Outsider


A picture taken from the apartment of a friend I was staying with as part of my couchsurfing in search of work. I am moving out on October 15th, 2014. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.
A picture taken from the apartment of a friend I was staying with as part of my couchsurfing in search of work. I am moving out on October 15th, 2014. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

The friend I’ve been staying with has been keeping me up-to-date on her moving plans. On September 30th, 2014, she informed me that I need to move out by October 15th, or a little over 2 weeks from this post date.

Since she first told me of her plans to move, I’ve asked other friends and family members if I could stay with them for short periods after my friend moves to her new location. Unfortunately, with the move date moved up by two weeks (it was originally set for the end of October, 2014), I realize that I’m not going to find enough people to guarantee a place to sleep each night, even with the Couchsurfing option I wrote about in a previous post. In short, I’ll be homeless.

This is not the first time I’ve faced being homeless. I’ve been homeless before, as I hinted at in a previous post. It wasn’t for very long: I only stayed at the House of Friendship men’s shelter in Kitchener, Ontario for a few days. I won’t go into the events that led to that point, but I’ll stress that it was an unavoidable situation. Let me tell you what it was like.

From 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. I had to find something to occupy my time since I was not allowed to remain at the shelter during the day. There’s only so many parks, malls, libraries and coffee shops I could visit before it got old. I didn’t have my phone and laptop with me (you do not bring those things to a men’s shelter if you know what’s good for you). What belongings I did have were locked away in a storage box by my bed, in a room shared with two other men.

Time passed so slowly the day felt more like a week. I had no idea where to go or what to do, except for things I made up to do on the fly. I couldn’t conduct a job search. I mean, what was the point? I had no phone or address. In fact, I couldn’t really do anything to progress forward in my life. Everything was on hold. I felt like I was trapped in a state of existence that operated outside of reality.

Now I could be facing those days again, and I have a list of questions to answer. Would I go back to a shelter? If not, where would I stay in-between friends and family members? How would I constructively use my time? Where would I go to sleep? Could I conduct a job search?

The first time I faced homelessness, I didn’t have any experience on the subject, so I struggled to cope with it. This time around, however, I not only have a little experience, but I’ve been researching the subject of homelessness while looking for a place to stay. I’ve read a few sites run by people who are homeless, such as The Homeless Guy, and Humble Harve’s Homeless Handbook. I know what the acronym TABS (To Avoid Being Seen when scouting for a place to sleep)  and the term bus-napping (taking a nap on the bus or subway) mean. I learned how a gym membership can serve as a base of operations to store your belongings and get cleaned up.

This does not make homelessness something easy, just easier than the first time. It will still be a challenge and this winter will introduce elements I did not encounter during my first time. At least I prepared for this as best as I could and that other people are aware of my situation.

I’ll try to have my laptop and smartphone with me so I can write about it as well on this blog.

Thanks for reading!

David

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4 thoughts on “Outsider

  1. Hi David,

    I’ve meant to post a message to you about living the mobile lifestyle and/or homelessness.

    While I’ve not yet been placed in the situation (but close) to couch-surfing that is actually considered on the fringe or a form of homelessness per se by some, I’ve come close a few times myself and even more so recently. Nonetheless, always remember , even if one becomes homeless , you want to try to not look homeless in appearance; this is emphasized by experienced homeless people and some other homeless sources as well. This is because, Unfortunately, people are more willing to help someone who looks presentable rather than not, thus the superficial society we live in nowadays, sadly enough.

    HOMELESS INFO RESOURCES :
    ———————————————-

    However, I’ve been researching related aspects of homelessness for quite some time, and like you, also some of my sources are experienced individuals that have been homeless. Here are a couple of my sources in example that may offer some supplemental information for you and others.

    The Sage Vagabond : http://bit.ly/1yzGLRz

    AND

    Survival Guide to Homelessness : http://bit.ly/1yzGPkk

    Homeless Shelters & sleeping :
    ——————————————

    Nevertheless, here is what I’ve learned consistently from many experienced homeless people & homeless forums from many developed countries in regards to homeless shelters; avoid sleeping in them overnight unless its a frigid cold night i.e cold temperatures -15 / -20 and colder. The reason to avoid sleeping in them are …

    • possessions stolen while you sleep including your footwear on feet

    • contracting bedbugs & lice

    • breeding ground for illnesses

    • difficulty sleeping due to noises from other homeless people

    Therefore, its better to find a place to sleep independently indoors in the cities when its cold i.e underground garages, apartment building top floor stairwells, abandoned building / homes , buildings or houses under construction …etc.

    If you live in a country like Canada with cold frigid winters where you could freeze to death its safer and wiser ( unless you can afford a high end four season tent with proper gear ) to sleep indoors in the above examples I’ve given. Thus all you need is some minimal sleeping gear to sleep independently in the earlier indoor examples I’ve mentioned above; here are some examples of the sleeping gear…

    • an envelope style sleeping bag ( avoid mummy bags ) > http://bit.ly/1yzJz14

    • a sleeping mat pad > http://bit.ly/1yzJGda

    The sleeping pad can be made of foam or inflatable i.e a Thermorest pad. You can also add a blanket or liner to increase warmth in the sleeping bag and or wear thermal under garments. You can even add newspaper inside your clothes for extra insulation. For a pillow , just place a sweater inside a pillow case. All this would easily compress inside a rolling luggage case or wheeled backpack.

    HOMELESS – TRANSPORTING POSSESSIONS :
    ——————————————————————-

    Furthermore, when traveling or living a mobile lifestyle / homelessness, .. how you pack and transport your possessions becomes far more important. Thus many people would suggest a backpack. Unless its short term or you plan to roam/hike in the wilderness ; I’d say a backpack is not a good idea if the situation becomes long term i.e. months. Through research I discovered even kids and students that use a backpack within a few short years have been reported to develop shoulder, back, neck or combination of wear & tear muscle injuries …that are not easy to heal. These are also known as R.S.I or repetitive strain injuries And as a person also ages these type of injuries can also becomes more problematic and common. Middle age people may already have back injuries or similar injuries in variable degrees thus more the reason for my suggestion.

    Here is a source I learned of why rolling luggage is wiser especially in the long-term.

    • Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel: Backpacks vs Rolling Luggage : http://bit.ly/1yzIruz

    Therefore the solution to avoid these injury issues ( that could have you discarding possessions along the way to relieve burden) when choosing gear to transport your possessions is to consider

    • A Wheeled Backpack > http://bit.ly/1yzHAd4

    • OR Rolling Luggage > http://bit.ly/1yzHMcy

    The wheels allow for better mobility with minimal muscle fatigue and injury via (wear & tear). I personally opted with rolling luggage and a small netbook/laptop bag, if the need for me to suddenly have to adapt to the homeless lifestyle for a spell, arises.

    HOMELESS – SECURING POSSESSIONS :
    ———————————————————–

    The next thing is to buy a small travel combination lock for the main compartment where you’ll store most of your possessions in your rolling luggage via locking the zippers. And also if you have any other small bag it should also have a combination lock. Key padlocks aren’t a good idea since you can lose the keys unlike a combination. You might also especially want a chain and combination lock to secure your bags to a bed while sleeping in a couchsurfer’s place or a overnight bed at a shelter to discourage theft of your possessions. You can buy a combination lock with a chain perhaps at your local dollar store. The combination luggage locks can be acquired at a luggage store or at…

    • Walmart > http://bit.ly/1yzIVAT

    As an extra piece of advice, only leave your possessions in bag / backpack / luggage unattended when you absolutely have no choice. And if you have to when couchsurfing and at work , having a shower or sleeping at a shelter ..lock it with a chain and combination lock to a bed , post or some some similar solid structure as well as secure the main compartment bag zippers with a travel combination lock. A locker or similar secure containment may not always be available, therefore be prepared !!!

    HOMELESS – CLOTHING TO PACK :
    ————————————————–

    Remember the idea is not to stay homeless so you want to look presentable to get out of the homeless situation. Therefore you want clothing to be minimal, flexible and durable as much as possible. Also remember a person clothing may differ in amount or style if they’re planning on living in the wilderness or remaining homeless for some reason. Here is an idea of clothing to pack if adapting a mobile lifestyle of sorts.

    • 2 White long sleeve dress shirts
    • 1 Dark long sleeve dress shirt (optional)
    • 2-3 Sweaters or fleece tops (if in cold climate – for layering up)
    • 2-3 pants / trousers (black – good for everything & shows less dirt)
    • 2 ties or more
    • Socks ( 1-2 pairs wool socks)
    • Underwear
    • T-shirts
    • Thermal underwear ( if in cold climate)
    • Winter gloves
    • Winter hat
    • Mens Rubber Overshoes – ( wear over shoes with proper socks for rain or winter protection )
    • 2-3 scarves ( in cold weather – optional)
    • Small cheap Umbrella ( buy at dollar store)

    Mens Rubber Overshoes can be purchased cheaply at Walmart or even some Dollar stores.

    While traveling you could wear a medium length Coat / Jacket and casual walking shoes (black color preferably since they’re flexible in purpose). Moreover the coat could be made warmer in cooler weather by layering with the mentioned sweaters or tops underneath. And of course the coat and shoes wouldn’t take up packing space since you’re wearing them. When the warmer spring or summer weather rolls around again you could make packing adjustments if needed and you find yourself in the homeless or mobile lifestyle situation still.

    Furthermore, I suggest keeping clothing mostly dark blue / black, grey or perhaps some white, since they work with most any situation and the t-shirts, ties and scarves take little packing space and can be colored to add fashionable flare to your sparse transitional homeless / mobile lifestyle wardrobe. Again, you’re trying to look presentable while working at getting out of the homeless situation.

    To minimize wrinkling of your clothes the best and common advice is to “Roll all your clothing” but separately placed into one or two plastic zippered blanket bags ( find these at dollar stores ) inside your wheeled backpack or luggage . This will keep your clothes and bag more organized.

    Except trousers & dress shirts all the rest of your clothes can be rolled in any manner and will be fine. However for the trousers/ pants and dress shirts here is some short videos …

    • How to Roll-Pack Your Dress Pants : http://bit.ly/1vwhJx5

    The plastic suit bags ( unlike in video below) can be purchased at dollar stores.

    • How to fold a suit, pants and shirt to go in a suitcase without wrinkling : http://bit.ly/1vwi7f7

    HOMELESS – MONEY & I.D :
    —————————————

    Store some money in a wallet. But store most of your money, debit card, credit card , licenses and other genuine I.D in a “waist wallet or money belt “. You will wear this around your waist hidden under your shirt. This will remain hidden and minimize you being completely & unexpectedly robbed !!!

    Something like this one at Walmart is advised > http://bit.ly/1vwj3Ai

    Luggage stores and dollar stores may have them too.

    Also keep photo copies of your I.D in a password compressed zip file at a FREE online storage account for backup in case your I.D is lost. Online FREE storage sources below …

    • Dropbox : http://bit.ly/nEa7Cp
    • Boxnet : http://bit.ly/1vwjY3C
    • Adrive : http://bit.ly/1vwk3nW

    And also keep I.D copies in your outside luggage pockets for easy access if you are stopped & need to identify yourself to police.

    HOMELESS – COMMUNICATION , ENTERTAINMENT & INFORMATION SOURCES :
    ——————————————————————————————————————

    CELLPHONE :

    If you have a cellphone keep it cheaply filled with a PayAsYouGo card for $10 – $20 / month. Use this for emergency calls and receiving callbacks from prospective employers ONLY. Remember, while homeless you want to conserve your money and watch where its being spent.

    Otherwise conserve your cellphone airtime and make all your outgoing calls from free phone sources i.e. from employment centers , social service centers, friends places , …etc., or as a last resort from a payphone for brief calls. You can also buy a $5 or $10 long distance phone card i.e. CiCi … and make calls locally or long distance also from any payphone or landline. This can be also an added backup for emergency calls. Long distance phone cards can last 3 – 6 months before they expire if all the airtime is not used beforehand.

    LAPTOP / NETBOOK /IPAD :

    These can be obviously used for Education / Information (job-seeking), Entertainment ( online movies & games) and Communication via FREE programs or APPS like “Skype, Oovoo, Google Video …etc.

    If a person doesn’t have a laptop / iPad; FREE internet access is available at most libraries and employment centers. Do not use your cellphone for internet access since it will not be free and having a cellphone under a monthly contract is not wise financially when homeless unless someone else is paying for it. This seems obvious, but you’d be amazed at some people’s thinking.

    Okay, anymore information and tips on “homelessness” subject other than what I’ve provided here insofar can be garnered more at the two following sources I provided earlier above in this posted response under the heading ” HOMELESS INFO RESOURCES.”

    Anyway, I hope this information and it’s resources assists you, David, or anyone whom becomes homeless for whatever reason.

    In Solidarity,
    Ed

    1. Ed, as always, thank you for your very detailed and helpful comments. The information you provided will serve as a valuable resource when the going gets tough.

  2. Wow. That’s too bad, and though I’m not taking sides on this, I think your friend should have let you stay until after Christmas because Canadian winters suck. At least you were covering all the bases including the homeless one. Even in a sh_tty situation it pays to have a plan.

    I’ve been following your blog since I started posting on Disgust === whoops I mean Discus === and I’ve been pulling for you. I’d take you in but I live with my parents in a basement room, and I think my Dad and my boyfriend would say no. I left you my contact details in private in case you need help. Leave me your contact info in case I got leads.

    I was never homeless but I know how to get by without much sleep because I went to university so here are some ideas. You should grab a bunch of naps during the daytime because most places will be closed at night. I’m not sure if that will give you dream sleep which is important but you at least won’t be physically tired. Libraries are the best place to crash followed by Starbucks because Tim Horton’s don’t have loveseats and sofas.

    If you are going to crash with friends or family, do not stay for like a week or month but a few days at a time. This way you can Starbucks or library sleep for one or two days, go to your friend or family for one or two days, and then go back to Starbucks or the library. You’ll sleep a lot better that way.

    I would haunt downtown during the winter since the downtown is a little warmer than the burgs and the coffee shops and libraries are closer together.

    If I think of anything else, I promise to let you know.

    You take care, okay?

    Purnima

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