohol to get help, it is not unusual for homeless people to clean them up, at least for a short while, in order to get that help. While they might not want to give up their bad habits permanently, they all have the ability to do so for short periods of time, when they need to.

They migrate

Weather is a big factor when you’re living on the street, especially winter weather. So, many homeless people will drift south in the wintertime to avoid the cold. Likewise, they move other places and times, as needed, to put themselves in a place where they are able to receive the resources they need or to avoid potential problems.

For example, you’ll rarely see homeless people in Florida during hurricane season. They know the risk to themselves and therefore move to someplace safer. Whereas others have the homes they can go into or cars they can use to evacuate, the homeless don’t have those resources. Since they can’t evacuate quickly, they make sure that they won’t have to.

They have an encyclopedic knowledge of available resources

Homeless people will know about shelters, soup kitchens, missions and other services that can provide them with help, not only in their city, but in cities that they’ve never visited. Just like cowpunchers sat around a fire, talking about trail conditions, water holes and towns along the trail, the homeless share the information they have with each other. They’re very adept at storing that information away for a time when they may need it. Even if they have no plans on going to that city, they don’t know what the future might hold.

There’s a tendency to think that the homeless are lacking in intelligence or education. That isn’t necessarily true. Most of them are in the condition they are in, not because of lack of intelligence or cunning, but due to underlying problems. Some are war veterans, who can’t cope with civilian life. Others are runaways who fell on hard times. Still others became alcoholics after a divorce or other difficult life situation. They are homeless due to their underlying problems, not due to lack of intelligence or education.

The very fact that they manage to stay alive, without what you and I consider to be minimal resources, proves that they have to be either intelligent or cunning. But just because they are, doesn’t mean that they can hold down a job and manage their lives properly.

They help each other out

It’s amazing how willing the homeless are to help each other out. There’s a video that went viral on the internet, where a man gave a homeless man $100 to see what he would do with it. He went to buy food and then fed all his friends. Most of us wouldn’t do that, even though we have more. Yet the homeless can be some of the least selfish people around.

Even with limited resources, homeless people will do what they can for each other. They all recognize that they might be the one who needs help as soon as tomorrow. So they don’t want to be seen as one who can’t or won’t help others.

Interestingly enough, Christ for the Nations, a major missions organization, did a study a number of years ago. they discovered that over 85% of missions support (not only to their organization, but to others) came from people who are living below poverty level.

They’ve learned how to live simply

The small house movement could take a few lessons from the homeless and so could the rest of us. In our modern, materialistic society, we are encumbered by a great many possession. While much of that is useful, it is also a burden, taking out time and resources to care for all those possessions.

Being possession free, or at least having a minimal number of possessions, forces one to make sure that the possessions they do have are worth having. You won’t find homeless people bothering to carry around many of the superficial things that seem so important to most of us. Rather, they stick to things that will help them to survive.


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