Homelessness wasn't ever something I expected to be writing about, though why not? Let's help each other.
Homelessness is at an all time high, especially in the United States.
More and more major cities; including my old hometown of birth - Seattle, have started looking like war zones with all the homeless encampments and lived in vehicles scattered throughout and around the city, with people looking for safe spaces to exist in an economy that's only getting worse with inflation increases and political strife on all sides.
That means more and more people who otherwise could've found the resources to have avoided homelessness, are now finding themselves facing varying degrees of it - including myself, my son's, and our pets.
As we've travelled through this journey, we've been asked many questions by both those who have stable housing and those who are also homeless.
Many of them are about how we keep up or personal hygiene, how we get food, and how I earn income.
Below, I'm offering some tips that have helped us get through the rougher times and into as much stability as one can have in an economy not built for single parents.
Staying clean and smelling good are important in any situation, though it's even more vital when you're homeless - especially without access to basic utilities you would have in a house or hotel.
Here are some of the best ways we've found to keep clean without a home:
- Reach out to friends - although not everyone has space for you in their house, they might be willing to let you shower and do your laundry with at their place; which they'll likely be even happier about, if you offer to clean, do yard work, or do odd jobs for them.
- Wipes - basic water wipes and sanitizer wipes, can get you very far when you don't have access to showers and places to wash your hands.
- Truck Stops and Laundromats - many of them have coin operated or prepaid showers made for truckers, that may be used by anyone; and you can do your laundry at the same time.
- Public lakes and swimming spots - although you cannot wash with soap or shampoo in these places, just getting your body wet and wiping off dirt of the day, is better then nothing at all and lifts the spirits; another vital thing to do whenever possible.
- Public Restrooms - wherever you're able to find a public restroom, make sure to wash your hands and face extra well, and whenever you can do it discretely without making a mess, wipe down other areas of your body with a paper towel, soap, and water.
- Solar Camping Showers - even when you're not able to hang them out in the sun to get warm, you can use a solar camping shower to find a private place to wash off.
I definitely also recommend getting yourself onto some kind of a schedule, where you can do your best to utilize your resources to stay clean and smelling good as often as possible.
Taking care of your garbage
Is a part of hygiene too; especially when you're homeless.
The absolute best tip I have for that, is to use grocery store plastic and paper bags for your garbage, and whenever you to a park, store, restroom, or gas station; use their garbage cans.
There aren't many legal places to throw away any bigger bags than that, and this is also a way to remain inconspicuous and refrain from littering.
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Depending on where one ends up homeless
Can make a difference on food resources.
If you're eligible for state food stamp programs, it's definitely a good idea to utilize them; though they may be running low on resources and limiting only to those who don't or cannot work at all.
If you're able to get to food banks, often they operate multiple times per week and you can get some decent food from them.
Often the harder part when you're homeless, is where to keep and cook food that you get; having even just a small cooler with some ice and a propane camping stove is helpful if you can get them.
Some other ways you can get food:
- Get onto Facebook and look for local city and county groups, and ask for small gigs to earn fresh veggies and meats; often times this will secure you food without needing to do work for it, as those who grow and butcher their own food often have more then they need and don't mind sharing. Just don't expect it for free if you didn't put in the work to grow or raise it.
- Get a job at a restaurant or fast food business - you often get discounts on food and can take end of the night food home with you.
- Call around and find out what community outreach groups in your area do hot meal nights.
- Research where your local soup kitchens are.
Welfare services and community support systems aren't intended to be an entire support system for anyone except those who are genuinely so mentally and physically disabled.
For everyone else, these systems are only intended to help soften the blow and provide the most basic necessities to live.
Even then, they often can only provide so much; even when you know how to make a dollar stretch a longer distance then usual.
And things are even tighter with political wars happening inside and outside of our country; creating and bringing all kinds of refugees into our overburdened and dysfunctional system.
Which means that employment of some kind is necessary; even if you have enough disabilities to make that challenging.
I'm neurodivergent and have osteoarthritis, so while it's a challenge to work the same amount that fully functioning neurotypicals do, it's not impossible - and it's necessary not just for me; for my children.
With inflation and rising costs of living, what amounts various services can provide, it's not enough and currently in the state of Washington - working anything over 10 hours a week, disqualifies us for most cash or food benefits.
That's definitely been a challenge, especially for someone with my conditions, where I cannot stand, sit, be still, or move around for too long without aggravating my osteoarthritis.
Though I've managed to find ways to bring in income throughout moments of homelessness and in transition from homelessness.
Here are my tips:
- Look for work that you can self schedule where you work one-on-one with people - gardening, landscaping, farm work, house cleaning, and mechanic work are fantastic for this. Not only can you set up a schedule that works with the consistently changing nature of living homeless, it also gives the people who pay you, a chance to know you personally and be more empathetic when you need to change your schedule around to move camp, attend to car care needs, go to food banks, and adjust for various unexpected details.
- Work 2-3 part time regular jobs. This will ensure that if you lose one throughout your journeys, you'll still have another one and can fill in the space of the lost one, with another job. This is especially important, as when homelessness, keeping your mental health in good space is extra important and that means not staying at jobs that are constantly stressful or that exhaust you so much that you cannot attend to your hygiene and other needs - which usually require travel and extra energy when you're homeless.
- If you've not had stable job history in a while or are unable to perform better work that you've been trained for before becoming homeless, be prepared to shovel poop and do dirty jobs for minimum wage, and be grateful for it. There are many other homeless individuals I've seen put themselves through extra suffering and hardship, because they weren't willing to get their hands in the dirt, work with animals, or work fast food. When you're homeless, the only way out is through earning better income.
I've personally found better luck with work in rural areas; not from a shortage of jobs in big urban areas, as with labor shortages there are many jobs to choose from all over - especially in big cities.
No, I've found better luck in rural country areas, because it's more personal and face-to-face, and that usually results in people being willing to pay higher wages and be more flexible in scheduling.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
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