Sunday, August 3, 2014

Where To Sleep When You're Homeless - Advice Delivered With Sarcasm

This piece was written in 2007 to help people understand some of the things homeless people go through.  It also speaks of things I actually did.  I'm not sure much of it is a great idea but there have been requests for me to re-post it after the website it was hosted on until July 31, 2014 ceased to be.  Please note my writing voice has changed a great deal and the tone of bitterness is really a thing of the past for me.  If you'd like some real advice about rough sleeping, you can find some at the website linked to this sentence.

The homeless shelters are full, you got beat up there too many times, or whatever. Now you need to find somewhere else to sleep. I'm not saying these places are legal to sleep or even that they are safe. They are just some of the places I slept when I was homeless where few people harassed or harmed me.

Depending on the lighting situation it is sometimes possible to find a relatively safe, if somewhat odoriferous crash space in a public bathroom. Only try this where there is a separate, exterior access door for the restroom. Businesses and such don't care for nappers in their johns so the key here is unseen access. After a string of beatings I actually crashed in a port-a-potty for a few nights. It stunk to high heaven but it gave my ribs a chance to heal. It's amazing what a locking door can contribute to a good night's rest, even in the most disgusting of accommodations.

Dumpster surrounds can be decent havens under the right circumstances if you follow a few rules. Never, ever sleep there in the daytime, dusk, or early dawn hours when garbage pickup often occurs. Never sleep inside the dumpster. Always check for security cameras before choosing your nap zone. Remember, even with these precautions you could still be surprised by the garbage truck and get squashed by a dumpster. However, safety is always relative.

Those large patches of wild brush and trees that tend to crop up between big box stores like Barnes & Nobles and Wal-Mart and in the drainage areas can provide excellent rustic camping areas. You can sometimes even find a secluded or unlikely to be observed area in mall landscaping. At night, the degree of concealment necessary depends on the lighting and the potential for foot or automobile traffic.

You'll want some kind of tarp or plastic to sleep on as these spots tend to be rather dirty and can be very moist. You'll need to be very tidy when playing urban Thoreau both for environmental reasons and for reasons of concealment. Nothing attracts unwanted attention like dirty little dens and loose trash. Keep your bedroll portable, never leave anything lying around. Remember, you are homeless so you don't have storage space. Anything you stash somewhere might wander off or draw attention.

If you have a few dollars you can spring for an all day bus pass. Take short naps and make fairly frequent bus changes.

If you keep yourself very clean and presentable and you are young enough, local colleges and universities can be great for daytime napping. You can easily lay out for a snooze where you see students reading or chatting on the lawns. A book or notebook can be used as a prop if necessary. Move around the campus and stop your napping before the dinner hour. I've even walked right into a few campus gymnasiums to shower though I was turned away a few times. As long as you are under 30 and presentable likely no one will suspect you're homeless if anyone notices you at all.

Regardless of where you sleep while homeless you must be neat and tidy. Don't draw unwanted attention to yourself through littering or other bad behavior. The less you are noticed, the less potential there is for unsafe situations to occur.

How To Earn Money While Homeless Without A Regular Job

Please keep in mind this piece was written in the throes of anger at someone who made me feel like much less than a real person so don't take the "real person" bit to heart; it was intended as sarcasm but it doesn't seem to come across that way.

I wrote this piece about seven years ago and I think my writing "voice" has changed a great deal but I decided to leave it just as it was on Yahoo Voices where it was hosted for almost seven years starting when the site was still Associated Content.  Oddly enough, despite its weird and somewhat failed sarcastic tone, a lot of people read it and some people even claimed they got useful information out of it.  So I bit my tongue and squinted my eyes and here it is.

Of course you'd probably want to start with jobs like real people have such as data entry, customer service, retail, sales, cleaning, manufacturing or other traditional jobs. However, you might need to aim for less agreeable occupations such as porta potty cleaner, road kill clean up specialist, or decomp crime scene cleaner. Even for these dirty jobs employers won't hire someone without an address, front teeth, or clean clothes. So, as a homeless person you may need to lower your standards a bit. Or you might just need to try a little bit different set of job hunting and money making strategies.

Try going door-to-door in lower middle class to upper middle class neighborhoods.

Follow your nose - if you smell poop there's probably a yard full of dog crap somewhere nearby. Listen for barking - dog feces usually come from dogs. Approach the stinky yarded home and knock on the door. Offer to pick up all the dog manure in their yard for a few dollars. If they say they have nowhere to put it, offer to bury it in their yard for another few bucks.

After you run out of dog droppings to clean up in your territory look for houses with dirty windows, unkempt lawns, clogged gutters, or yards or porches full of rubbish. Using the same approach knock on the doors of those homes and offer to fix their issue for a few dollars.

Once you've mastered these noble trades you can move onto more genteel occupations.

Find the elderly part of town. Just look for lots of old people. Ask if you can help them carry in groceries when you see them carrying them. Don't ask for payment for this. Then ask if they have any disagreeable tasks such as cleaning the cat box, scrubbing the toilet, taking out garbage, shopping, washing dishes, dusting, cleaning, moving furniture or anything else unpleasant or strenuous they'd rather not do. Offer to do these chores for a few dollars. Old people are great, especially crazy cat ladies. Sometimes you'll find one that offers to feed you and let you clean up. You may even get to sleep on someone's porch or in a garage sometime.

In states that have can and bottle deposit/redemption laws - pick up cans and bottles. Check any cigarette packages you see for money, especially near bars and clubs.

You can also sell what are called "street papers." These publications are created with you in mind. They are a way to earn money with minimal skills. You should be able to find someone selling these in any major city. The instructions for getting some to sell yourself can usually be found inside the paper or a friendly seller might tell you how to do it himself. With many such papers your initial supply is available free of charge.

By all means, please go to your local library to access sites such as Craigslist on the Internet to look for odd jobs or gigs in your geographical region.

To increase the likelihood of being hired at any job interview you need to present as tidy and odor-free an appearance as possible. Do your best to wash up in public restrooms, keep your hair short and brushed, don't drink, and if you are a man - for God's sake shave!

I hope you've found this article helpful. Good luck on your job search!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Where My Writing Through A Strange Life Is Taking Me

I've been writing right along even though I haven't been sharing it here. Currently, I'm focusing most of my enjoyment writing on a project that includes serializing a science fiction novel online.  So I started a blog about the project at where you can find out more about it.  This blog will probably lie fallow while I cultivate that one, mainly because it's my current obsession.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Have You Ever Practiced Laughing?

Image Credit: gökçe özaslan, SXC
About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism.  That means that, while I have a degree of autism I can often pass for normal for short stretches of time.  Honestly, I'm not sure if I could reliably pass a Turing test although I'm undeniably human.

When I was younger, I didn't know I had a syndrome, I just knew I was a freak, a human being that others saw as just a little less real than themselves.  I recently wrote about something very small, something other people might find odd, which was oddly difficult and painful for me.  I couldn't laugh right.

I also found things funny that other people found upsetting or maybe it was that people were upset by the laughter rather than by what triggered it.  I often thought that people were just lousy at seeing the humor in things, that maybe normal people were all just a little bit stupid.

Anyway, here's the little memoir I wrote about practicing laughter to try and get it right.

Writing Through a Strange Life

Image Credit: image created by Fred Fokkelman SXC,

Every life is strange because everyone is a stranger sometimes.

I've always been a stranger and I've always felt as if I'm a foreigner from a country that doesn't exist.  I used to let my alien feelings get to me and I used to try to mold myself to fit in.

But as I've approached middle age, I've figured out that there is no fitting in.  I am who I am and it isn't worth the struggle to pretend I'm something other people want me to be.  And strangely enough, there's something of value in being myself.  There's a strange fragile beauty in who I am that goes beyond my physical unattractiveness and my disastrous social awkwardness.

So I've decided that I am who I am and there's nothing wrong with that.  So I now get through my feelings of strangeness by writing my way through.  Dark spots combine on lighted screens to form tools for digging out from under the weight of unnamed emotions.  They form letters and lines of letters and clumps and clusters of words and meanings and somehow they form a coat of armor and let me touch other people skin to skin at the same time.

I've started this blog to share some of that writing.  Much of it is already out on the web.  It sits orphaned and unseen for the most part and people don't usually see more than a single piece of it.  But certain pieces combine together to form a picture, not of my physical body, but of me, the real me.  They show my flaws and my pain and my heart, things so much more important in the greater scheme of things than images of my epidermis and my hair follicles and the set of my lips over my teeth.

If you want to start a relationship with the real me or even to just try to see through the eyes of a total stranger in a way you haven't before, take this journey with me and read some of me.