How to be a homeless person in the U.S. without being destitute -or- Creating a distributed household

by | Nov 18, 2010 01:05 PM ET

I am working on a homeless project with a friend that is requiring research, and as part of doing that research came across this site:

Survival Guide to Homelessness

This is one of those brilliant reconceptualizations that is worth reading simply because of the inventiveness and clarity of the author. Instead of being "homeless", he reconceptualizes the problem into "creating a distributed home:

I spent nearly five years, from mid-1996 to the beginning of 2001, homeless, or as I liked to call it with a distributed household. I had storage, shelter, mailbox, telephone, shower, bathroom facilities, cooking equipment, and transportation, even access to television, radio, computer equipment, and ac power. I had the essence of a home. It was simply more geographically scattered than is traditional in our culture.

If you think about it that way, homelessness changes from "disaster" into "an exercise in maximal frugality". He puts it this way:

Imagine working two weeks to pay for your expenses for two months. You can easily go to college with an income requirement so low. My expenses, excluding food, averaged $300 per month for the five years I was homeless. That included storage, mailbox, telephone or pager, gasoline, vehicle insurance, health club membership, dry cleaning, laundry, new clothes, and entertainment. I went to the movies a lot. Imagine what you could do with the time if your work week was two days and your weekend was five.
I went to museums, libraries, volunteered, went to concerts, went to college, watched trials at the local courthouse, spent time with friends, played chess, practiced yoga, read, went to movies, and spent time just thinking.
The freedom is awesome. It is also somewhat daunting. It is hard to be prepared for so much time on your hands. In a strange way I felt a kinship with prisoners. The time can draw out and overwhelm you, so don't be surprised by this experience. Depression can sometimes attend this amazing freedom. In the end, the freedom to do as you please is addictive.

It's a worthwhile read simply because it gives you a different perspective.

One step up from that would be the freegan lifestyle described in this post:

How to Dumpster Dive

The post contains this quote:

“These Freegans work odd jobs to pay their $300/month rent at their co-op and find all they need to survive in the trash. They reduce their carbon footprint, use and reuse items that would be wasted and many live communally.” So, if you are living on $300/month and everything else is free, then it is costing $3,600 per year to survive.

A similar step would be using an inexpensive RV as a home:

Using an RV as a home

See also: How to live in your car

Proposal for a homeless "colony":

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