Homeless. Now what?
April 27, 2015 9:37 AM   Subscribe

So after a half year of struggling to make ends meet, as of yesterday I've found myself homeless. I'm looking to be pointed towards resources that will make this an easier and (hopefully) briefer experience.


On my first night out, I dealt with not having a place to sleep by opting to not sleep. This isn't, of course, a sustainable plan of action. Save for a backpack with a few things, most of my possessions are sitting on the back porch of my former place of residence. Besides the obvious (clothing, grooming stuff, water/food, meds), what essentials should I try to keep with me?

I recieve food stamps but can only use them for cold foods, however there are a few places I can use microwaves. Food suggestions - stuff that's readily available and easy to carry/prepare?

I have a smartphone with a bill that's paid by an estranged family member (don't ask). How can I best use this to my benefit, besides looking for work opportunities on Craigslist? Where are some non-obvious charging options?

I have to stress this: for reasons I'd rather not get into I really, really don't want to stay at the local shelter. I'd much rather rough it with my bedroll for a while and work on making this as temporary as possible. The weather is very nice here right now, though the heat of summer is just around the corner. Any suggestions as to places to look to sleep for a few hours here and there? I do have a friend that will let me stay with him in his tiny apartment from time to time, but not full-time. Nonetheless, this means an opportunity to occasionally shower, shave, and otherwise make myself look presentable. What are some other ways I can do this, besides public restrooms? I'd prefer to keep looking as un-homeless as possible.

I'm pretty stressed about things, of course. I'm worried that the longer I have to live like this, the harder it will be to get back on my feet. I work shifts once or twice a week doing manual labor, something that my skinny frame wasn't really built for. I'm looking for something full time, but I'm worried that now I'm officially homeless this will become more and more difficult. Any suggestions on how to make this easier?

I apologize if this is all a bit disjointed. I'm doing my best not to panic and to keep a good head on my shoulders but I'm tired and finding myself fretting over every detail. Any other advice or suggestions of ways to make this whole thing easier would be greatly appreciated. I'm certain I have a dozen other things to ask but this is what's coming to mind right now. Thanks.
posted by item to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any advice, but for people who know more about this, it might be useful to know what other resources you have available: Are you employed? Do you have money available that you could spend? Do you have a car?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:40 AM on April 27, 2015

No car, no money, I usually work one or two days a week at a local stadium. The pay is lousy, the work is hard, but it's something.
posted by item at 9:45 AM on April 27, 2015

If you can say where you are, it helps. You need advice on specific resources and people can't suggest them without this information.

Don't forget to inquire also on local forums or subreddits for local-specific advice.
posted by zadcat at 9:48 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

You mention searching for work on CL... Are you familiar with Indeed.com? It's a job listing aggregator that seems to do a pretty good job of assembling a wide variety of postings from across a lot of sources. It might yield something more fruitful than just using CL.
posted by hippybear at 9:49 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check out this site and see the contents on the right-hand sidebar. Best of luck.
posted by resurrexit at 9:54 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Item, are you still in Texas? In January your question said you were in DFW. Your general location will make a difference in the services that are available to you.

Also, I know there will be a wait list, but have you applied for Section 8 housing assistance?

One option: YMCA Dallas. Free 7 day guest pass. Fees for the Y work on a sliding scale, so if you're willing to fill out a financial assistance form you could be eligible for a very low (ie: $5) rate or even a 100% scholarship. Y membership will give you access to showers, a day locker, a place to charge your phone. Most Y's can also connect you with social services.
posted by anastasiav at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2015 [13 favorites]

Inexpensive gym memberships are often purchased for shower access by homeless people I've met.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:56 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm in Dallas.

Thanks for the indeed.com tip, I wasn't familiar with it.

I did apply for Section 8 back in January. I've been told the process can take up to a year, though.
posted by item at 9:58 AM on April 27, 2015

I think libraries and churches will be good resources for you. You can charge your phone in a library and they often have job-searching classes and other things. Churches often have programs where they offer free meals and other resources too.

When the weather is good, city parks are good places to take a nap, because other people will be out doing the same thing. Highway underpasses that aren't super busy are good to hunker down in too. Abandoned buildings and abandoned/empty lots would also be good, I think, as long as the building wasn't too dilapidated. If you're in a town with a river, go look down by the river for a secluded spot to sleep for a little while. Avoid going into any well-off suburbs, they will be much less tolerant of you even in their parks, etc., if you look a little run-down. Make sure to put your sleeping bag (or whatever you're using to sleep in) in a plastic garbage bag during the day to keep it dry: even a summer night can get cold if you have to sleep on the bare ground or in/on a wet sleeping bag.

Food-wise, bread, a plastic jar of peanut butter, bags of peanuts nuts or trail mix, sandwich meat, salami, apples, and cheese are all things that don't need to be cooked or refrigerated and that last a long time.
posted by colfax at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Check out the Dallas YMCA too. They offer financial assistance to people who want to join the YMCA, which might be a good way to get steady access to a gym/shower facilities.
posted by colfax at 10:10 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your previous questions had some good answers regarding local charities. Have you been in touch with them all? Can you ask them for help to get referred to a social worker or case worker that they know? Getting involved in a few different social support systems through these organizations will be better than having zero connections.
posted by barnone at 10:13 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Here's a list of phone numbers in Dallas to try for resources.
posted by hoyland at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2015

A waterproof lockable bag (if you don't have one, put your stuff in a plastic bag, then put the plastic bag in a nice-looking bag) and a gym membership like the Y will really save you some trouble. To pass the time, you can wander between coffee shops, free museums, parks and libraries. Coffee shops sometimes will have "suspended coffees". If you have a good umbrella, you can be outside in bad weather without obviously being marked as homeless. Perfume helps if you can't get your clothes washed frequently. Liquid dish soap can be used as laundry detergent in a pinch. A P.O. box or a friend who will let you use their mailing address is great. Put one nice outfit (with shoes) somewhere safe. Use that outfit for interviews.
posted by domo at 10:43 AM on April 27, 2015

I read quickly back through your old posts and I'm wondering if you ever sought out help from churches, the way some people have suggested. If I were you, I think I might seek out the nearest Catholic church, attend Mass, and then, afterwards, seek out the priest and say something along the lines of: "I was raised Catholic (you were, right?) and I got kicked out of my apartment last night; I'm facing sleeping under a bridge tonight, and I just don't know what to do." Like, circumvent all of the official venues and ask directly for help. And if that priest blows you off, go to the next church and then the next one. There are a lot of churches in Dallas.

I say start with Catholic churches because that's your heritage and Catholic churches, for all their other problems, have a strong tradition of service. (This isn't about religion; it's about connecting with people in a context where their conscience will remind them to help you. Which they should.) But you might also try the Unitarian Universalist church - that's the tradition in which I was raised. Here's the link to the First Parish in Dallas. You could call, say you've been facing some tough times, and ask to come in and speak with a pastor. Hell, say you were talking to a UU friend and they told you to come in. If they can't give you housing, they might be able to get you a lead on a job; if they can't get you that, they might be able to find you a shower you can use; if they can't do that, they can at least offer you support and maybe a hug. But hopefully, they can give you a whole lot more.

This seems incredibly hard and I am astonished by how strong you seem to be in facing it. Still, I don't think you can't fix this alone. You need help and you have to be strong enough to keep asking until you find it. Good luck.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:47 AM on April 27, 2015 [15 favorites]

What to carry: IMO - only the things that are difficult to replace and small enough to haul around. Extra clothes, furniture, etc, can all be replaced easily and cheaply at the local thrift shop once you get back on your feet. Things of sentimental value are a bit harder. If you have these sorts of things, can you stash a box or two of mementos or other things that are personally important a friend or relative's house? If not, a locker at the aforementioned Y may allow you to securely store some things.

A bike is a valuable tool. It's decent transportation, you can carry stuff securely in panniers, and you can buy or fashion a bike trailer with a locking hasp and it allows you to carry more stuff. In my area, if you are homeless you can get vouchers for the salvation army and goodwill and they often carry bikes. Downside - you need a high quality U-lock to keep the bike from getting stolen, which will run you about $50. You can get a cheaper U-lock for $20 but the difference in quality is substantial. Bucket panniers are dirt cheap and waterproof, all you need is a bucket with a lid and $5 worth of hardware from the hardware store.

Hopefully Michele in California will chip in here soon.
posted by zug at 10:50 AM on April 27, 2015

Please call 211 to find out what resources are available to help you. It's a national help line, but run locally so you'll get local suggestions for food and shelter, employment, etc.
posted by cecic at 10:55 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I work in homeless services. You need to look into what is called "rapid re-housing" services in your city. Here is one, there are probably others. When you call them, under no circumstances tell them that you have a friend's place you can sleep in. You want to tell them you slept on the street last night. That will put you into the 'literally homeless' category, which has more funding, and also seems to fit your situation better anyway.

I would go to the local library and google for resources before using 211 - most of our clients note that they have to wait a long time and get less than helpful referrals, though your situation may be different.

I've also memailed you in case you need help levering agencies.
posted by corb at 10:57 AM on April 27, 2015 [19 favorites]

Carry a water bottle to keep from getting dehydrated. Being outside all day will take it out of you.
posted by domo at 10:58 AM on April 27, 2015

I have heard that Dallas has extensive car-free bike paths along bayous. Sometimes that's a good candidate for camping, but I'm not familiar with Dallas; if they are literally all bayous it may be a no-go. How are couchsurfing & warmshowers in Dallas?

I think one of the ways your friend will be most useful is as a mailing address.

You can sign up for WWOOFing. Free food and shelter on a farm in exchange for 4-6 hours of labor. It will keep you sheltered, but maybe it won't keep you in Dallas itself. Definitely worth looking into!
posted by aniola at 11:12 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and if you have any important paperwork (birth certificate, passport, social security card) make sure that goes some place safe.
posted by aniola at 11:19 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry this is happening to you. How overwhelming.

Can you give some info about what you're already doing/have already done? What services have you investigated? Do you have a sense of what's out there? Did you get a chance to look into "rapid rehousing" or "transitional housing" in Dallas?

- I agree with the recommendation of the Y.
- I recommend looking into food service work so you can also eat.
- Don't forget to have body care items and maybe some paperback books?
- Call 211 for referrals to Dallas services. They may have a list of soup kitchens and other non-shelter housing options.

We're rooting for you.
posted by latkes at 12:02 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My site has a lot of info, some of it California specific, some of it San Diego specific, some of it of general interest if you are homeless.

Besides the obvious (clothing, grooming stuff, water/food, meds), what essentials should I try to keep with me?

Papers. Birth certificate, ID cards, debit card, that kind of thing. Get some small Ziploc bags and put your phone and any papers and anything you would put in a wallet into Ziploc bags. Keeping your papers and electronics dry is a big deal on the street.

I receive food stamps but can only use them for cold foods, however there are a few places I can use microwaves. Food suggestions - stuff that's readily available and easy to carry/prepare?

Beef jerky is on the expensive side but food stamps will cover it. You can also get Babybel cheese for protein. You can get cold deli foods, like sandwiches. One month when I had extra food stamps and my bank account was locked up, I ate cold foods all month. Eating cold foods doesn’t mean not being adequately fed.

If you can find a way to stretch your budget, you can get your usual convenience foods like pop tarts, chips, and other snacks for taking with you. Some fresh produce is very affordable. When I am very broke, I try to remember to buy bananas. As much as possible, I just get what I will eat for today. I don’t like carrying a lot of extra stuff. But you can eat raw carrots, raw potatoes and other produce and some of that is quite cheap.

There are other suggestions on my website.

I have a smartphone. How can I best use this to my benefit, besides looking for work opportunities on Craigslist? Where are some non-obvious charging options?

My Money page has some relevant suggestions. To recap some of it:

You can do coke rewards, even if you don’t drink coke products. You can scavenge the lids. Coke rewards has gone social. You can get some benefits from doing the social part. If you make gold status and fill out your profile, you can get some restaurant discount certificates right now, up to $60 worth. You do have to have some cash to go with it. You typically need to spend twice the face value and cover the taxes, so to use a $5 certificate you at least need another $5 plus enough cash to cover taxes on at least $10. (Since you have a smartphone, you don't even have to print them out. You can download the app for the restaurant.com site and use the certificates that way. It costs me 20 cents to print them at the library. You can avoid that expense and hassle.)

You can do Bing Rewards and get one to two $5 e-gift cards per month.

You can do freelance work online.

You can play games and download videos to help keep you constructively occupied so you don’t lose your mind.

You can get a free blogger account and download a blogger app and work on your blog in your sleeping bag at night.

See if you can charge it at the library and also take advantage of free wifi. Turn it off when you aren’t actually using it. If you don’t already, download an app for tracking power usage and optimizing battery life. Go through all your apps and get rid of any you don’t actually use. Download videos and the like and watch them and then delete them, unless they are something you can and will watch repeatedly. Once in a while, a public park has places to plug in. If you scrape together enough money resources to go to Starbucks or someplace like that, remember to plug in. (FYI: Starbucks e-gift cards can be gotten via Bing Rewards.) Remember to charge it any time you stay with your friend.

I have to stress this: for reasons I'd rather not get into I really, really don't want to stay at the local shelter. I'd much rather rough it with my bedroll for a while and work on making this as temporary as possible. The weather is very nice here right now, though the heat of summer is just around the corner. Any suggestions as to places to look to sleep for a few hours here and there?

I have never stayed in a shelter, though I started the intake process once (and looked into applying to others at other times/places). A snow storm was coming. I asked if I could have a shower and change of clothes and we left and looked for a place to hole up. We were fine.

Look for little patches of trees at off ramps, around shopping centers, and below power lines. Some people also sleep under bridges, though that can be damp and moldy, so it isn’t something I do. I always find a nice patch of trees somewhere. Go in after dark, leave in the morning, stay the hell away during the day. Be quiet (most homeless people appear to have never heard of the word STEALTH, oh god). Try to go unnoticed as you come and go. Tell NO ONE where you sleep. If you choose well and are careful, you can stay in the same spot for weeks or months without being bothered. When it is foggy, you can go to camp early and sleep late. Otherwise, wait until dark to go to camp and then leave early in the morning, as close to sun up as you can manage, health and weather permitting.

You do not need cover in all directions. If you are next to a one way road, you need cover in three directions. Most people will not notice you in their rear view mirror and, even if they do, they likely won’t do anything about it.

Don't camp too close to residential areas. People will call the cops on you if you sleep too close to their houses.

I do have a friend that will let me stay with him in his tiny apartment from time to time, but not full-time. Nonetheless, this means an opportunity to occasionally shower, shave, and otherwise make myself look presentable. What are some other ways I can do this, besides public restrooms? I'd prefer to keep looking as un-homeless as possible.

See if you can find a homeless services center that offers free showers. Look for truck stops that offer a shower for a few dollars. Get your hair cut as short as possible (my sons get their heads and beards shaved every three-ish months, when we can afford it). When you are grimy, instead of doing laundry and the like, find a new t-shirt on a clearance rack or at a dollar store and spend $1 or so on a new shirt and throw the old one out. I tend to replace my shirt something like once a week and my pants something like once a month. People often have no idea I am homeless.

Any suggestions on how to make this easier?

Take up recycling. In California, a lot of stores pay cash for recyclables. I don’t know what things are like where you are. But find a place that will pay for recycling and start collecting recyclables. It is something you can do even if you are tiny and ill. It is something you can do whenever YOU feel like it, though there are some restrictions in terms of when you can turn it in for money, you can collect stuff any time of the day or night. Over time, you get good at figuring out where to look, how often to check that area, best practices and so on. You don't need to make a lot of money for this to make a big difference in your life. I average $1 to $3 a day most of the time. I make more than that when the shit really hits the fan and I am desperately broke and really NEED the money. Since I started recycling, I have never again felt simply desperate. Things are sometimes hard, but I no longer face a situation where I fear literally being unable to get anything to eat for up to 10 days.

Learn to travel light. I have one outfit – the clothes on my back – and we have one back pack and one large-ish bag and we often have grocery bags with drinks and snacks. This is for three people with two computers (a laptop and a tablet). It took time to arrange for that. We initially had a lot more stuff. But if you learn to travel light and get enough to eat every day and how to cope with weather and how to avoid tangling with other homeless people, it doesn’t have to be a terrible experience.

Learn where the free meal sites are and any food pantries or other places where you can get some free food, like a loaf of bread or produce. If you can arrange to make money online and by recycling and where to get a meal when you need to, you can keep body and soul together while working out some sustainable solutions for your problems.

I started my homeless site so I could keep track of information I needed in a format superior to the paper handouts I was being given left and right, which often had inaccurate info and keeping track of papers on the street is a huge nuisance. I wanted to keep the info and throw out the damn papers. Having your own site with a list of stuff important to you might help you cope as well. Assuming you have a gmail account (or are willing to get one), I would be happy to set up a (your city) Homeless Survival Guide, make you a contributor and help you develop a list of resources online locally if you want such help. (You can also do it yourself – you don’t actually need me for that – but I would be happy to help you get started, if you want the help.)
posted by Michele in California at 12:04 PM on April 27, 2015 [98 favorites]

I once worked as a Google Ad Rater while in-between jobs. You can do it from home on your own time on your own computer via a private Internet connection (not sure if smartphone is okay, but could be easy enough to find out.) You basically look at search results and rate them according to a rubric Google provides. The company doing the hiring is ZeroChaos. The job pays $15/hour, and minimum is 10 hours/week and up to 30 hours/week. It's not exciting work, but it is flexible.

Here's a current ad.
posted by megancita at 12:16 PM on April 27, 2015 [14 favorites]

So sorry to hear this, item. :(

The Homeless Shelter Directory has a Dallas page, listing private shelters and their criteria for entry. On the off chance you can reach one of the suburbs (or are in one, since the Dallas metroplex is freakin' huge,) there's a separate page with links to many cities in TX. In a previous question, you mentioned North Dallas. Allen, Plano, etc all have their own pages, shelters and links. Hopefully something there will be useful.

Dallas Life is a shelter that provides housing and meals. So is The Stewpot.

Definitely call 211, please. They may also be able to help.

Good luck.
posted by zarq at 12:20 PM on April 27, 2015

Maybe hit the Dallas Farmers Market towards the end of market days. It's been a long time since I went to that one, but the vendors at my local markets don't want to haul home unsold produce at the end of the day. You can get excellent deals on healthy foods. It might also be worth asking vendors about helping them pack up/clean up in exchange for some free produce. Good luck.
posted by Beti at 12:22 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest working at the farmers market: jobs are easy to get and at least where I live the workers all trade food at the end of each shift, and take home tons of their own farm's extras. But I thought it didn't make as much sense now that you're sleeping outside. However, it is something to keep in mind once you're housed again.
posted by latkes at 12:25 PM on April 27, 2015

And as a follow-up to my previous post, here's another similar online job that specifically requires a smartphone.
posted by megancita at 12:31 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone. This is a lot of info to go through and I appreciate every last bit of it. I'll try to reply to specific questions here in a little while.
posted by item at 12:38 PM on April 27, 2015

I know you can't stay with your friend all the time, but is he open to you crashing there to shower/ get sleep while he's at work a little more frequently?

Universities can also be a place to hang out where you won't have to spend money; in many you can just walk into any of the buildings (except for the residence halls). If you're close to standard student age you can even get away with napping in study carrels, couches, on a blanket outside, etc. if you get to know the place well you may find other amenities too. Mine has bring-your-own-lock lockers in the basements of random buildings and showers in some of the public bathrooms.
posted by metasarah at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Everyone is suggesting you *do* something, but I think one of the most important things you can do for yourself is just sit somewhere safe and logically think through your options and choices you have. This is where a library is great place, you can sit for hours at a table, writing or thinking and no one will bother you. They also have electrical outlets and free wifi. Get a list of the local libraries and hours of operations so you have a safe space to stay (and can often nap if you are "non-homeless" looking and smelling). Actually, now I have looked into it, Dallas Public Library appears very inclusive with specific initiatives for serving the homeless population. I would ask for help from the library staff directly. Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 1:27 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Universities ... Mine has bring-your-own-lock lockers in the basements of random buildings and showers in some of the public bathrooms.
posted by metasarah at 1:13 PM on April 27 [+] [!]

If you can find a locker like this, get it. (Also, if you can find access to a shower like this, that would be fantastic as well.)

I am on the street with two other people. We routinely leave our stuff with one person while others go shopping and run errands. Some stores will insist you leave your backpack outside, especially if they figure out you are homeless. It is incredibly hard to find a place to store stuff. Every homeless services place I have seen that offered storage was offering either relatively long term storage (with inconvenient hours) or totally unsecured storage during daylight hours, meaning other homeless people could just walk off with your stuff.

You are on the street alone. Being able to lock up your few possessions and not carry them everywhere, all the time will make your life enormously easier.

Some people do stash their stuff in the bushes or whatever and hope no one finds it. Sometimes, it disappears. If you really can't afford to lose something-- like your smartphone -- don't leave it ANYWHERE unsecured for ANY amount of time. Keep it with you or lock it up, if at all humanly possible.

2nding libraries -- as a haven from weather, a place to access valuable info, a place to recharge your phone, a place to supplement your Internet access with free wifi, a place to get a drink of water, a place with a public bathroom (though don't "wash up" in the library bathroom -- they typically will hassle you about that).
posted by Michele in California at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another place with a lot of resources (power, free wifi, shelter from inclement weather, etc.) will be DFW; you can get there via DART. I don't now if the cost of getting there will be worth it, but you can get cash by roaming the parking areas and returning the luggage carts to their dispensary.
posted by carmicha at 1:47 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am in a library right now. Like I likely insinuated in my post, even though I knew this situation might end up being a possibility, it's still all quite stressful and overwhelming. I've got about $10 to my name and am not sure where I'll be headed once the library closes in a few hours. Oh, and there's supposed to be a big-ass thunderstorm rolling through here tonight.

That said, I'm wading through this thread and have been trying my best to stay optimistic about what's ahead. Y'all are good folks and I'm eternally thankful I have this resource.
posted by item at 1:49 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and there's supposed to be a big-ass thunderstorm rolling through here tonight.

Try to hole up under a bridge or overpass for the night, if possible. Try to get hunkered down somewhere before the rain starts.

While you are at the library, use google maps (satellite view) to check out possible camp sites (overpasses, areas with enough vegetation for visual cover). It will save you a lot of walking to have a general idea of what direction to head in.
posted by Michele in California at 2:16 PM on April 27, 2015 [9 favorites]

This link may help you find the closest location of a food pantry nearest to where you may be.

Universities may offer off-season dorm housing. Also, as the school year ends...there will be lots of good stuff being tossed. Microwaves, mini-fridges, etc.

The Universal Unitarian church may offer some type of assistance as they have a pretty strong social justice core.

Sending you positive energy and hope.
posted by zerobyproxy at 4:05 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is there a tent or a tarp in the things you left behind? If so, that would be a good thing to grab.
posted by aniola at 7:01 PM on April 27, 2015

Yay, you are at a library! TALK to a librarian. Talk to several. They have so many amazing resources and so many libraries are increasingly treated as a community hub. Libraries subscribe to all sorts of job-finding resources, resume reviewing services (I used one, not bad!!), offer classes, etc. I had no idea until I actually took a class in public librarianship.

Ask the librarian about signing up for a community college class (there's probably some sort of tuition fee waiver). Cheap, classes are easy, and likely also have some sort of athletic/shower facilities. ALSO - go to the class. Just pick something that interests you and go and do the work. I imagine having somewhere to be, something to do, and socializing once a week or so would be insanely good for you.

Nth the farmers market.
If you are up for manual labor, talk to the farmers and check ATTRA's internship listing or WWOOF. So SO many farms hire interns and apprentices and offer room + stipend + produce; wwoof would at least be room and board and a little free time. There are all sorts of websites that list stuff like this - any iterations of organic farm +job/intern/apprentice should do. This would get you off the streets quickly. If nothing else, one of them might let you work + camp (?). Working on smaller/organic/family farms is generally much friendlier (and safer, etc) than straight up field labour on conventional huge farms. ANY job that's live-work would be great: staff at a summer camp (cooks, maitenence, etc), domestic staff, some hotels etc.

Ask your friend if you can use his address - you need an address to put on resumes, to get a library card, etc.

Maybe someone else can chime in, but golly if there's ANY way to insure your phone, I'd do it. If your friend has home/renter's insurance maybe he can add it to the policy (?).

PS - A-ha! Here is a LIST of farm job sites. I think Growfood.org is the one I used to use. You could try Ranch work too, though I can't vouch for it personally.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:06 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Coolworks.com if you aren't tied to Dallas. There's a hiring immediately section.
posted by aniola at 7:35 PM on April 27, 2015

Why call it being "homeless"? How about using the term "public life"? Yes, I lived the public life for about five years some years ago. You aren't a homeless person. You're a public person. Meaning the public has access to you and vice versa. It's not all bad.
posted by telstar at 10:56 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can download mystery shopping apps such as Mobee or iSecretShop. I think Mobee worked better for me when I tried it, but the pay was only $5-10/shop.
posted by FiveSecondRule at 11:18 PM on April 27, 2015

Money sources

Another good source for money is reddit's beermoney subreddit. I know this sounds like some sort of ad or scheme, but I made $500USD+ without trying very hard last year.

Most of the stuff there is doing surveys, clicking on ads, that kind of thing. Some of it involves downloading apps and others involve using websites (best used on a PC). If you have any questions about this, feel free to PM me any time.

Don't forget to check for Plasma centres in your area. Make sure you eat before donating and after donating. Although the amount varies, you can make $50 - $140 a week donating plasma and you can do it twice weekly for as long as you like.

Other stuff

If you can manage to get anything saved up then getting a PO Box might be a good idea, you'd be surprised what you can send there.

Many people aren't aware of this, but some Universities have dorm rooms available for $8 - $40 a day. You don't get much aside from a bed and a shower, but it might be suitable if you get enough money from your side job and the weather is bad for a while. You don't have to attend that University either. And they sometimes have day passes for computer access.

Boredom might be a problem -- in this case, libraries often recycle newspapers every certain number of days, and you can check with them. You can also get books there. Laundromats also have magazines and newspaper.

If you any BA degree in anything at all whatsoever, consider working overseas as an English teacher. There are some places you can teach adults. Heck, you can even teach in a small, small handful of places without a degree (although you're mostly limited to South America). They'll provide flights, a visa, and housing.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:08 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Re gyms for showering, you might check and see if your health insurance provides access to them.

If you don't have insurance, apply for Medicare/Medicaid/ACA right away. I know some Medicare plans include gym access.
posted by aerotive at 11:12 AM on April 28, 2015

I woke up this morning wondering where you'd spent the night and if you were okay. Please update when you can.

I also think, re-reading this, the advice breaks down into two categories: how to survive while homeless and how to try and stop being homeless as soon as you possibly can. Both categories are useful but on closer analysis your question seems tilted towards the first set of answers, i.e., "How can I deal with this inevitability?" rather than "How can I avoid it altogether?"

Apologies if this gets too personal, but it sounds like homelessness is a state you have been dreading for a very long time, which must have been crushingly stressful. If you've also been suffering from depression and anxiety, that probably adds to your feeling that the sky has at last come crashing down. I wonder if that makes it harder to follow the advice about asking for help directly, because to get help feels like it's only postponing the inevitable, whereas advice like "Get your stuff under a tarp and put all your important papers in plastic bags" feels like a practical way of facing head-on the circumstances you've been anticipating for so long.

If that's the case, I guess all I'd say is that you should never forget that you can always do both. You can plan for a homeless period of some duration, and you can also track down every single person you know (and lots you don't) and say, in essence, "This is an absolutely urgent emergency that must be dealt with immediately and I need help NOW." There's no contradiction there.

And for what it's worth - I'd say that if pretty much anyone in my broad social network - i.e., anyone I'm friends with on Facebook and had seen in person within the last few years - asked for help finding immediate shelter because they were facing homelessness, I would, without question, either offer my couch for a few weeks or send as much money as I could their way. I know you had a bad experience with this once, but just because that person sucks doesn't mean that everyone else does. Yes, it's true that people you are close to might let you down, but it's also true that someone you know only distantly might surprise you with how much they can offer you. You won't know until you try.

My mom once told me that because, in our daily lives, the right thing to do is so rarely clear, when you offer someone a chance to do something unequivocally good - to help - they are very often grateful to you for the opportunity. Sometimes, you are doing a good thing by letting other people help you.

Finally, if your in-person social safety net is well and truly shredded, which may be the case through no fault of your own, it looks to me like you have a genuine and robust community of friends online. You have 93 followers on Metafilter - 94, now that I just added you. I bet lots of them donate $5 a month to Metafilter to keep it running - how much do you think they'd spend to help you get a roof over your head? I'd shoot $5 your way, no question. If half of them feel like me, that's $250 right there. Why not see how generous the people in your life can be?
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:48 AM on April 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am okay today - sorry about the lack of an update until now. There have been so many insightful, well thought out, and just plain useful answers in this thread. I'm still working my way through it all. I appreciate y'all so much.
posted by item at 5:45 PM on April 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am glad you are okay. I have sent you a memail.
posted by Michele in California at 6:00 PM on April 28, 2015

Has anyone heard from item in the past while?
posted by hippybear at 1:51 AM on May 8, 2015

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