Back in the first week of March 2022, when it became pretty clear to my family and I that we were going to end up homeless, I did a Google search for “how to be homeless”. I thought maybe someone who had been there or was still there would write some tips or a guide of some sort to help “incoming” homeless people.

I didn’t find anything.

Sometimes, homelessness is unavoidable. There are a myriad of issues with housing in America, and suggestions like “get an Airbnb” or “stay with family” aren’t always possible.

The thing about being homeless is, it’s expensive. The other thing about being homeless is, it’s extremely hard work. You almost revert back to a primal instinct — how do I meet my basic needs today?

If you have a car to live in, that’s great. But your main concerns there will be finding places to use the bathroom, shower, budgeting for food, clean water, and finding safe places to sleep where you 1. won’t get arrested and 2. won’t be bothered.

For reference, we’ve been homeless since March 2022. (I’m writing this as of August 2022). For over 20 days of that, we lived in the car. Just me, my mom, a disabled child, two dogs, in a Volkswagen Tiguan (the smallest SUV ever, like I mean seriously).

Here are my tips for surviving while homeless (while living in your car). I pray that you aren’t currently homeless while reading this, but if you are, I’m praying you have a home soon. And I hope these tips help.

  1. Don’t spend money on a hotel unless you absolutely need to. Hotels are money drains. If you are fortunate enough to have a job, hotels and eating out will suck up all your resources and you’ll constantly be struggling to pay for it. The average hotel, even on the cheap end, can be $500 a week. That’s 2k a month, conservative. You could rent a house for that! Save your money, don’t spend it on hotels, as tempting as it may be.
  2. Make your sleeping space and car as functional and comfortable as possible. I can’t stress how much easier life is when you keep your car clean and develop a system for storing and accessing your stuff. We recently bought a storage bag that straps down to the top of the car and it’s made so much more room. I wish we would’ve done that when we were sleeping in the car.
    • Lay down the backseat, if you can. If not, sleeping spread horizontally across the front seat can be okay, just be sure to cushion beneath you. You’re sleeping in a car. It’s going to hurt. I’m sorry.
    • Try not to use too many blankets and pillows because it’s hard to keep everything clean and laundry is expensive. Also, it affects temperature.
    • Use privacy screens on the windshield and windows. You can either create curtains out of towels, or buy premade privacy contraptions from Walmart or a camping store.
    • Use a storage bag (ours was around $120, but there are smaller ones that are cheaper) to store things you don’t need every day up on top of the car.
    • Only keep things you use everyday in the car.
    • Invest in a battery you can charge using your car. Good Lord, this thing was a lifesaver. Eventually we had to pawn it to buy gas, but it was like $200 and kept all our devices charged. It charged while we drove during the day, then at night we used it to charge phones, tablets, laptop, etc.
    • Don’t let dirty laundry pile up. We made that mistake and it was miserable. Try changing your outfit every other day (worked for us). Of course, if you have kids, you’ll want them to be in clean clothes always, and you’ll do more laundry. (Be sure to check around to see which laundromat is cheapest — some of them are outlandish. And hotel laundry facilities are sometimes more expensive than local laundromats.)
  3. Carry a water jug. Buy one gallon or 1 liter bottle of water for cheap at Walmart or a gas station, and refill it for free at water spigots at rest stops, gas stations, etc. Some restaurants will allow you to get a cup of water for free. That’s nice when you really want a cold drink but can’t or don’t want to spend the money on a cold one. (Bonus tip, many gas stations that offer fountain drinks allow you water for free. Some of them even have a sink you can wash your dishes in. I used to wash out The Boy’s cups this way.)
  4. Keep your toothbrush and toothpaste in your purse or in an easily accessible spot on your body. You never know when you’ll have a nice bathroom you can clean up in.
  5. Some rest stops, gas stations, or restaurants offer WARM water, but not all do. Take note of the ones that offer warm/hot water. It makes a difference, I promise.
  6. Buy dry, long-lasting food items. Granola bars, Pop-Tarts, instant oatmeal (which you can add hot water to and enjoy), rice cakes, cereal, etc. I’d avoid chips if you can. They’re expensive and don’t really make you feel full. Another great option is fruit in the pouch (like applesauce). Makes great snacks for kids, too.
  7. Use apps to get reward points and discounts for food. Sometimes apps like Wendy’s and McDonald’s will offer free food, or you can use your points to get free food. Even pharmacies, grocery stores, and the like, use rewards cards and apps. So if you have a phone/device, take advantage of all of that.
  8. You can also seek out food pantries or soup kitchens to get warm meals and non-perishables. We didn’t do this, but it’s a good option.
  9. If you can, try to eat fruit and fiber. This is gonna be a lil personal, but being homeless and sleeping in weird contorted positions does a number on your gut. Drink plenty of water and try to eat fiber-rich foods when you can. It’ll make trips to the bathroom easier and faster (which is great, since it’s likely a public restroom you’ll be using).
  10. Public bathrooms are few and far between. Stay near 24/hr gas stations, make note of retailers like Walmart, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General. They seem to be more homeless friendly than other places. You may need to make a small purchase at some places to avoid a hassle. Bonus tip for women: Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores usually keep a “Store use” package of pads or tampons in the bathroom.
  11. Compare value. McDonald’s isn’t always the cheapest way to go. I figured out quickly that it took about $22 to feed our entire family at McDonald’s, but it took the same amount to feed us all at Chic-Fil-A, which is better quality food, stays with you longer, and tastes better than McD’s leftover. (No offense to McDonald’s, love you.) Likewise, Dollar Tree or little stores like Dollar General or convenience stores aren’t the best use of your money, especially not when it comes to food. They’re usually overpriced for convenience, and even dollar stores are selling you a much smaller product. You think you’re getting great value, but, eh, you’re really not.
  12. If you need a hot meal that stretches, try a Little Ceasar’s Hot-N-Ready. It fed our family of three for about $6. Sometimes if we got two, we’d have leftovers to munch on later. You can also make sandwiches (see tip 22). Domino’s also has a $5.99 carry out deal for two pizzas. We found that pizza stretched further for us than most fast food, and it still tastes pretty good when it’s cold. For drive thrus, Burger King can’t be beat for cheapness.
  13. Fountain drinks are ALWAYS cheaper than bottled, and they taste better. They’re nice and cold, too, so it’s a great treat, especially if it’s hot outside. You can get a large fountain drink at most places for 50-99 cents. Also be sure to check rewards apps for free fountain drinks. Alternatively, you can buy canned beverages, which imo are just a waste because they go flat. (Or, save the money and don’t drink anything but water).
  14. Free wifi is available at most McDonald’s, as well as public libraries. (Don’t bother with Burger King’s wifi, it sucks. Chic-Fil-A’s internet is decent. Starbucks’ is great, but only if you’re in the building or on the patio.) If your phone is turned off, or broken (like mine was — both of those things), take advantage of free wifi and free public hotspots to check your email, apply to jobs, contact friends and family, etc. We spent the majority of our days looking for a space I could work, because I’m a writer and work remotely. Wifi is my life lol. Some rest stops are really amazing places to work, btw, as they offer free wifi. The Alabama Welcome Center is my favorite (I was able to work *inside* the building). But the Florida Welcome Center has good internet, too. Bonus, sort of shanky tip: some hotels don’t password protect their internet. In a pinch, you can check your stuff by covertly hanging out in the parking lot. Just don’t stick around longer than a few minutes.
  15. Take advantage of public spaces like libraries and parks. We couldn’t go inside public libraries because of my son’s, *cough*, energy lol. He would’ve went wild inside, and he’s not nice to books. But anyway, libraries are a great way to stay warm (or cool), use wifi, read, and just have peace and quiet. (Something very hard to come by when you’re homeless).
  16. Find safe places to park overnight or to sleep. Most Walmart parking lots allow overnight parking, but they’re not entirely safe. We had a really scary experience at a Walmart in Arkansas once (a hot spot for human/sex trafficking). Some Cracker Barrel’s allow overnight parking. Just Google “free overnight parking”, and watch out for signs posted in the parking lots. Truly, we found that rest stops were the most safe and nonjudgmental places to sleep. Usually security guards don’t give you too much trouble, especially if overnight parking is allowed. You’ve got bathrooms, vending machines, and a water source *right there*. We would spend our days in town and come back at night to sleep.
  17. If you do sleep at rest stops, be sure to know the rules about how long you can park. Choose an area to park that is slightly away from everyone, but still near a few cars. Be EXTREMELY CAREFUL if you’re sleeping at the Florida Welcome Center. It’s a hot spot for sex/human trafficking and it’s scary as crap, especially if you’re a woman.
  18. Park under a light, if you can. Lock your doors. Do not repeat a pattern of behavior. Once you’re ready to sleep, park, and hunker down. Don’t get out of the vehicle unless you absolutely have to. And this goes without saying, don’t open the door for anyone or roll down the windows. If someone approaches your vehicle at night, start your engine and leave.
    • If you have a child, I cannot stress this enough, PUT YOUR CHILD LOCKS ON. My son nearly fell out of the car when he figured out how to open the door. Also put your window locks on. He loves throwing stuff out the window.
  19. Make yourself scarce. If you frequent the same places over and over, it WILL draw suspicion, and could get you in trouble with the lawman (law enforcement). Try to vary your routine.
  20. Be extremely vigilant. We were once nearly ran over by a rogue semi truck at a rest stop in Arkansas. It was dark and he couldn’t see; he took out a pilon trash can, nearly ran into two parked vehicles, and almost crashed into a whole row of semis. It was so scary I had panic attacks for weeks after. Be extremely aware of your surroundings at all times. Homeless people are at higher risk for becoming victims of crime.
  21. Things you should always have on hand or in your car somewhere accessible:
    • A small bottle of dish soap (we prefer Dawn, it’s got the most bang for your buck) for washing dishes, hands, and general mess clean up.
    • Your toiletries (especially toothpaste and toothbrush). I recommend keeping a small bottle of dry shampoo (like $2 at Walmart) so you can freshen up your hair when it gets greasy from not showering. Deodorant/antiperspirant is also a must. Buy the big ones, not the little ones, it’s actually cheaper. You’ll also want to keep your own toilet paper on hand.
    • Baby wipes. I cannot even express to you how valuable baby wipes are when you’re homeless! Baby wipes are the answer for everything: cleaning up messes, getting yourself clean, blowing your nose…Idk. Baby wipes are amazing.
    • Something to write with and paper. It’s helpful for taking down directions, writing down contact info for people about housing/jobs, etc.
  22. Save your change and pick up change from the ground when you see it. It seems silly and embarrassing but pick up any change you see and keep it in a safe place in your car. It’s helpful for vending machines (especially when they don’t take cards). We even bought gas with change. There’s no shame in using change. A little adds up to be a lot sometimes.
  23. Keep a cooler for cold items. This is something I wish we really would’ve done, but we didn’t have enough room in the car. This is especially important if you have kids. You can keep Uncrustables, milk, yogurt, juice, and other perishables in the cooler. One thing we enjoyed doing was buying deli meat and making sandwiches (it was a nice break from fast food, and relatively cheap). But we ended up having to give the leftover meat and cheese to the dogs because we didn’t have a way to keep it cold. (Bonus tip: If you have a child, don’t buy milk until before bedtime. If you buy it too soon, it may be no good by the time your kiddo is ready for it. Seems straightforward but it’s a lesson we learned the hard way. Most rest stops don’t have milk, so you have to plan for it.)
  24. The less bulk the better. Try to stay organized in a way that works for you. Keep clothes minimal (saves money for washing clothes, anyway). If I could do it all over again, I’d keep one small tote for bathroom stuff, one for clothes (or a travel bag), and one for food. You really want an airtight way to store your food, or else it’ll attract bugs.
  25. If you can afford it, get a membership to a gym or YMCA in order to shower. We didn’t do this and I wish we had. Showers at truck stops are upwards of $5, and it’s not entirely comfortable. Sometimes parks or beaches will have public showers you can rinse off at (you just can’t get fully naked and clean very well). If you can find a truck stop that still allows free showers, God bless you and enjoy it.
  26. Either invest in a mailbox at a shipping and packing place (like UPS) or have your mail sent to a loved one’s address. (Get their permission first, of course.) Mail becomes weirdly important once you’re homeless and have nowhere to send it. Avoid PO boxes; they’re expensive and you’re limited on what you can use it for. Most things (like forms you’ll fill out when you apply for assistance) will require a physical address, and a mailbox at UPS will give you that.
  27. It seems simple, but if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. I spent a lot of little money here and there on buying toys or fun things for my son just to make the situation better for him — that’s the only exception.
  28. Be generous. It seems counter intuitive, but helping out others will always come back to you. I’d also suggest you pray. I have seen God move and work wonders for us, just when we thought all hope was lost (like people giving us money or finding out our hotel room was paid up without us paying anything). I don’t know how we would’ve gotten through this without faith in Jesus. Finding a faith community can also be crucial.
  29. Rest when you can. Being homeless is exhausting, not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well. The toll it takes on you can’t be underestimated. Homelessness is a form of trauma. It’s those really hard moments where we finally gave in and paid for a hotel (when we had the money to). Taking a hot shower, enjoying a warm meal, sleeping in a bed, it’s those little things that make you feel human. Do things to make yourself more comfortable or human, even if it’s small. It goes a long way in keeping you going.
  30. Remember who you are. You don’t have a home, but a home isn’t who you are. Being homeless does a number on your self esteem. But you have to remember that you’re smart, capable, attractive — all those things. You are a person first. Just because you have fallen on hard times doesn’t make you worth less.
  31. Don’t waste money on “get rich quick” schemes like the lottery, gambling, etc. It goes without saying, but don’t waste money on things like cigarettes or alcohol either. If it’s not possible for you to stop, GREATLY reduce your consumption. My mom is a smoker but I’m not. She went from a pack a day or every two days to a pack a week, and the cheap cigarettes at that. (Discount tobacco stores are good for this purpose.)
  32. Try stretching, breathing exercises, etc. Your body *will* hurt. Not only from the physical discomfort and all the movement you’ll be doing, but also from the tension you carry from the mental stress of it all. Whenever you’re in a bathroom or somewhere private and comfortable, stretch, take deep breaths, and loosen your body.
  33. If you have kids, try to keep their routine as normal as possible. That will ease the situation for them. It’s okay to talk to them and explain the situation in a way they can understand. Try to keep your frustration and emotions in check. It’s okay to let them know you’re upset by the situation, after all, you’re human…but it’s not okay to take out your frustration on them. Remember to connect with them, take time to listen to what they have to say and talk about things they enjoy. Take them to the playground, the lake or beach, and let them have fun. (Both activities are free, btw.) Let them get their energy out. I loved taking my son to indoor playgrounds at McDonald’s — it met several needs all at once: food, wifi, bathrooms, play. I could work while he played, which was awesome.
  34. Don’t spend money on plastic/paper products like plates or paper towels, if you can avoid it (except baby wipes. Those are a necessity in my book). Most places will give you extra napkins if you ask, or you can get them free at most gas stations. Buying a cup, plate, and bowl from Walmart ($0.50 a piece) and washing it after each use is cheaper and better for the environment. I used to keep a stash of napkins in the center console for messes and makeshift plates. We kept the boy’s dishes in the same basket as our food.
  35. Rest stops, fast food places, and the library are great places to charge your devices. Not all rest stops offer accessible outlets, though, so look for large ones with welcome centers and seating areas. Sometimes truck stops will have seating areas you can eat at and also charge your devices.
  36. If you want to try to cook from your car, you can try a camp stove or utilizing microwaves at places like 7/11. Some people cook things using their car’s engine. I’ve never tried it before, but you can Google tutorials. Bonus tip: Some people have found success camping at campsites during periods of homelessness. So if that sounds like it could work for you, check into it. It wasn’t an option for us because The Boy is an eloper and it would be dangerous for him. Also, we have pets, which is tricky at campgrounds.
  37. Fill up your car, don’t top off or put in $5 at a time. You’ll get better gas mileage that way. If you can stay in one area and not drive that much, that’ll help, too. We ended up traveling all over the southeast, including Texas, in search of affordable housing and cheap hotels (once it was clear we could no longer live in the car).
  38. Weekday hotel rates are always cheaper. If you MUST get a hotel room, do so on a weekday. That way you can sleep, clean out the car, shower, etc. It’s a nice break from the car, so at first we would get a hotel room maybe once every ~12 days.
  39. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts ANYWHERE. At the hotel, when getting your car repaired, basically anywhere. Ask for discounts. You never know when someone will cut you a break.
  40. This is what everyone will say to you, but I wouldn’t be covering everything if I didn’t reiterate it: check with your local housing authority, homeless shelter, churches, etc. for help. Most public housing has a waitlist a mile long, and if you have a job making decent money, you may not qualify anyway (check your state’s income requirements anyway– you may be below the poverty line and not know it). Don’t be ashamed to apply for assistance, but stay on top of your case so you don’t fall through the cracks. In some cases you may qualify for emergency assistance. I can’t tell you how frustrating the whole system is, so I will warn you it can be really discouraging. I remember trying to renew our food stamps and checking the box “homeless”, only to be asked what my address is (*eyeroll*). Ultimately we lost our food stamp benefits because my phone didn’t work and they couldn’t complete the phone interview. (Even though I contacted my case worker via email to let them know my phone was broken). Bonus tip: you may qualify for a free phone through a government program. The process takes a while, and you need an address to send the phone to (unless you apply in person).
  41. Don’t be afraid to accept help. There are a lot of “fake” homeless people out there grifting and fooling people. They go back to their hotel rooms at night happy as larks. It’s hard to see that when you’re trying to be honest and work your way out of homelessness the right way. So when someone offers you help, don’t be proud and turn it away. Take that free meal, take that cash or gift card, take the clothes. And thank God for them. (There’s also no shame in getting on public assistance, if you can.)
  42. You learn pretty quickly to adjust your expectations and be less picky. I’m a hugely picky eater and my son is, too. I got accustomed to cold french fries and watered down drinks lol. To me, a great day was being able to sleep even 2 hours straight without waking up in pain (I slept in the front seat most of the time). Learn to take your wins when you get them. This is not going to last forever. It sucks, and it’s hard, but try to see silver linings when you can. It keeps you going, I promise.
  43. Have a strategic plan out of homelessness. Think about all the things you need to do in order to secure housing, make a list, and start accomplishing things on the list. What are the obstacles or barriers in your way to obtaining housing? Write them down and figure out how to overcome them. For me, my list was:
    • Get a job (happened about a week before we ended up living in the car, but I hadn’t gotten my first paycheck yet)
    • Fix my phone & get it turned back on (so I can call about houses)
    • Save money for a deposit (we have saved and spent at least 3 deposits by now, unfortunately)
    • Find a cheap hotel we can live while I work & save money
    • Get bills caught up (car insurance, car payment, phone bill)
    • Pay off debt (to raise my credit score, because most landlords want a credit check)
  44. Pay your bills, if you can. Again, I know this seems like a dumb tip, but trust me, keeping your credit card payments on time and your car/insurance payments up will only help you get housing in the future. Bonus tip: Don’t get caught up in payday or title loans. Don’t take out any debt, unless you know you can pay it back within a short time frame. These things are vicious cycles that kill your finances and will prevent you from saving money for a home. $60 today is not worth $20 in interest tomorrow.
  45. Consider moving. Okay, sounds dumb to move when you’re homeless, right? But depending on where you live, it may be more affordable to find housing elsewhere. If I could do things all over again, I’d sell everything off from our old house and use the money to move us somewhere else. Also, some areas are just way easier to be homeless in, unfortunately. It’s much cheaper to live in your car in Arkansas or Texas (weather permitting) than somewhere like Georgia or Florida.
  46. When looking for housing, opt for PEOPLE instead of property management companies. They’re more willing to work with you and more likely to be sympathetic to your plight.
  47. A bigger deposit can cure a lot of woes. This tip, and tip 46, come from a realtor friend of mine, Mitch Messer. In his words, a landlord’s worst nightmare is a vacancy. If you can demonstrate you’re a responsible tenant in spite of your bad credit score or homelessness, you may be able to work something out.
  48. Many small towns have affordable housing but don’t advertise those houses online. Take it old school; check Craigslist (beware of scams), check yards for “For Rent” signs, check newspapers, and ask around. Join Facebook groups for the area and see who’s got property for rent (or lease to own, if you can gather the down payment).
  49. Talk to people. I can’t stress how important this is. We have found much more favor by speaking to people and connecting with them rather than trying to do things online. (Like the $166 a week hotel with a kitchen I found, just by driving around and talking to front desk clerks.) People are generally friendly and willing to help. TALK TO THEM. Especially locals who know the area and how it works better than you.
  50. Check into programs. Some states offer incentives for remote workers to move there. Some programs offer housing along with employment training. If you’re a college student who is homeless, check your school’s resources and talk to your guidance counselor. You may also be eligible for rental assistance due to the pandemic (we weren’t, because we never had a formal lease).
  51. Maintain relationships with friends and loved ones. I can’t stress how important this is. Being homeless feels hopeless and so lonely. If you can, stay in touch with friends and loved ones. I can’t tell you how many times having people to talk to saved me from going off the deep end. Especially as a parent, it helps to have someone to confide in and vent to, or just have adult conversation. It’s also nice to feel like you have people in your corner checking on you.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully there are useful tips in here for you. A lot of these tips also apply to living in a hotel room, if that’s the type of homelessness you’re experiencing. I don’t really have any tips for those who are homeless without a car or hotel room, unfortunately. I’m sorry.

If you have any tips for how to survive homelessness, please let me know and I’ll add them. I want to say thank you to all those who have shown my family kindness during this time. I feel like we’re very close to having a home soon!

P.S.: if you’re a parent worried about raising your child and keeping them safe while you’re homeless, please know that there is a law on the books called the McKinneyVento Homeless Assistance Act, which makes allowances for your child to attend school and access extra assistance they may need. Yes, it is possible that CPS (child protective services)/DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) can remove your child from your care due to homelessness…HOWEVER, in MOST cases, social workers and authorities just want to help you. They don’t want to take away your kid. Please don’t let that fear keep you from getting help! I was a CASA for two years and worked with social workers and experts; the majority of these people want to help you and your child stay together. Please check the laws for your state. I’ll be praying for you.

Edit 8/14/2022: Before writing this post, I Googled “how to be homeless” again and still didn’t find any relevant results. That’s part of what prompted me to write it. However, today when I Googled the same phrase, quite a few relevant results came up. I’m not sure what the deal is with that. Call me paranoid but someone from Google searched my profile on LinkedIn after I posted a link to this post there. Idk, but hopefully that means attention is being brought to the issue? Hopefully? Or I’m just a weirdo lol.

I want to add a very clear disclaimer to this post now by saying that my family and I are VERY fortunate in that 1. I have stable employment 2. we had a car to live in and could pay for hotels 3. had generous people give us money, prayers, connections, etc. My mom also had a job temporarily for about 3 months in which her employer paid for our hotel room and we were able to save money and get all our bills current.

We lived in the car for about 21 days. The rest of the time has been spent living in hotels, which wouldn’t have been possible without help from generous people. (Like the total stranger who sent me money so I could get a new phone and pay my phone bill to get it current.) My income was cut in half a couple months ago when one of the companies I write for had to reduce my hours, which made things a bit harder; but even when I was making more money, we still spent all of it trying to survive. When we first became homeless, I was fortunate enough to have SNAP benefits (food stamps) to help pay for The Boy’s snacks/food/milk. But those ran out and were not renewed because of the communication issue I mentioned in the post. I have not reapplied for food stamps so currently we are paying for all of our food ourselves. Food stamps do not cover warm food or food purchased from restaurants, which is primarily where you’ll be purchasing from if you have no way to cook. Now that we’re in a hotel, we’re able to purchase things that are microwavable and spend a little less on take out.

I will be the first to admit, we have not always been the wisest or smartest on this journey. But in our defense, there’s no class in school growing up that teaches you to survive while homeless. We have been figuring it out as we go. For a long while, we thought keeping moving was smart. I realize now it was draining our money so much faster than just picking one place and staying. (We were also afraid of drawing the attention of the authorities — the longest we ever stayed in one town was a week.)

I want to stress that we have NOT had it as rough as those who live on the streets or are living homeless without the help we’ve received. We are EXTREMELY fortunate and I thank God every day for the help we’ve gotten. We have had it MUCH better than probably the majority of homeless people. I will also say that there are MANY types of homelessness, and what we’re experiencing is just one form of it. My heart breaks for people that have no car to sleep in, can’t stay in a hotel, are unemployed + homeless, and those who are living on the streets. I wouldn’t wish homelessness in any form on my worst enemy. Nobody should live like this. And again, we’ve had it a lot better than other people. We have endured some really crappy and traumatic things while being homeless, but we’ve also been blessed to have some beautiful moments and adventures.

I will also say that one post I read talked about stealing while homeless. My family and I have never stolen anything while on this journey; I have absolutely refused and set that boundary in stone from the very beginning. We have paid for everything this whole time, but I would be lying if I didn’t say sometimes it felt like we were going to have to steal at certain points. There was one time I recall during our time sleeping in the car that The Boy needed something (now, I can’t remember what) and I was freaking out because we didn’t have enough money for it. But thank God, we were able to get what he needed. I am not judging those who do steal; I have not been in their shoes so I can’t possibly. But I’m just saying that’s a moral line in the sand we set as a family and have stuck to.

If I could go back and do the past 6 months over again with what I know now, I would’ve made some very different decisions. I hope that others can learn from our mistakes and hopefully ease their situation if they are facing homelessness. If you want to help homeless people in your area, connect with local homelessness ministries, keep useful supplies (like food, toiletries, gift cards for food and gas) handy and give them out to homeless people when you see them, and honestly, just be kind. In my experience, truly homeless people who are really in need of help are not pushy. We’ve met some other homeless people while on our journey and they are usually extremely nice, grateful people. We’ve also met “fake” homeless people who are rude as heck and refuse food or toiletries because they just want cash. Just be discerning with who you give resources to. You probably know a homeless person at this very moment and don’t even know it. Those of us who are homeless and earnestly trying to survive are not so bold as to accost you and beg from you (although I can’t say I wouldn’t ask if my son truly needed something I couldn’t provide). I can’t really explain it, but there’s a meekness of spirit that we can feel when we’re around another homeless person. Idk.

Another thing to clarify is that our experience is different from most homeless people because we are a family, and a family with a disabled child and pets, at that. Many homeless people have pets. There are many homeless families. There are people that are homeless with special needs. But we are a combination of all those things. A lot of the decisions we made were for the comfort of my son. If I were by myself and homeless, I could live on 10% of my income and save the rest. If it were just me and my dogs, it would be far more difficult. If it were just me and my mom, we could live very cheaply and be in a place in no time. But we have made a lot of decisions some would not understand, simply because it was what was best for my son at the moment. For example, when we lived in the car, we had to drive literally all day long (unless we were stopped to eat or go to the playground) because he is a sensory seeker and is only content when moving. He cannot tolerate sitting in a parked car. If he were able to sit in a parked car, or hang out in a library, or any other number of things, we would’ve saved a ton of money on gasoline. But driving was what soothed him, so that’s what we did. Another thing was staying at a shelter. My son could never stay in a shelter with spaces open to other people. People kept suggesting to me “go stay at a shelter” and it was the most terrifying thought. The only thought more terrifying than that was not having the car or a shelter at all. Because how would I keep him safe? (He is an eloper; there would literally be no controlling him — he’d run into traffic without a second thought. He needs a roof over his head, even if it is the car.) So I want to clarify that as well, that there were boundaries for us even within homelessness that aren’t necessarily present for other people. If it were just me by myself being homeless, I could’ve survived on very little cash, worked in libraries, and slept in the car, caught up my bills, etc. etc. and I would likely already be in a place by now. But that’s not our story.

Anyway, thank you for reading this extremely long edit lol. I just want to make it very clear that we have been so incredibly blessed during this journey and have been very fortunate in ways most homeless people are not. So when you’re reading my posts, please keep in mind that our experience does not reflect the reality of many homeless people who have it worse than us. Thank you for reading.