Living on the Edge: Lessons Learned from Homeless Survival

Very few people want to become homeless. Usually, people live a lifestyle out of necessity rather than out of choice.

Surviving on the streets is a difficult life with a steep learning curve. Homeless survival techniques can transfer very easily to many other situations that may strike during an SHTF.

The following is a list of the best homeless survival skills:

  • Know Where You Can Find a Place to Sleep
  • Old Newspapers Have Many Uses
  • Make Sure You Have Refillable Bottles
  • Stay in Areas That You’re Familiar With
  • Wear Practical Clothes
  • Get Access to a First Aid Kit as Soon as You Can
  • Keep Yourself Warm When You Can
  • Choose Your Food as Wisely as Possible
  • Maintain a Clean Appearance
  • Recycle Your Stuff When Possible
  • Get A Homeless Survival Companion
  • Keep Your Things Close
  • Avoid Fighting
  • Store Food When You Can

Urban survival skills are easy to take from the homeless as most people living on the streets do it in urban areas.

Homeless Survival Tips

These 14 homeless survival tips translate well into many other survival areas and don’t only apply to the homeless.

Know Where You Can Find a Place to Sleep

One of the greatest challenges in homeless survival is finding a safe place to sleep. The homeless are always at risk of getting mugged or assaulted, making a secure place to sleep high on the list of priorities.

Shelters are often high in crime, making them pretty low on the list of places to stay for the homeless.

Try to find a place where you can see someone approaching you from a distance. Sleeping in the open also makes you visible to others, so there will be a higher chance of someone seeing you in case you’re attacked or robbed.

Sleeping in these places does have drawbacks. You’ll be more exposed to the elements, so you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of sleeping in the open.

Don’t sleep in contact with the ground if you can. It will pull heat away from your body and make you more likely to suffer cold-related injuries.

An old mattress or several layers of blankets will make sleeping more comfortable if you can find them.

Old Newspapers Have Many Uses

Newspapers are easy to acquire in many areas and have many different survival uses.

Don’t overlook the benefit of simply having something to read. It can help pass the time and keep you updated on local news.

Several layers of newspaper can be used as a blanket or set up to keep the wind off you while you sleep. When it’s cold outside, you can also stuff crumpled newspaper into your clothing to provide insulation that will keep you much warmer.

If your shoes get wet, you can use newspaper to help dry them out. Crumble the newspaper up and loosely pack your shoes with it. As the newspaper gets wet, replace it with dry newspaper until your shoes are completely dry.

Make Sure You Have Refillable Bottles

One of the most important parts of survival is having access to clean water. Refillable bottles will allow you to take advantage of water fountains or public restrooms to collect clean drinking water.

Stay hydrated, and keep these bottles full whenever you can! As with any survival situation, you don’t want to wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking.

These bottles don’t need to be fancy. Any clean bottle will do.

Stay in Areas That You’re Familiar With

Being familiar with your surroundings is going to make survival much easier.

It will make finding sleeping areas, public restrooms, food, and more much easier. It will also ensure you’ll be able to find a place to run to if you’re ever forced to seek help during a robbery or assault.

Wear Practical Clothes

Clothing in a survival situation has nothing to do with fashion. You should dress in layers whenever possible.

Try to find several layers of clothing to wear. This allows you to regulate your temperature best and keep you warm during cold weather.

Get Access to a First Aid Kit as Soon as You Can

Get a simple first aid kit as soon as possible.

Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, and some alcohol, are probably all you need. This will allow you to keep small cuts and wounds clean and prevent infection.

Keep Yourself Warm When You Can

While staying warm may not be easy, you must try to stay warm in the winter.

It’s easy to succumb to cold-related injuries if you aren’t careful. Simple things like a small fire are a great way to keep yourself warm in colder environments.

Choose Your Food as Wisely as Possible

Money will most likely not be easy to come by, so you need to make good decisions when you have enough to buy food. Candy and snacks aren’t the best options.

You will want to choose items that will fill you up and provide high calories.

If you’re scrounging for food, try to avoid items that could make you sick.

Maintain a Clean Appearance

Staying clean has multiple advantages.

If you can stay as clean looking as possible, you’re less likely to be kicked out of public areas like restrooms and stores.

If you have a clean appearance, you’re also more likely to be treated better by strangers on the street. This also goes for any interactions you may have with the local police.

Good personal hygiene also helps to keep diseases at bay. Getting sick can be one of the most life-threatening situations in a survival situation.

Recycle Your Stuff When Possible

Creativity in utilizing your stuff is key to success when you’re in a survival situation, and living on the street is no different.

Re-use and repurpose as much as you can to limit what you need to carry and fill in the gaps in what you own.

Get A Homeless Survival Companion

Companions for the homeless usually fall into one of two categories. Usually, they are either another homeless person or a stray dog.

A companion of some kind can help fight off depression, and having someone to talk to is great to keep your spirits up.

Choosing another homeless person to partner up with can help by allowing you to divide the workload that comes with being in a survival situation. Finding food and water and providing security is easier when you do it with someone else.

You’ll probably notice that many homeless people choose to travel with a dog. Adopting a dog helps to fight off depression, and they can make your life seem a lot less hopeless than if you were all alone.

They also provide security and can keep you warm by adding body heat when it’s cold outside.

Keep Your Things Close

There is a reason that many homeless people travel with shopping carts. Keeping your few possessions with you at all times is very important.

Don’t get too comfortable in an area that you’re staying in. You want to be able to get all of your belongings ready to go at a moment’s notice. You never know when your situation will take a turn for the worse.

Keeping the things that are helping you survive close at hand also prevents them from getting stolen.

Avoid Fighting

This is perhaps one of the best takeaways for someone in a survival situation. This goes beyond just not getting into fights; it also covers avoiding situations where you could get injured.

Staying away from dangerous situations unless it’s necessary is important.

If you get into a fight, chances are you will be injured. Even if you win the fight, you’ll probably walk away in worse shape than before the fight.

Minor injuries can easily lead to infection if you’re in a survival situation. This is especially true if you’re in a situation where your hygiene may be compromised and staying clean may be difficult.

Store Food When You Can

When you’re on the street, you don’t know when your next meal may come in. This makes storing what food you can extremely important.

If you can get your hands on canned food or other types that won’t spoil, you should keep them for later use if possible. Carrying them on you or even caching them in a safe place are both good options.

If you happen to get your hands on some cash, stock up on what you can to give yourself some security!


Homelessness is a difficult lifestyle that is often a result of necessity rather than choice. However, the skills and techniques used for survival on the streets can be applied to other survival situations, such as an SHTF scenario.

The tips discussed in this article include finding a safe place to sleep, using old newspapers, having refillable water bottles, staying in familiar areas, wearing practical clothing, having a first aid kit, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene, and recycling and storing resources, can all be useful for anyone looking to increase their chances of survival in difficult circumstances. It is important to remember that homeless individuals face unique challenges and should be treated with empathy and understanding.

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