About to be homeless!
November 13, 2015 9:15 AM   Subscribe

About to be homeless in London.

Due to unforeseen circumstances I will be homeless by January. More specifically homeless in London.

I'm a late 20's male and I've got until January until I have to be out of where I'm currently staying, I don't have a car so I will have to stay on the streets (I don't want to stay in a homeless shelter) I have some money but much of it will be spent on things I will need for being homeless, like a winter sleeping bag, winter coat, good boots (lots of walking), sturdy bag, and some necessary tools, etc. So when I hit the streets I' ll have about £150 to work with.

I know of some charity's that might be able to help me that I will be contacting, but nothing's for sure. I have friends, but due to there own circumstances wont be able help me much, and I can't go back home due to my family having there own problems and I don't think I would even if I could.

I've had my problems in the past, like addiction (currently a month sober again, and unrelated to me about to be homeless), but being homeless seems like the ultimate bottom and I'm feeling pretty ashamed and hopeless about it, and if I'm honest I'm pretty scared too.

My question(s) is:
How better could I prepare for this situation? How to deal with and navigate being homeless and coping in general ? And how do I keep my head up and find a way out of this situation?

Thank you for your responses.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm wondering why you are ruling out a shelter environment. It would provide some safety, warmth, ability to stay clean and out of the elements while you focus on finding work, a place to live, etc. There may also be services available to you if you're connected to a shelter. Being on the street means that much of your energy, and funds, will go into survival as opposed to moving forwards. Unless you've already experienced a shelter and have a compelling reason to not return, I would encourage you to consider checking out that life before you reject it.
posted by HuronBob at 9:32 AM on November 13, 2015 [19 favorites]

I would focus on prevention. Is there any way you can increase your income, possibly via seasonal work? Would it make sense to move to a different city? Do you know anyone who would let you sleep on their porch, etc. if not their couch? Does it make sense to join the military or another job that provides housing?

Figure out now where your best options are for restrooms and showers, so you don't need to worry about that later. Also determine if there are safe places you can leave your things, soup kitchen rules, etc.

I'm sorry you're in this position... good luck.
posted by metasarah at 10:00 AM on November 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

this site seems like it might be a resource worth examining, anon.



It looks as though they support individual user accounts. Register and see what they offer!

Whatever your family's situation is, stay in touch with them, please. Have you actually told them you are about to be homeless or are you ruling them out as a support resource without letting them know? Even if that relationship is fraught, I doubt very much they want you to live on the streets if there's any way to avoid it.

Best of luck to you. Take care of yourself - sounds like you're working on it, and just reaching out here is a positive step.
posted by mwhybark at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2015

In fact, here's that site's info page for people in your exact situation.

Where to go for emergency help if you are homeless

Elsewhere they link to the page with the words "are or about to be homeless," so, yes, this is really for you, right now.

Among other things they suggest you contact this advice helpline. So, try that!

Stay safe, stay warm, and I hope these folks can help you keep a roof over head.
posted by mwhybark at 10:15 AM on November 13, 2015

Of course your scared. This is a scary thing. You have 6 weeks and you need to start visiting every charity/agency that might be able to prevent losing your housing even if that means moving to transitional housing.

I did a quick search - and hopefully someone with local knowledge can give definitive direction - but here is one organization that is working with people in your situation: http://www.shp.org.uk/content/accessing-our-services. They do both shelter (which you've indicated you don't want) and floating support (which sounds like what you do want).

Lets tackle this ashamed thing. Shame is one of the most debilitating emotions and it could prevent you from seeking services. Don't let shame manipulate you. You're doing what you can to get your life on track. Getting sober is huge. Brené Brown writes on overcoming shame. She says the first step to overcoming shame is to make your internal dialogue loving to yourself. Talk to yourself the way to talk to someone you love. I encourage you to take a look at her stuff on shame and see if it resonates for you.
posted by 26.2 at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hey, I just wanted to say that I volunteer in a homeless shelter in London, and they might not be the sort of place that you are imagining.

There is a lot of variation (for example in some you get your own room, in others it's just a bed for the night), but I've volunteered in several and they've all been welcoming places with a strong community within them and a supportive network that branches far out into the city. Also, you can get WAY more than you might think from them - not just a place to stay, but help with medical needs, somewhere to charge your phone (more important than people think until they're homeless), cool pastimes (I teach music, and the shelter I teach at also has at least one massage therapist) and help with addiction/post-addiction.

So I urge you not to rule them out. And good luck, and please don't lose hope or feel ashamed. If you are in this position it is probably because people and/or society has failed you, perhaps lots of times. There is help out there for you and you will get through this hard time. Please feel free to memail me if you want to.
posted by greenish at 10:39 AM on November 13, 2015 [38 favorites]

Information from the MeFi hive mind is available at the MeFi wiki Homeless Survival Guide page. A lot of information is tailored to the United States, but there is also generally applicable information, including about information management and Collected AskMes.
Locating and connecting to all of the benefits and resources you may qualify for can be a part-time job in itself, and there are many "tips and tricks."

You can start your own website to keep track of information you need in a format superior to the paper handouts you will be given by local organizations, which may have inaccurate information and are a huge nuisance to keep track of on the street. Having your own website with a list of stuff important to you might help you cope as well.
If you have a gmail account, you can set up a free BlogSpot account. After you set up a blog (coming up with a unique name that has not yet been taken is sometimes a minor challenge), you can scroll down to the very bottom of the Admin page and click on "Settings." The first thing that opens should be "Basic" settings. The last item at the bottom of that list should say "Readers" and the default setting is "Public." You can click the "edit" button next to the word "Public" and set it to "Private."
For your birth certificate, ID cards, debit card, etc., 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.
posted by Little Dawn at 10:40 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Absolutely nobody should plan to be homeless in London in January. It's a terrible idea given sub-freezing temperatures, street violence, and lack of access to any public bathing facilities.

Honestly, this is a very bad question to ask anonymously. If you contact me via MeMail, I will buy you a 2nd, anonymous sockpuppet account so that people can get the information we need to try to help you.

1/ What borough are you currently in?

2/ What is your current housing situation? Are you crashing with friends, are you in a flatshare, do you have a lease?

3/ What is your employment and benefits situation?

4/ What is it that is specifically putting you off shelters in London, besides lack of access?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2015 [19 favorites]

I'm currently homeless but am in the US. Shelters are weird. At least in the US. For the most part they aren't as bad in the ways you imagine but are worse in ways you don't. In a place like London (as opposed to, say, Seattle WA or Atlanta GA), I'm guessing the shelters are relatively safe. The problem is what they do to you psychologically, they basically suck out your soul. They have so many rules and weird things in place that ultimately reduce your sense of dignity. Not wanting to stay in a shelter makes total sense. Except for the part that we're entering winter. Bad timing. But the thing with a shelter is that it's not prison -- you can leave any time you want. Don't let a shelter completely destroy your soul. Leave before that happens and camp out or find a better shelter.

Again, I know nothing about your country, but if you can do your research now and find homeless-friendly smaller cities you'll definitely be better off. Also, if you can get out of the city is it possible to find a place to set up a campsite? This might not be an option in England but in the US, if you have time to prepare and some money, moving near a city with good services and safe places to camp out is the best advice. Get a 4-person tent and a large tarp. If you can haul some pallets into the spot you find and nail some plywood on top of them then you can create a really nice site.

I'm feeling pretty ashamed and hopeless about it,

Man, screw that noise! Yes, people look down on homeless and no matter how much they help them and sympathize ultimately they think of the homeless as being any/all of the following: lazy, addicts, crazy, un-American (I know, doesn't apply to you but there's probably something similar in England), criminals, and, ultimately, deserving of being treated like shit. Guess what, homeys are all full of shit. You're a human being with a functioning brain. There is no way to defend the concept that one lifestyle is objectively better than another. You, at this point in your life, just don't fit in with the safe conventional lifestyle. So what. Shit like that practically defines what makes humans interesting.

I'm not saying that being homeless is a grand adventure and an ego boost, but what I am saying is that once you've gotten used to it you're going to look at your fellow homeless and all the judgemental homeys in a whole new way.

and if I'm honest I'm pretty scared too.

I had a nice condo and a really good salary. I did not think I could survive being homeless. I sincerely thought suicide was a better solution (I have stories about that). When look you down from the top of the ladder and see the bottom it looks like it's impossible to survive the drop. But you know what? It really isn't that bad. There are people who will help you out and you'll find routines and ways to stay safe. It's a very weird lifestyle but it's far, far away from the end of the world. I really don't know how to put it in a way that makes sense. You're at the bottom but the homeless bottom isn't as bad as living two months behind a paycheck to paycheck existence knowing that you're going to be evicted at any moment.

And look, you're being far smarter about this than most. I desperately held onto my home even when I saw the writing was clearly on the wall. You've accepted what's going to happen so you can plan these things out better. Find all the shelters, tour them, find the soup kitchens (or the UK equivalent), find places for showers, internet access, and so on. I spent my first two months of being homeless only eating one package of Ramen noodles a day just because I didn't understand how soup kitchens worked and that they would feed me no questions asked.

And don't be ashamed. People who work in these social services have seen everything and aren't going to judge you the way civilians do. As for dealing with civilians just stay clean and don't carry a huge backpack around (if you can help it) and they probably won't even know. Once you're in survival mode (not as extreme as post-zombie-apocalypse survival mode) you stop being as ashamed of your situation. It's weird. Someone offers to buy you a lunch now you might politely say no. Once you're homeless you say yes without a second thought. It's Ok.

Getting out of homelessness can be tricky. I'm still homeless so obviously I haven't figured it out. But I suspect it's a bit too snowflakey to really respond to in a useful manner.
posted by bfootdav at 11:43 AM on November 13, 2015 [15 favorites]

Is moving out of London a possibility? It sounds like you have enough cash for a deposit most places out of London. Is there a reason you can't get housing benefit and jsa?

I know this isn't what you're asking for but planning for homelessness seems insane to me. You have friends, family and money (and your sobriety - congrats!) and even though its not what it was, we do still have a welfare state in this country. You also have a fair bit of time. Can you contact a moderator to add more information on your situation? I'm confused as to why you feel sleeping rough is your only option.

Have you spoken to your friends? I don't care how bad my own circumstances got, I can't imagine not offering my couch to a friend who was about to be homeless.

My advice is stop planning to be homeless like its an inevitability, spend the next 6 weeks fighting to keep a roof over your head. Getting back on your feet will be so much easier if you're warm, dry and healthy. And if you really are literally out of options, please don't rule out staying in a shelter if its possible.

Also, talk to Crisis London - they can help you even before you become homeless
posted by missmagenta at 12:17 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

Shelter has a useful set of resources about homelessness issues.
posted by davemack at 12:46 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Additional resources may be available from www.londondistresscentre.com. (via)
Volunteers are available to provide telephone support and problem solving skills 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
posted by Little Dawn at 1:04 PM on November 13, 2015

I do on and off volunteer admin for a group called Pathways Connect, which is a residential rehabilitation programme run by three social workers in Dudley, West Midlands. They have residential places for homeless men where your housing benefit covers rent and counselling for up to two years. They arrange your access to all the services you will need and arrange visits & transport for you.

This housing will give you time to rebuild your life in a safe, supportive environment with a lot of people who tell me they have the first reason to stay in a new place in years. You can go anywhere from here.

This group does not have a website or a Facebook page. Pathways Connect's number is 01384 253 011 and they check messages overnight or message me and I will pass you their mobile phone number tonight to arrange you getting here and meeting you. Dudley is a surprisingly nice place with an excellent market, good food and some good night life. Very close to Birmingham and 97 minutes from London Euston. There are jobs within walking distance of both houses. Plus the countryside is close and totally worth it even in the winter.
posted by parmanparman at 1:12 PM on November 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

a winter sleeping bag, winter coat, good boots (lots of walking), sturdy bag, and some necessary tools, etc.

Are you including a (used?) smartphone in there? Not necessarily even with a working connection plan, just the device and charger+batteries. You will probably need to navigate a complex patchwork of aid, shelter, and welfare services etc, so being able to find the necessary info (and fill out forms) online at the nearest free wifi will make life simpler than needing to find/use free public computer terminals. It will also make it easier for people to get in touch with you (free email etc), which is obviously important for finding and taking advantage of opportunities, and for your friends who care about you. Get birth records, bank accounts, tax numbers etc, into the cloud.
posted by anonymisc at 2:11 PM on November 13, 2015

Where I live in the US, some of what you are planning to buy is given out by homeless shelters and charities, like new sleeping bags and coats. Check out all the possible options for getting supplies before spending your own cash.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:49 PM on November 13, 2015

Shelter should be your first port of call. Their advice line is 0808 800 4444.

Single homeless people normally have no statutory right to housing in the UK, but this may be different is some circumstances, if they are classed as a 'vulnerable person'. There is no exact definition and so some extent it is dependent on the local authority, but it does sometimes include people dealing with addiction.*

(*Im ex-homeless and subsequently did a lot of work as a housing/homelessness activist but I haven't lived in the UK for 7 years so my knowledge isn't current.)

In London there is always the option of squatting, its not something to try alone but there are practical squatting nights in London that would give you a chance to meet up with others:

It may not be for everyone, as they are heavily Christian, and but I had some contact with the Emmaus communities in my work and I came to respect what they did, they have a policy of never turning people away, which is very rare.

You have a time to prepare, get to know your rights, what resources are available and try to come up with some alternatives to ending up on the streets, however difficult. The great danger of living on the streets is that it becomes all consuming: you have a *very* short period to get off the streets beyond which people typically end up staying on the streets for two years or more. You should start reaching out to your friends now, if you can find people to couch-surf with and can rotate so you don't end staying with one person for too long it will be easier.

It sounds crazy to say this but I credit reading poetry with saving my life when I was homeless. It wasn't the poetry per se, but that fact that reading it provided a a sort of calm center I could return to amid the chaos when I didn't have a home to do that. Many of my peers didn't come through that time successfully (either dead or succumbed to long term alcoholism or heroin addiction) despite sometime living in better circumstances. Personal qualities aside, that one of the few thing I can point to that separated in any way, it was the thing that gave me the strength and space to constantly pick myself up and go at it again. Poetry may not be it for you but try to create some inner place that can center you and offer a little of the protection a home should. It's something like inner self-defense, a reminder of your own intrinsic self-worth. Don't ever give it up.
posted by tallus at 6:03 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

How to deal with and navigate being homeless and coping in general ?

By staying sober. Congrats on the month, that's really wonderful (and not easy!). Without sobriety, everything will be so much harder. I just marked five years and that's been my experience.
posted by soakimbo at 6:48 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm really sorry to hear about this.

If you can use a library for internet access, try making some extra money on MSE's Boost Your Income forums. A lot of supportive people there who are also very low income. There's also another forum called The Money Shed that sometimes posts what MSE does not.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 4:10 AM on November 14, 2015

But the thing with a shelter is that it's not prison -- you can leave any time you want.

In Britain, if you voluntarily leave a homeless shelter then you count as having "made yourself intentionally homeless" and the council will suspend your benefits as well as curtailing your access to their services.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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