15 Things You Learn From Being Homeless

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While homelessness isn't something that anyone should experience, it is one of the greatest teachers of life lessons that there is. Even if you will never be homeless, learning the lessons that life on the street teaches will help put a lot of life into perspective. After all, nothing will make you more grateful for all the goods that you have than realizing how many live without and struggle to be in your position.

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The homeless often are the first ones to see truly good gestures of altruism from people. You might meet people who will give you the coat off their back. You might meet people who will bring you into a restaurant so you can get a good meal, or read a book to you. You may even meet people who offer you jobs. What's even more amazing is that the people who help you out will come in all different forms, from businessmen to hippies. And, the help that they offer is often what gives you hope while you're out on the streets.

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Because of the nature of homelessness, people often take advantage of homeless people — just because they can. In many cases, homeless people become prime targets for human trafficking, theft and murder. After all, no one is looking out for them, and homeless folks often don't have the best relationship with local police. If you're smart, you'll learn when people are taking advantage of you and how to defend yourself from it. 

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Instinct plays a large part in survival when you can't rely on the law to back you up. (And let's be honest, the law is rarely an ally of the homeless.) If your gut tells you that someone is out to hurt you, you should listen to it. Too often, the results of not trusting your gut, or going against what your gut instinct tells you to do, will end up causing you to end up seriously harmed. 


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Boredom is expensive, and if you're homeless without a job, you will be bored very often. It's often the thing that brings homeless people to drink and do drugs, simply because they can't find anything else to do. It also can lead to loitering tickets from the police, getting kicked out of restaurants for sitting there too long or worse. 

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Many people who are homeless are working towards getting their own houses, but they often need a lot of help before they can achieve that. 3 out of every 10 homeless people have a job. Since they are homeless and still working, it's pretty safe to say that their job isn't making ends meet. More often than not, a number of the 7 out of 10 homeless folks stopped working because it just wasn't making their quality of life better. 

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A roof over your head often becomes your number one priority when you're homeless. That means that you will need to convince people that you aren't a thief, a psycho or some sort of violent offender. That's easier said than done in many cases, which means that you really will have to work on your charm in order to keep a roof over your head. 

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Too often, you'll find that people will immediately cast you as a miscreant or drug addict if you're homeless. They won't want to talk to you, and they may even pretend that you don't exist. Once in a while, you will feel so alone, so left out, that when someone actually asks you your name or tries to talk to you like a real person, you will feel amazingly grateful. At times, it's those moments of recognition that keep you sane. 

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If you have any sort of shot at getting back under a roof, you will do your best to  learn how to hustle. You will learn how to do everything from sell water bottles on a corner to begging people for money to busking to actual sales for real companies. It's rare to find someone who got out of homelessness without some sort of sense of entrepreneurial spirit. After all, you have to make money in order to get out of homelessness, and when few companies will hire you, that leaves you as your most likely employer.

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The moment you lose your house, a large portion of your friends will magically disappear. Sadly, most people don't want to admit to being friends with someone who is so down on their luck that they live in the streets.  Others are worried that your drama will somehow leak into their life. This means that you will likely see a lot of people who are going to make themselves scarce — especially if you ask for a place to stay. The people who do something to help you are the ones who are your real friends. They will make themselves known sooner rather than later. 


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When people say they "need" new clothes, they are really just saying that they want them because it will keep them stylish. If you have clothes on your back, you already have the amount of clothes that you need. When you're homeless, you're too busy worrying about food, water and shelter to care about getting the latest pair of Air Jordans. If you're still worrying about your wants as a homeless person, you're probably going to get nowhere very fast.

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Truth be told, you don't have to be homeless to learn this. All you really need to do is take a few minutes of your day to ask different homeless folks about how they ended up on the streets. There are homeless people out there with college degrees. There are homeless people out there who used to own their own businesses. There are kids out there without roofs over their heads. Not all of them drank or drugged their way into the streets. It only takes one major mistake or one calamity outside of your control to end up being homeless for good. 

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Believe it or not, one of the cheapest ways to find people to couch surf with for the night, or to even just avoid being out on the street at nights is to attend cheap nightclub events that require little to no cover. Getting involved in a local club scene or art scene also might give you a shot at becoming a promoter who passes out flyers for cash. 

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By nature, being homeless makes you the outsider looking into society. People who have homes generally don't want to talk to people who don't — unless they are just "staying at a friend's place." This means that they won't understand why you can't make ends meet, and they also won't understand the kind of stigma that you face. More often than not, the only people who will understand that are other people who have experienced homelessness. 

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These places tend to have strict rules and cramped rooming — a very bad combination when you consider how stressed out many homeless people are. The result is that some homeless people will end up getting into fights with one another, stealing things, or just going nuts while getting help. This is why many homeless people prefer the streets to shelters.


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Homelessness is the ultimate test of resilience. When no one is supporting you, when you have no roof over your head or food in your stomach, the fact that you're still alive proves how resilient you are. You owe yourself the favor of not giving up in the face of adversity. 

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