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How to be Homeless

September 20, 2011

"With food stamps, in most states you can acquire a free cell phone.  I did this in Atlanta.  It's 250 free minutes a month, for a year or longer.  As a homeless person, it's likely you will not have many friends calling you on your free cell phone.  But such a phone is necessary often, for potential job interviews, and potential crisis situations."

by Dan Abshear

What would you do, if you had everything, and then suddenly lost all of that in a matter of seconds?
That is what happened to me two years ago.  My now ex-wife of two decades got a restraining order against me, and I was evicted from my $250,000 home. 

Ten police officers arrived and I was given two minutes to leave my own home.  I grabbed some clothes, and got in my car.  I had no idea what to do next.  I had to somehow live out of my car.
Sleeping out of your own car is not easy.  You can't exactly park  anywhere.  Initially, I parked in the parking lot of a library in a town in Missouri.  Eventually, a police officer woke me one night, and informed me this was illegal.  Fortunately, the police officer was gentle with me, and told me to go sleep at a truck stop.  This was an excellent idea- not many bother you at a truck stop.  I slept at truck stops for months.

You see, you can't sleep anywhere you want, when you are homeless.  Even without a car, you can't simply decide to sleep in a field.  Likely, that field belongs to someone else.  You can get arrested.  Those in the homeless world call this 'urban camping'.  People go to jail for this.  Many decide to sleep in abandoned buildings, behind abandoned buildings, or on top of buildings.  All such acts are illegal.  It's just a matter of time before you're caught.
Then you have weather issues.  It gets rather cold in winter in most parts of the United States.  I know of people who have frozen to death sleeping under bridges.  It's also dangerous.  In many cases, such people who die sleeping outside do so by choice.  Suicide rates are extremely high among the homeless for obvious reasons.
abshear.jpeg(Dan Abshear, left)

I'm active online. I have many friends on Facebook.  I also have girls who have unrealistic affinities for me on Facebook.  One girl was from Atlanta, Georgia.  She and I spoke online and on the phone for a couple of years, even before my ex wife decided to destroy me.  She was infatuated with me, quite clearly.  She was aware of my homeless situation, and invited me to  live with her in Atlanta.  Much to my opposition, she left her husband of 12 years, for me.  I made the trip down to Atlanta, and decided to live with this girl.
We lived together for about 6 months.  It's never a good idea, I think, to move on relationships you may form online.  Quite understandably, I was not the man she perceived me to be.  Her emotions for me where quite stronger than any feelings I had for her.  
She got pregnant with our child towards the end of our 6 months together, so I decided to check myself into drug rehabilitation with the veterans administration, since I'm a military veteran, and I had had a rather significant addiction to drugs and alcohol for many years.  While recovering in drug rehabilitation, this girl decided to abort our child without my consent.  This of course ended our relationship, and my place to stay.
The VA has a homeless program for veterans, and I entered this program.  It was a very good program.  They provided a roof over my head, an apartment, for several months.  But you must be recovering from substance use, in order to be in the program.  So, it's always a good idea to at least say you have a problem with drugs and alcohol, even if you don't, while homeless, and in need of a place to stay.  This not only involves the VA but other programs that often exist in large cities within the United States, for homeless people with substance issues.

Homeless shelters themselves in larges US cities often suck  They are unclean, and do not allow you to stay there for long periods of time.  They are also unsafe, since security is virtually non-existent.  Any possessions you may have are likely to be gone in a short period of time.  Always seek drug rehabilitation facilities.  They are much safer and you, as a homeless person, can stay at such facilities much longer.
At such locations, there is often a Christan element.  Learn to accept this religious dimension if you are not Christian.
Homeless people panhandle- ask strangers for money.  I've never done this, but it does happen- especially in large cities in the United States.  There are laws involving this activity.  If you are homeless, learn these laws.  Don't go to jail trying to survive.
Also, when you become homeless, get food stamps.  They are easy to get. Most counties have locations to get food stamps.  It's $200 dollars a month that enables you to eat.  The food you are allow to get has to be cold, and cannot include alcohol purchases. 

Many homeless decide to sell their food stamps, in order to have money, unfortunately for drugs.  The going rate is 50 cents for every food stamp dollar you sell to another.  You can go several days, in fact weeks, without eating.  This is why you see homeless drug addicts very skinny and malnourished.
With food stamps, in most states, you can acquire a free cell phone.  I did this in Atlanta.  It's 250 free minutes a month, for a year or longer.  As a homeless person, it's likely you will not have many friends calling you on your free cell phone.  But such a phone is necessary often, for potential job interviews, and potential crisis situations.
Presently, I'm staying at the Salvation Army, through the VA homeless program, at a different location In St. Louis, Missouri.  I moved here because this is where I'm from, and all those I care about live.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring me, but I'm glad I have a place to stay.  When you are homeless, it's all about acquiring resources.  Even if you are not presently homeless, learn to do this.  Do not find yourself in a situation where you feel you have the inability to survive.  Learn to exist.

I would like to add that there are social stigmas associated with being homeless.  Most ignore us. 

I helped homeless often with cash normally back when I was making money, but I never got involved in their situations.  And I did judge them, and I regret that now. 

Because I used to make a lot of money, I have taste in quality clothes.  So I bought some 500 dollar sport coats at a goodwill store recently.  I now wear those at various places in the city, and people treat me as if I'm not homeless.  They have no idea.  I

I really wonder how many homeless people are out there have disguised themselves in such ways.  


Also by Dan Abshear   ([email protected])

Living in a Car After False DV Charges

MD$ On the Take: My Career-Ending Expose

Hitting Bottom: A Personal Story

I Married a Lesbian

School Asked My Child if I Molested Her


How to be Homeless in Columbia SC


Scruples - the game of moral dillemas

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at