SHTF Living When TSHTF
Tips and advice on how to survive while homeless when SHTF!
Last Revised 07/20/2017

Remember the Rule Of 3 for SHTF survival:

  • You can only survive about 3 minutes without air.
  • You can only survive about 3 hours without shelter/adequate protection from the environment.
  • You can only survive about 3 days without water.
  • You can only survive about 3 weeks without food.
  • You can only survive about 3 months without medication (for chronic conditions).
Homeless Urban Outdoor Campers
These people are not "urban outdoor campers" by choice.

How a Homeless Survival and Escape Kit Can Provide the Items
You Need to Help You Accomplish the Goals and Tasks for Escaping Homelessness

This kit and advice assumes your you don't have a vehicle/car that can still move under its own power.
If you have a vehicle/car that can still move under its own power,
you need a Living In Vehicle/Car Survival and Escape Kit instead.

Your goals to escape homelessness are:

  • Getting a regular job.
  • Keeping a regular job.
  • Conserving enough money to get an apartment or rent a room.

To do these things you must be:

  • Clean.
  • Well-groomed.
  • Rested.
  • Fed.
  • Healthy.

To accomplish your goals you must have:

  • Mailing address.
  • Phone number.
  • Travel alarm clock or wristwatch with alarm.
  • Hygiene and First Aid kits.
  • Place to bathe.
  • Clean clothes.
  • Food and eating utensils.
  • Clean place to sleep or a way to stay clean when you sleep.
  • Dependable way to get to your job on days and times you are working.

Items for a Basic Homelessness Survival and Escape Kit

Some of these items may be in your Every Day Carry Kit (EDC Kit) already.

  1. Storage. Staying with a relative or a friend is frequently a logical first step for people who lose their homes or are evicted from their apartments. Possessions may be stored in public storage areas for a while, but if the money completely runs out, then attempts are made to sell off goods stored in the PSA. I recommend you attempt to sell off the goods stored in a PSA sooner rather than later. For example, if all your stored possession fit in a 10' x 10' storage area, sell as many goods as possible to fit in a 5' x 10' storage area instead. This potentially halves the money you pay for storage and frees up cash for other uses. Try and store all your possessions with your relatives or friends so you don't have to pay any storage fees at all. However, I have found that most friends and relatives will only let you store your possessions for only a limited time because they really don't have the room to store all that extra stuff. If you do decide to store stuff with a friend or relative that you are not staying with, be sure to contact them frequently (at least once a month) to keep them informed on your progress towards getting your own place. I had one friend store stuff with me when he lost his apartment and became homeless and I didn't hear from him for a year. Luckily, he found a place to live (with his new girlfriend) right before I tossed his stuff. I had another friend who lost her apartment and become homeless who did not contact me for 2-3 years and then contacted me to set up a time to get her stuff. Naturally, I had thrown out her stuff after 6 months of her not contacting me because I needed the extra storage space.
  2. Backpack. A place to keep all your important possessions. A backpack is probably the single most important item you can buy for your homeless survival kit. A backpack allows you to carry all your belongings with you at all times. Unattended items will usually get stolen or vandalized, so everything you absolutely need must come with you wherever you go. Sleep with your backpack on. I used to reverse mine and wear it on my front when I slept. You can buy a backpack at a thrift store like Goodwill or Salvation Army for about $5. Don't worry about how it looks, if it has cartoon characters on it or whatever, only concern yourself with whether or not it is tough and will hold up with lots of use. Don't buy anything too fancy or it might get stolen. Keep this in mind if you are buying a backpack for someone else, too. A compression sack may help fit everything in. Used by the army, this is a sack meant to be carried inside your backpack. Fill it with compressible items (usually sleeping bag and clothes), then squeeze everything down, usually by sitting on it. At the same time, tighten all the straps around the sack. It will retain its smaller size until opened again.
  3. Mylar Emergency (Space) Blanket. Mylar (space) blankets are great for any type of survival kit. A Mylar emergency blanket can keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Face the shiny side in to stay warm. Face the shiny side out to stay cool. Emergency preparedness kits have become popular and they usually include a Mylar blanket. You can usually find a kit containing a Mylar blanket and other useful items or a Mylar blanket by itself at stores like Target, Walmart, and K-Mart. I've also seen the blankets sold by themselves in drug-stores like Walgreen's, Rite-Aid, and CVS as well as in some dollar stores. You can usually buy a Mylar emergency blanket for under $3.
  4. Bar Soap, Antiperspirant, Baby Wipes, and Toilet Paper. It's hard to stay clean and smelling fresh without them. You can use bar soap to get yourself and even your clothes clean in a pinch. Bar soap usually costs less than $2. I like Ivory soap because it floats, which comes in handy if bathing in a river, stream, or lake. Since a major source of infection and illness is your hands, wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible. Get some good, scented antiperspirant. Be sure it says it's antiperspirant and not just deodorant. Antiperspirant contains deodorant but it also reduces the amount you sweat. Deodorant usually just covers up odors with a scent or perhaps neutralizes them. But deodorant still allows you to sweat and the sweat that wicks into your clothes will soon start to stink. You can get a stick of antiperspirant for around $2. If you have no access to water, baby wipes can be used as a substitute for soap and water. If you can not afford toilet paper, one homeless man said he used the easily available napkins found at every fast-food joint he ever wandered into and grabbed a BIG handful. He said "Wendy's have the best butt wipes".
  5. Brushes for Teeth and Hair, Razor, and a Toenail Clipper. Homeless does not have to equal unkempt. Well-brushed hair can pass for clean longer than unbrushed hair. A wide tooth comb will work too, and it is smaller to carry. You can buy travel-sized brushes for a dollar or less in many stores and combs run even less. Don't share your (wide tooth) comb or hair brush with anyone else to prevent the spread of head lice. You can't keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh without using a toothbrush so invest in a toothbrush and some toothpaste. Toothbrushes and toothpaste can usually be found for $2 or less. A toenail clipper can do double duty as both a fingernail clipper and a toenail clipper. Cutting your toenails regularly will prevent help them from becoming infected with fungus or creating holes in your socks and regular cutting and cleaning the dirt from under your fingernails will help make you more presentable on job interviews, especially when the job interviewer is female or when interviewing for a job involving the preparation of food. Shaving and trimming beards, moustaches, and sideburns will help make you more presentable during job interviews especially when interviewing for a job involving the preparation of food. Regularly shave underarm hair to reduce underarm odor. Cut and shave your pubic hair (as much as you can) to prevent the spread of pubic lice (crabs).
  6. Clothing. Certain fabrics withstand the rigors of homelessness better than others. Buy any clothing you can't get from a charity at a thrift store. If you can't find everything you need at a single one, go to others. If you can't find a particular item, wait a few days, they might get it in. Buy polyester or other thin, synthetic fiber shirts and pants; they might not look as nice but they shed dirt and wrinkles much more easily than natural fibers, also they can be rolled or folded up very small to pack away in a small bag or suitcase. Additionally, they dry more quickly when washed. Also, buy some colored cotton-polyester blend t-shirts (remember that cotton kills; use Polypropelene, Capilene, Polyester, Fleece, Nylon, Wool, or Gore-Tex for clothing wherever possible) of the sort that can be worn without a shirt over them. You can wear these t-shirts on days you don't have a job interview or work to go to. In my opinion, black should be the color of all your items, including bags. Black looks right at home in the city, can go longer between washings without looking dirty, makes your bags and pockets look smaller despite being packed with stuff, and will render you practically invisible at night. Try to get at least three shirts, three pairs of pants, and three t-shirts. If you stick to the suggested fabrics, your entire wardrobe will fit in a single washer and dryer load so you may be able to cheaply wash your clothes at a laundromat if your funds allow. When you do your laundry, if you can, wash your clothes in hot water and dry them on the "normal" setting to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs.
  7. Underwear. Underwear that dries quickly is the best choice. For women, the socks to get are called trouser socks. For men they are called dress socks. You can usually get these for about a dollar a pair in dollar stores or big box stores. If you can't wear synthetic material socks, buy the kind you can wear. Try and stay away from cotton because remember that cotton kills; use Polypropelene, Capilene, Polyester, Fleece, Nylon, Wool, or Gore-Tex for clothing wherever possible. Try to have at least three pairs of socks (preferably identical). The best underpants you can get for men are actually those silky bikini style briefs. The best underwear and bras for women also follow this trend: thin, synthetic fabrics which can be hand wash and dry quickly. They don't take as long to dry as cotton. In cold weather, I add long underwear. Try to have at least three sets of underwear. These are not the undergarments homed people tend to desire but their ease of care and ability to dry quickly allows you to have clean underclothes which feels a lot better than the alternative. Washing clean and shedding dirt easily as well as drying very quickly are what make me consider these types of underclothing to be good choices.
  8. Phone Number. Cell phones can provide stable phone numbers. If you can't convince someone to let you use their phone number as a message phone you may need to get a cell phone. Pay as you go cell phones are getting cheaper these days. You can buy a cell phone for as little as $15 and you can get enough minutes for three months use for about $25. This will give you a functional phone number to put on job applications. Additionally, many cell phones have an alarm clock function which will help you keep appointments and get to interviews on time. If your cell phone has a clock and alarm function, you won't need to also buy a wristwatch or a travel alarm clock. It can be tricky to keep your cell phone charged. If possible, try to pick up a solar cell phone charger. If you have a job, plug your phone in at work. If not, perhaps a friend or acquaintance who has a home could be convinced to let you charge it at their home.
  9. Internet. Free WiFi is one of the things that make life bearable for the homeless. Every homeless person I met had a cell phone, tablet, or laptop. It's your lifeline to civilization. From your phone, tablet, or laptop, you can gain on-line access and apply for jobs, find out information about where to shelter or park and stay in touch with contacts through text, call, or email. This makes parking areas near free WiFi hotly desired spots. Libraries also generally offer free WiFi. (Note: When using public wi-fi, always use a Virtual Private Network or VPN, like the free service Hotspot Shield, when entering passwords.)
  10. Wristwatch with an Alarm or Travel Alarm Clock. These help people get to work, interviews, and other appointments on time. You will need something to keep time with such as a wristwatch with an alarm or travel alarm clock if you want to get to interviews, appointments and work on time. A watch is probably most practical as you can look at it at any point without pulling it out of your pack. You can usually buy a cheap digital watch for around ten dollars. If you are lucky, you may find a functioning watch with a battery in a second hand store for less. If you already have a cell phone or intend to get one, check to see if it has an alarm and clock function before buying a watch. however, then you need some reliable way to keep the cell phone always at least 1/2 charged.
  11. Basic First Aid Kit: For those minor injuries that don't require dialing 911, a few bandages, gauze, surgical tape, disinfectant, tweezers and ibuprofen are handy for handling minor cuts and scrapes. I recommend Adventure Medical Kits if you can afford them because they are designed for remote medical needs. These kits are superior to the average Red Cross First Aid kit.
  12. Food. It's not easy getting reliable meals. Check out the food banks and soup kitchens in your area before buying food. Also, apply for food assistance through your local human resources department. They may also be able to direct you to other helpful resources. It can be hard to take charity but this will allow you to save up for that apartment or room. When those free food resources are exhausted and you must buy food, think cheap, simple, won’t spoil quickly, require little to no cooking, easily prepared without a kitchen, and high in calories. This is not a nutritionally sound diet for long term use but it will prevent outright starvation. Think beef jerky, Granola bars, raisins and other dried fruits, corn chips, banana chips, buns, bagels, raisin bread, peanuts, instant soups, etc. Ramen noodles are one of the best deals. They are high in calories, very light to carry around and you can eat them dry if necessary. Bread is also light and cheap, especially if you buy day-old baked goods. Peanut butter and trail mix are also high in protein and calories. Canned beans are cheap and provide protein. Dried (dehydrated) foods are the lightest. Again, dollar stores are good places to procure these items cheaply. Once you can swing it, buy nutritious foods including plenty of vegetables and fruits. Avoid buying meat as it is difficult to prepare without a stove and is not a cost effective source of protein. Avoid soda, candy, and salty snacks, they have no real nutritive value and don't provide the energy other foods do. Obviously, you should avoid foods that require having a stove to prepare them. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to convince farmers to either let you glean their fields (pick leftover fruit or vegetables after the harvest) or pay a small fee to pick fruit or vegetables from their fields. Because your diet is sure to drop in quality, take a multivitamin daily as well. This advice is not intended as a suggestion for your long-term diet. These are survival strategies intended to help you make it to a point when food is readily available and you have the luxury of making healthy choices rather than just eating to staying alive.
  13. Manual Can-Opener, Eating Utensils, and Drinking Utensils. You will also need a manual can-opener and eating and drinking utensils. I suggest a cheap, small, WWII Army style P-38 or P-51 manual can-opener (keep in a zip-lock bag) that you can get in any camping section of a department store. Eating utensils could be plastic as they are cheap, lightweight, and disposable. However, plastic eating utensils aren't very durable. The "spork" is the most useful single plastic eating utensil. You can get free plastic sporks at most fast food restaurants. One homeless man said that Taco Bell has the best sporks. I was able to buy a lightweight compact 7-function stainless steel Camping Cutlery kit made by Adventuridge (Essentials) at Aldi for $3.49 at a special sale. They also may be available at Dollar and Wal-Mart stores. You should carry at least one 1 liter/quart water bottle and get in the habit of topping it up every time you come to a tap or drinking fountain. Once you get used to water, you need never pay money for drinks again.
  14. Small Canister of Pepper Spray and Lightweight Folding Lock-Back Knife. These are a defense against the many predators who prey on the poor. I was reluctant to put these on the list but the fact is that homeless people are frequently assaulted. It's not pretty but it's true. So pepper spray and a folding lock-back knife are a good things to have on hand for protection. However, if you are making up packs for other people, I'd leave these items out just on principle because it could be used by them to do harm.
  15. Mailing Address. Do your best to get a friend or acquaintance to let you use their mailing address on job applications. Check at local churches to see if they would allow you to use their address for this purpose. I have heard that many of them will provide this service for homeless people. Another option is to go to the Post Office and apply to get your mail by general delivery, which means you get your mail right at that specific Post Office. Unfortunately, many Post Offices don't do this any more. The other alternative is to buy a Post Office box so you can have an address. The cost of this varies but you should be able to get a basic Post Office box for $25 - $45 for six months rent. Unfortunately, most PO boxes have to be paid in a lump and some require an additional deposit. If you are unable to get a box at the Post Office because you don't have an address, try the private mail service companies like Mail Boxes Etc, the UPS Store, Pak Mail, or similar stores. Even if you can't get a friend or acquaintance to let you use their address to receive mail at or to list on applications, you may be able to get them to let you use their address to get a Post Office box or mail box at a mail store.
  16. Buying Showers and Keeping Clean. It's difficult to shower often enough when you are homeless. Now here's the difficult part. It's hard to stay clean when you are sleeping outside. Lay down your tarp and put your bedding on it before lying down. Wear the same clothes to sleep in for several nights and change into clean clothes from your backpack for work or interviews. Don't sleep in your day clothes, roll them up neatly and store them in your pack to avoid getting them soiled or wrinkled. Though cities are filled with public bathrooms, it is hard to find one private enough to do anything more than use the toilet and wash your hands. When you go into a public restroom, grab some paper towels and wet them before going into the stall. You can do a little clean up in the stall with the wet towels. A quick partial bath only includes the five basic points: face and neck, hands, axilla (region under the arms), genitalia, and buttocks. I recommend carrying a collapsible pail (found at camping stores) and a magnetic mirror (from a school supply store or dollar store). Collapsible pails fold down flat to take up very little space in your backpack. Fill one with warm water from the sink and bring it into one of the stalls. Set the pail atop the toilet tank or hang it from something if possible. Stick your magnetic mirror to the stall wall and use the pail as your sink. Now you can shave, brush teeth, and scrub your armpits in relative privacy. If you find a bathroom with a locking door like a gas station restroom, wash right at the sink as best you can. Try and clean up quickly before someone else wants to use the bathroom and, because he is tired of waiting, summons the gas station manager. The gas station manager will kick you out without your stuff, potentially while you are still washing your hair. You will need a wash cloth to soap up and a hand towel measuring approximately 16" x 28" to dry off. Consider substituting a cheaper bath sponge for the wash cloth and a cheaper (automotive) microfiber towel for the hand towel. Microfiber towels are less bulky, more absorbent, and dry out quicker. Try and get a microfiber towel as close to 16" x 28" in size as possible. Use lots of soap and water, shave your underarm hair, and use a lot of antiperspirant after you dry your underarms. Shaving your underarms will reduce odor from perspiration and reduce the amount of antiperspirant you need to apply over time. To get even more out of your antiperspirant turn your shirts inside out and rub a bunch of antiperspirant into the cloth of the shirt everywhere your underarms might touch. That way, in case some of the antiperspirant wears off of your body there will be a little bit of a backup on your clothes. If you can find a truck stop, you have hit cleanliness gold. You can buy a shower for several dollars at many truck stops. Also, I have found two private gym clubs/fitness clubs with showering facilities located within walking distance that only charge $10/month to join. Gyms and YMCAs that are open around the clock also give you a safe place to legally be. If you can't afford a truck stop shower, a fitness club membership, or persuade a friend to let you shower in his bathroom, you can use a Homeless Water Sanitation Kit to obtain warm sanitized water for a warm sponge bath.
  17. Hats (Beanies) and Gloves. Without a home, people need more protection from the elements. Even if it isn't particularly cold where you live, wearing a hat and gloves at night can help keep a homeless sleeper warmer. The hat will not only keep your head warm it will also keep you from getting stuff in your hair if you roll off your bedroll and onto the ground if you are sleeping outdoors. I've found some really great hats, gloves, and scarves in my local dollar stores lately so these can generally be found for a dollar or so.
  18. Rain Gear/Lightweight Foldable Plastic Poncho: You can use a lightweight foldable plastic poncho to avoid getting soaked in a thunderstorm if you are unable to find shelter from the rain. You can use a Mylar (space) blanket or a plastic tarp as rain gear in a pinch but they won't serve the purpose well and are easily blown about in a windy thunderstorm causing you to get soaked.
  19. Pets. If you don't have a pet, don't get one. If you do have a pet, try and get a relative or friend to house the pet while you are homeless. Pets often live with homeless people and they need help too. During the foreclosure crisis, people losing their houses often bumped up against landlords unwilling to rent to them with a pet. Homeless shelters don't generally welcome pets either. Between 5 percent to 10 percent of homeless people have cats or dogs as pets. In some places, that number is as high as 24 percent. Pets of the Homeless is a non-profit volunteer organization that provides pet food and veterinary care to the pets of the homeless across the United States and Canada. They distribute pet food and volunteer veterinarians hold Wellness Clinics in areas where the homeless congregate, providing vaccines and other needed treatments.
  20. Clear Plastic Drop Cloth or Tarp. Protection from the elements and dirt for homeless people. A plastic drop cloth of the kind people use to shield floors and furnishings when they paint will provide you with a clean surface to sleep on when you sleep outdoors and can shelter you from the rain in a pinch. You can fold it up very small to carry with you. Plus it can be used to make an emergency solar still to distill grey (dirty) stream water, green vegetation, or even your own urine for drinking water. You can use a stick to dig the hole for the solar still if you don't have a shovel or garden trowel. You can buy a plastic drop cloth for under $3 at most hardware or home improvement stores and in stores like Walmart, Target, or Sears. In winter the ground has a way of conducting the heat right out of a warm body. (For the same reason, never sit directly on the ground without some sort of thermal cushion or some such insulating barrier.) Without a sleeping pad of the type outdoor campers use, you will have to sleep on cardboard or newspapers, or use pine boughs when in the wilderness. Place the cardboard, newspapers, or pine boughs under the drop cloth to keep them dry in case it rains.
  21. Transportation. I'd suggest using public transportation, purchased in multi-use cards or tickets as they are cheaper per use than individual fares. For those who are physically able, getting a decent used trail bicycle will add flexibility to transportation options and many city buses have racks to hold them to use them with public transportation. Taxis are almost always too expensive to use because the fares will eat up all your net-pay or funds quickly, but can be used in an occasional emergency when there is no other alternative.
  22. Protection From Extremes In Weather. Gyms that are open around the clock also give you a safe place to legally be. Public libraries provide warmth in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and free public bathrooms all year long. They are open to the public and no one will generally bother a homeless guy who is sitting in the corner reading a book. There are computers available to be used for free in job searches or checking emails. Homeless children can use public libraries and their free computers to do homework. Libraries also provide free programs for both kids and adults. However, some libraries will ask you to leave if you fall asleep, so if you feel sleepy, walk around to help yourself wake up. In a serious storm, train stations, bus stations and airports are also choices. They are open 24 hours a day and are designed for people to wait in, with ample seating, bathrooms, snack bars, and sometimes WiFi. In bad weather, some people will be sleeping in their seats or on the floor due to transit delays, and you can blend in with them. Keep a travel book from the library across your chest or some old boarding passes sticking out of your pocket. If you are in an airport with multiple terminals, change terminals every so often. Lingering in one place too long may attract the attention of security (though I have heard of one woman living for months at the airport before anyone caught on). Hospital waiting rooms may be almost as good.
  23. What to Do With the Rest of Your Money. Save it. If possible, put it in a bank account. If that isn't possible, buy Traveller's Checks or money orders made out to yourself. This will prevent people from stealing your hard earned cash. Do not spend any money on anything at all but necessities. This means no entertainment, no alcohol, no drugs, no single nights in motel rooms. Be strong and think about the future. Save every penny you possibly can to get an apartment or to rent a room. Keep that room with a locking door in mind as your motivation.

Homeless Hygiene Kit(s)

Soap is an important part of a hygiene kit for the homeless, those getting out of jail, or other poor who can’t afford simple hygiene items. A simple hygiene kit consisting of (1) Toothbrush 30 Tuft, (1) Toothpaste .6 oz., (1) Soap .5 oz., (1) Comb 5”, (1) Deodorant Gel .12 oz., (1) Resealable bag 6.5" x 3.5", and a reference card with toll free numbers to agencies that can assist getting those in need additional help can be purchased for as little as $1.39 in quantity.

Simple, cheap, and compact hygiene kits can be made by the individual or charity organizations. Small items save space and make it possible for someone without regular shelter to stay clean while relying on public rest areas for bathing. Just make sure the products you purchase still have an intact seal. My church, for example, makes simple men’s and women’s hygiene kits (featuring a full size bar of soap) for those getting out of jail. My church’s goal is to make 20 hygiene kits a month. I read in a blog about a woman who assembled a box of simple men’s and women’s hygiene kits which she keeps in her car. Whenever she sees a homeless person, she gives them a hygiene kit.

A basic hygiene kit consists of a full size bar of (Ivory) soap in original packaging placed inside a small resealable Zip-lock plastic bag, toothbrush in original packaging, toothpaste, wide-tooth comb (for extremely tangled hair), 6-10 adhesive bandages, disposable razors, and a large resealable Zip-lock bag in which to carry all these items. I recommend Ivory soap for the bar of soap because it floats, which comes in very handy if bathing in a river or lake. Women’s kits add tampons or sanitary napkins. There is a severe shortage among homeless women of tampons and sanitary napkins. Women's periods last 2-7 days, so be generous with the tampons and sanctuary napkins. Men’s kits add shaving gel or shaving cream and condoms. More deluxe kits can be made by adding a small bottle of baby hair shampoo, baby-wipes, hand sanitizer, and a small roll-on scented antiperspirant deodorant. I recommend baby hair shampoo because it is cheap, doesn't sting the eyes, and is the least likely shampoo to cause a rash or other allergic reaction. I recommend scented antiperspirant deodorant because it not only contains deodorant but it also reduces the amount you sweat. Ordinary deodorant usually just covers up odors with a scent or perhaps neutralizes them but still allows you to sweat. That sweat wicks into your clothes and your clothes will soon start to stink. Many of these consumable items can be purchased very cheaply at Dollar or Thrift stores and can all fit inside a large resealable Zip-lock bag.

Durables that can be added to a deluxe kit of consumables include a nail clipper (a toenail clipper can do double duty to clip both toenails and fingernails), a roll of toilet paper (inside a large resealable Zip-lock bag), a wash cloth (for use in taking sponge baths), a hand towel measuring approximately 16" x 28", a small basin or collapsible pail (found at camping stores) to use for sponge baths, and a small school-sized backpack in which to carry all these items. Consider substituting cheaper bath sponges for the wash cloths and cheaper (automotive) microfiber towels for the hand towels. Microfiber towels are less bulky, more absorbent, and dry out quicker. Try and get a microfiber towel as close to 16" x 28" in size as possible. Many of these more durable items can be purchased very cheaply at Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, Dollar stores, or Thrift stores.

Homeless Man Needing Hygiene Kit

Homeless Backpack Care Kit(s)

I know a couple that adds some warm clothing and some food items with long storage lives to a homeless hygiene kit backpack to create an Under $20 Homeless Backpack Care Kit. This kit consists of a backpack, a unisex one-size-fits-all beanie, a scarf, a pair of unisex one-size-fits-all gloves, two pairs of unisex one-size-fits-all socks, a Mylar emergency space blanket, a large (automotive) microfiber towel, a toothbrush with toothpaste kit, antiperspirant deodorant, a soap bar, a 10 pack of wet-wipes, a disposable razor, a (wide tooth) comb, hand sanitizer, one jar of peanut butter, one tin of chicken salad, one tin of tuna salad, two tins of Vienna sausage, one package of Saltine crackers, one fruit cup, one apple sauce cup, two packets of oatmeal cream cookies, two breakfast bars, two Granola bars, two juice boxes, two bottles of water, two plastic spoons, a one quart Zip-lock bag, a toilet paper roll, and two paper sacks. They keep a couple of these Homeless Backpack Care Kits in their cars and hand them out to homeless people when they see them.

If you want to put together your own custom Homeless Backpack Care Kit, consider small, inexpensive, and compact items that will fit in a small school-sized backpack. Small items save space and make it possible for someone without regular shelter to stay clean while relying on public rest areas for bathing. Just make sure the products you purchase still have an intact seal. Consider plastic "sporks" instead of plastic spoons. If you stock it with canned goods, try and buy canned goods that are self-opening (have their own openers). If you buy canned goods that are not self-opening, add a manual can opener like the P-38 or P-51 WWII army can opener (available at the camping section of department stores). A homeless man once told me that most valuable possession he had was a P-38 can opener. You can buy P-38 and P-51 WWII Army stainless steel style can openers at for as little as $6 for 15 can openers.

Canned goods can be bulky as well as heavy, so think beef jerky, Granola bars, raisins and other dried fruits, banana chips, peanuts, instant soups (the type that don't require heating), ramen noodles (which can be eaten dry), peanut butter, trail mix, and other foods high in protein and calories that require no or little preparation. Dried (dehydrated) foods are the lightest. Avoid soda, candy, and salty snacks, they have no real nutritive value and don't provide the energy other foods do. In addition, many thrift stores sell either gift certificates or credit vouchers one can hand out to the homeless or include in a Homeless Backpack Care kit so the homeless can buy clothing in case the size, fit, or sex type of clothing is a problem.

Homeless Water Sanitation Kit (For Warm Sponge Baths)

But soap without clean water may be useless. A method of sanitizing water that doesn’t require expensive fuel for boiling or purchasing heavy to carry bleach uses the ultra-violet rays of the direct sun. SODIS (Solar Disinfection) is ideal to disinfect small quantities of water of low turbidity. However, SODIS will not remove harmful chemicals from chemically contaminated water. Fairly clear dirty water is filled into clear transparent plastic bottles of 3 liters/quarts or smaller in size and exposed to full sunlight for six hours. During the exposure to the sun the pathogens are destroyed. If cloudiness is greater than 50% , the plastic bottles need to be exposed for 2 consecutive days in order to produce water safe for bathing. However, if water temperatures exceed 50°C, one hour of exposure is sufficient to obtain safe bathing water. The treatment efficiency can be improved if the plastic bottles are exposed on sunlight reflecting surfaces such as aluminium (foil) or corrugated-iron sheets.

All the method requires is a reusable cheesecloth, a funnel, a washed clear transparent bottle with a cap (e.g. a washed 2 liter empty plastic Coke bottle with the label removed), and a piece of aluminium foil big enough to place the bottle on sideways. The funnel is placed in the mouth of the bottle, the cheesecloth in the funnel, and fairly clear non-murky dirty water from a running source (e.g. a river or stream) is slowly poured onto and through the cheesecloth filling the bottle almost to the top. The funnel and cheesecloth are removed and the bottle capped. Then the bottle is placed on the aluminium foil sideways in the direct sunlight for 6 to 48 hours. The disinfected water in the bottle is then carefully poured out into a small basin or a collapsible camping pail without disturbing any sediment that has settled on the side or bottom of the bottle. If fresh from the direct sun, the disinfected water can be used for a warm sponge bath using soap and hair shampoo or the washing of hands using soap.

A wash cloth, a hand towel measuring approximately 16" x 28", and a small basin or collapsible pail (found at camping stores) will be needed for taking sponge baths. Consider substituting cheaper bath sponges for the wash cloths and cheaper (automotive) microfiber towels for the hand towels. Microfiber towels are less bulky, more absorbent, and dry out quicker. Try and get a microfiber towel as close to 16" x 28" in size as possible. Many of these items can be purchased very cheaply at Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, Dollar stores, or Thrift stores.

Solar Disinfection Process

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One Woman's Lessons From Living On The Street

The grass is fraying around the edges in Washington, D.C.'s Franklin Square Park, but the trees are more important. They offer much-appreciated shade to the homeless people who sit below. Many of the park benches are occupied by homeless men but there are a few women too. Susan, sitting amid her bags in the park's Northwest corner, is one of them. She's been on and off the streets of Washington since 1995 and asked that her last name not be used because she was in an abusive relationship and doesn't want her whereabouts known. Susan says life on the streets is a constant battle for all homeless people, but for women it's particularly hard. On top of the everyday challenges of finding food and a safe place to sleep, she says, women face the threat of sexual violence and cruelty. In nearly two decades on the streets, Susan, with greying hair and bright eyes, has learned some tough lessons.

  • Lesson One: Don't Look Like A Woman
  • Lesson Two: 'Act Crazy'
  • Lesson Three: Pick Your Spot To Sleep Carefully
  • Lesson Four: Partner With A Man

How You Can Use This Information to Help Homeless People

Please, if this material is useful to your mission to help homeless people, feel free to print it out to share. If you want to use it on the web, please link to this page instead of cutting and pasting it to use so that readers of this article/webpage can view the latest updates to this article/webpage. Some soup kitchens have printed out a less detailed version to hand out, making a slightly edited version of the text available for people to read. Some churches have edited the information to add to church bulletins. If you want to take it to a more personal level you could print out this material (or the parts you'd like to print out) and put it and as many of the items listed as is practical into backpacks to distribute to homeless people.