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How to Survive Being Homeless

I live in Los Angeles, confronted by homelessness daily. I'm lucky to never have experienced it myself, but I don't know anyone in this city who's never looked at a homeless person and thought to themselves, if just fleetingly, what would my life be like if I were homeless? Would I be able to handle it?

There are resources available on the internet which can help. A great one is the Survival Guide to Homelessness, an absolutely fascinating how-to guide written by a gentleman who was homeless for several years in his twenties, and lived to write about it. His writing is engrossing and his advice is practical, and I've reprinted a selection of my favorite passages below, though I recommend reading the whole blog from start to finish (it'll take you an hour or so, tops).

To put you in the mindset, I recently rediscovered most of my favorite documentary ever, 1984's Streetwise, on YouTube -- here are the first eight minutes. It's a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, about homeless kids in Seattle, with a few NSFW words. (Skip the first minute, it's just credits.)

Homelessness happens

The best preparation for homelessness is knowing that you could be, and looking at the resources around you with that in mind.

How secure are you really? How many paychecks could you go without before the rent, the mortgage, the credit card, and the car are not being paid? If you said two, you are doing better than most. If you would be immediately using whatever consumer credit you have available, you're like most of us. Like storms, earthquakes, and car accidents, homelessness happens. It happens to decent, hardworking people. It happens because our lives are a system, and when part of that system fails the whole thing can come crashing down.

The advantages of homelessness

Imagine working two weeks to pay for your expenses for two months. You can easily go to college with an income requirement so low. My expenses, excluding food, averaged $300 per month for the five years I was homeless. That included storage, mailbox, telephone or pager, gasoline, vehicle insurance, health club membership, dry cleaning, laundry, new clothes, and entertainment. I went to the movies a lot. Imagine what you could do with the time if your work week was two days and your weekend was five.

Get a car

There are two classes of homelessness, with car and without car. Without car is hard, very hard. I don't recommend it to anyone. If you are homeless and without a car, my best advice to you is couch surf. Stay with your friends until you can get a car. Sell anything you have to get a car. It is best if the car runs, but running is not essential as long as it is small enough to push.

A good parking space is difficult to find. It needs to be isolated, but your car can't stand out. It needs to be near other cars, but away from the prying eyes of property owners and tenants. It needs to be well lit, and yet your car should be unnoticable. Ideally your spot should be shaded from the morning sun. Such places exist, but usually you accept some flaws.

It is best to be under a streetlamp. A well lit area allows you to have the dome light on in the car without light shining out through your car cover, so you can read or write without fear. Light also deters thieves. Darkness has no real advantages.

Change up your routine

It's a bad idea to have a regular pattern, like always being in the same place on Tuesdays. Think about it. You might have been observed, and a complaint may have been made, but the police failed to catch you. If the complaint contains an observation of a pattern, they'll get you on the next cycle, the next Tuesday. Sound paranoid? Police have told me they were waiting for me.

On hygiene

Don't like a dry shave? Nobody does. Buy yourself some generic sex lube. It's only a couple of bucks at Walmart or Target or, really, any drugstore. A little dab and a disposable razor and you can get a nice shave. Rub a thimbleful of water over your face and wipe off to finish. It may sound funny, and of course your razor is ruined unless you rinse it out right away, but this works very well. It's one of my favorite tricks.

If you're in it for the long term, a gym membership is the only way to go. I had one with 24 hour fitness for the five years I was out of doors, and I calculate that it cost me under 50 cents a shower. Well worth it for the good shave, bright lights, and hot water, and on top of it I learned yoga and stayed in shape. It was also a nice, warm place to go when it was cold or stormy out and I just needed to get out of the weather.

"Homeless shelters are for someone else"

Everything takes so long. You have to sign up for the shelter at 3:00pm, but the van doesn't come until 4:00pm. You get to the church where you will spend the night at 4:20, but the free dinner of greasy chicken, bread, and green salad, with milk or juice won't be there till almost 6:00. Then camp pads and a couple of blankets each are passed around and 14 guys find a corner or a wall to sleep against on the cold floor. Stake your claim and then the majority go outside to smoke Top and discuss the presidential election. The consensus seemed pro Kerry, but who can tell? The power distribution in the conversation was a great deal more complex than I could figure out in a night. The entire group watches Jeopardy, then the television is turned off and people begin to settle in. 9:00pm the lights are turned out. I stared at the ceiling for three hours, then slept fitfully and uncomfortably until 5:20am.

Which is when they get you up. 5:20am.

It seems to me that you could wait to sign people into these shelters until 6:00pm or 7:00pm, assuring that people who found work that day might still be able to find shelter. Then people might find a way out of their difficulties. If it were me, I'd let people stay in the shelter until the sun began to warm the world up a little, and I would not return them to a closed hygiene center. I'd coordinate drop off time with the time the hygiene center opened. The total time controlled by the center was sixteen hours, from 3:00pm to 7:00am. That is two thirds of life regulated by the rules of others, one third remaining to try to build something better. Is it any wonder that they opt to simply pass a bottle between themselves? These are people who have little in the way of reserves, and you've just taken two thirds of their time.

How to look like you have a home so you can get and keep a job

Have work shirts laundered and pressed at a dry cleaner. Best is to hang them on a hook in the backseat of your car, but you can also have the laundry fold them and place them in boxes.

Get a cheap pager, and use it as your home phone. Tell prospective employers that a page is the best way to reach you because otherwise members of your family may fail to give you messages. When you can afford it, generally after you've found some employment, move up to a cell phone.

Get a mailbox at a UPS store or similar establishment, and use that as your home address. Don't get a post office box. PO Boxes are dead giveaways, but a commercial mailbox has a street address.

Okay, now you look like the rest of the housed world. Keep clean, wear a smile, and market the skills you have. You can add finishing touches to your look by keeping a nice haircut, and getting a $6 manicure at your nearest nail salon. Yes, men, too, can and should get manicures. Clean nails and hands convey the impression of wealth.

Wear sunscreen

Seriously, wear it. Sunburn is a terrible hazard to the homeless. You can get a sunburn even on overcast days, since the radiation that burns isn't even slowed down by cloud cover. Chronic sunburns can lead to open sores and infections. It is thought that skin cancer can be caused by only a few serious sunburns, and may show up decades later, so stay safe. A sunburn is a tipoff that you are homeless, in addition to being a health hazard.

Again, this is just a teensy sampling. Check out the Survival Guide to Homelessness for much more.

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Scott Jarvie
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Design
Optical Illusion Rug Creates a Bottomless Void in Your Floor
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Scott Jarvie

Artist Scott Jarvie doesn’t believe home goods need to be warm and inviting to earn a spot in the house. That’s certainly the case with his mind-bending void rug: When viewed from a certain perspective, the interior design piece inspires feelings of dread rather than comfort.

According to designboom, Jarvie achieved the rug’s bottomless black hole illusion using clever, two-dimensional design elements. To people standing directly over it, the item resembles a shaded crescent moon cupping a flat black circle. But adjust your position, and the simple rug morphs into a stomach-turning void in the middle of your living room floor.

If the circular rug isn’t trippy enough, Jarvie also made a rectangular runner that can turn an entire hallway into an empty pit. Neither rug is something you’d want to forget you own on a midnight trip to the bathroom.

Void rug optical illusion.

Jarvie’s art isn’t limited to floor rugs that trick the eye. The Scotland-based artist’s creative furniture and home decor includes laundry balls, a cling wrap dispenser, and a chair made from 10,000 plastic drinking straws.

Void rug optical illusion.

Void rug optical illusion.

[h/t designboom]

All images courtesy of Scott Jarvie.

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Amazon
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Smart Shopping
This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
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Amazon

As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

GADGETS, TOYS, AND MEDIA

Funko Pop Television Bob Ross Collectible Figure for $9.99 (list price $10.99)

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Dutch Blitz for $8.96 (list price $12.99)

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NEXGADGET Detachable Multi-Port USB Charging Station, 24W 4-Port USB Charging Dock (Gold) for $29.99 (list price $69.99)

KITCHEN

Ado Glo Kitchen Shears - Stainless Steel Multi-Function Kitchen Scissors with Sharp Blade - Professional Poultry Shears for $12.95 (list price $49.99)

TedGem 6 Pack Silicone Stretch Lids, Various Sizes Expandable Durable Reusable Silicone Stretch Wrap, BPA FREE , Heat Resistant, Dishwasher, Microwave and Oven Safe Stretch Lids Covers for $9.98 (list price $19.99)

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Fred UNZIPPED Hand-Blown Glass Bowl for $17.12 (list price $20.00)

MIRA 34 oz Double Wall All Stainless Steel French Press For Coffee or Tea | Insulated Coffee Pot & Maker Keeps Brewed Coffee or Tea Warm for Hours (34 oz French Press with Bonus Long Spoon) for $19.99 (list price $44.99)

Utopia Kitchen Premium Class Stainless-Steel 12 Knife Set with Acrylic Stand for $35.69 (list price $299.99)

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SimpleTaste Egg Cooker Egg Steamer Electric Egg Poacher Egg Boiler 7 Egg Capacity for $17.99 (list price $28.99)

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Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1 Multi-Use Express Crock Programmable Slow Cooker, Pressure Cooker, Sauté, and Steamer, Stainless Steel (SCCPPC600-V1) for $67.99 (list price $79.99)

Sistema Klip It Collection Cracker Food Storage Container, Large, 60 Ounce/ 7.5 Cup for $8.70 (list price $12.49)

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Kitchen Utensils - 8 Piece Cooking Utensils - Nonstick Utensil Set - Silicone and Stainless Steel Kit - For Pots and Pans - Serving Tongs, Spoon, Spatula Tools, Pasta Server, Ladle, Strainer, Whisk for $24.95 (list price $59.99)

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HOME

Printed Blackout Room Darkening Color Block Grommet Curtain Panel 52 inch wide by 84 inch long - Decorative Curtains by Utopia Bedding (Printed Grey) for $21.99 (list price $39.99)

URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser 130ml Wood Grain Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser with Adjustable Mist Mode Waterless Auto Shut-off humidifier and 7 Color Changing LED Lights for Home Office Baby for $21.99 (list price $49.99)

Portable Garment Steamers for Clothes, Aicok 200ml High Capacity Handheld Travel Clothes Steamer, 900W Fast-Heat Powerful Fabric Steamer Perfect for Home and Travel, with Brush & Travel Pouch, Black for $25.99 (list price $89.99)

Whitmor Supreme Wide Stacking Shelf, Chrome for $15.35 (list price $32.02)

Mellanni Bed Sheet Set - Brushed Microfiber 1800 Bedding - Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - Hypoallergenic - 4 Piece (Queen, White) for $19.70 (list price $59.99)

LIHAO 12 Piece Set Rustproof Stainless Steel Shower Curtain Rings Hooks for Bathroom Shower Rod for $5.97 (list price $16.99)

Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle, Guave Coconut Fusion for $17.56 (list price $22.86)

ThermoPro TP55 Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer Humidity Gauge with Jumbo Touchscreen and Backlight Temperature Humidity Monitor for $13.99 (list price $29.99)

TasteLife 105 GSM Deep Pocket Bed Sheet Set Brushed Hypoallergenic Microfiber 1800 Bedding Sheets Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - 4 Piece(White,Queen) for $14.90 (list price $119.90)

Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Bagless Handheld Vacuum SD20005RED for $24.99 (list price $29.99)

Body Pillowcase, 100% Cotton, 300 Thread Count, 21x60 Pillow Cover by American Pillowcase, Fits 20 x 54, White for $14.99 (list price $23.96)

StorageManiac 3-tier Folding Water-Resistant Compact Steel Clothes Drying Rack - 22.44x14.57x41.34 - Inches for $29.99 (list price $69.99)

ComfiLife Coccyx Orthopedic Memory Foam Office Chair and Car Seat Cushion for Back Pain and Sciatica Relief (Gray) for $29.95 (list price $59.95)

Nontoxic EVA Shower Curtain Clear, Wimaha Mildew Resistant Anti-Bacterial Shower Curtain Liner Waterproof Water Repellent Shower Liner, 72 x 72, Clear for $15.99 (list price $30.00)

Smart Home Bedding Super Plush Pillow Dust Mite Resistant Down Alternative (Queen/Standard, 2 Pack) for $24.99 (list price $99.99)

LINENSPA Zippered Encasement Waterproof, Dust Mite Proof, Bed Bug Proof Breathable Mattress Protector - Queen Size for $24.99 (list price $104.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Gillette Fusion Manual Men’s Razor Blade Refills, 12 Count, Mens Razors / Blades for $34.25 (list price $47.99)

Art Naturals Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner Set (2 x 16 Oz) - Sulfate Free - Volumizing & Moisturizing, Gentle on Curly & Color Treated Hair,For Men & Women Infused with Keratin for $26.13 (list price $26.13)

Dead Sea Mud Mask for Face & Body - 100% Natural Spa Quality - Best Pore Reducer & Minimizer to Help Treat Acne , Blackheads & Oily Skin – Tightens Skin for a Visibly Healthier Complexion – 8.8 OZ for $12.95 (list price $36.95)

DUDE Face Wipes, Energizing & Refreshing Scent, Infused with Pro Vitamin B-5 (3 Packs, 30 Wipes per Pack) for $14.37 (list price $17.97)

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, HX6211/30 for $39.95 (list price $69.99)

Bed Head Curls in Check 1875 Watt Diffuser Hair Dryer for $29.99 (list price $34.99)

Qivange Makeup Brushes, Synthetic Foundation Eyeshadow Fan Brushes Set+Sponge Puff(12pcs,Silver) for $8.99 (list price $42.99)

Majestic Pure Argan Oil Shampoo, Offers Vitamin Enriched Gentle Hair Restoration Formula for Daily Use, Sulfate Free, Moroccan Oil & Potent Natural Ingredients, for Men and Women 16 fl. oz for $13.95 (list price $19.95)

ArtNaturals Signature Blend Essential Oils Set - (8 x 10ml) - 100% Pure of The Highest Quality - Therapeutic Grade - Recommended Aromatherapy Gift Set for $18.95 (list price $36.95)

Gillette Venus Comfortglide Women's Razor Blade Refills, White Tea, 6 Count, Womens Razors / Blades for $20.47 (list price $22.49)

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion 12 oz with Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides for Normal to Dry Skin for $10.49 (list price $13.99)

Zyllion ZMA13BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat for Car, Home, or Office (Black) for $39.95 (list price $79.95)

Equinox International Dental Hygiene Kit - Includes Tarter Scraper/Scaling Instrument, Dental Pick, Dental Sickle, and Mouth Mirror - Professional Surgical Grade Dentist Approved Tools for $8.97 (list price $29.99)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

rOtring Tikky Graphic Fineliner Pens, 0.7mm & 0.5mm & 0.3mm, Black Ink, 3 Count for $11.13 (list price $12.56)

X-ACTO XLR Electric Pencil Sharpener, Gold for $13.94 (list price $16.23)

Oxford Twin Pocket Folders, Letter Size, Gray, 25 per Box (57505) for $11.89 (list price $15.59)

Ohuhu 40 Colors Dual Tips Permanent Marker Pens Art Markers Highlighters with Carrying Case for Drawing Sketching Adult Coloring Highlighting and Underlining for $19.99 (list price $40.00)

Bukey Cable Clips - Self-Adhesive Desk Cable Organizer, Durable Cord Management, Wire Holder, Wire Management System, Pack of 10, Black for $6.99 (list price $14.95)

Avery Economy View Binder with 1-Inch Round Ring, White, Pack Of 4 (19200) for $12.53 (list price $15.99)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Kootek 5 Pack Tactical Mini LED Flashlight Ultra Bright 300 Lumens Handheld Flashlights Adjustable Focus Small for Kids Child Camping Cycling Hiking Emergency Torch Light for $15.99 (list price $19.99)

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Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands with Instruction Guide, Carry Bag, EBook and Online Workout Videos, Set of 5 for $10.95 (list price $49.97)

WORX TURBINE 12 Amp Corded Leaf Blower with 110 MPH and 600 CFM Output and Variable Speed Control – WG520 for $54.24 (list price $59.99)

Giantex 2 Pcs Patio Outdoor LoveSeat Coffee Table Set Furniture Bench With Cushion for $133.99 (list price $169.99)

Quik Chair Heavy Duty Folding Camp Chair - Grey for $12.91 (list price $29.99)

BlizeTec Survival Knife: Best 5-in-1 Tactical Pocket Folding Knife with LED Light, Seatbelt Cutter, Glass Breaker & Magnesium Fire Starter for $38.98 (list price $89.99)

Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed with Built-in Pillow and Electric Pump, Twin, Bed Height 16.5" for $20.54 (list price $39.99)

LED Camping Lantern, Tent Light With USB cable - Survival Kit for Emergency, Hurricane, Outage for $14.99 (list price $25.99)

TOOLS

Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun -58℉~1022℉ (-50℃~550℃), Yellow and Black for $18.88 (list price $20.99)

URPOWER Motion Sensor Light, 10 LED Bulbs Battery Operated Wireless Motion Nightlight Portable Magnetic Security Closet Light Stick Up Motion Sensor Night Lights for Closets Hallway Stairway(3) for $22.99 (list price $32.99)

TEKTON 5941 Digital Tire Gauge, 100 PSI for $10.79 (list price $11.99)

VERY STRONG Magnetic Wristband & Extended Pick-Up Tool - 10 STRONG Magnets Wrapped Around Wrist - Holds Screws, Bolts, Drill Bits and More - Perfect Gift or Present for Handyman, Fathers or Women. for $9.91 (list price $12.39)

2 PCS IPOW Car Safety Antiskid Hammer Seatbelt Cutter Emergency Class/Window Punch Breaker Auto Rescue Disaster Escape Life-Saving Hammer Tool,Big for $8.39 (list price $13.89)

LE Headlamp LED, 4 Modes Headlight, Battery Powered Helmet Light for Camping, Running, Hiking and Reading, 3 AAA Batteries Included for $7.99 (list price $18.95)

Damaged Screw Extractor and Remover Set by Aisxle,Easily Remove Stripped or Damaged Screws. Made From H.S.S. 4341#, the Hardness Is 62-63hrc,Set of 4 Stripped Screw Removers for $11.88 (list price $39.99)

BLENDX 7mm to 19mm Ratchet Universal Sockets Metric Wrench Power Drill Adapter Set - Professional Repair Tools for $9.49 (list price $15.99)

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