Being a savvy homeless, by an “urban professional”

Becoming homeless is one of the things that I and most other people fear in life. This morning while taking the train to work, after I had finished my book I was left alone with my thoughts for the final 20 minutes of journey. During this time I thought about how I could use the wealth of experience I have built up over the years from being a patron of the hospitality industry to survive whilst homeless. I have come to the conclusion that, in theory, as long as you follow a few golden rules, you will be able to get by — for a time at least.

There are 3 rules that must always be abided by in order for the following tips to work:

  1. You must always be clean and look at least semi-respectable. Tattered, dirty clothing and unkempt hair will prevent most of these things from being achievable.
    Having a shirt and a pair of trousers would be highly advantageous; they don’t need to be expensive.
  2. Don’t try these things in the same place too often. Give each a cooling off period, or even hop a train and move city periodically.
  3. Don’t carry all of your belongings around with you on a day-to-day basis. Find a place that you can store most of it and go to pick things up every so often, or get a wheelie suitcase (more will be explained about this later).

Okay, so now that you’ve absorbed the above points, should you ever find yourself homeless, here are some things that I have picked up over the years that could help you to stay alive, healthy, warm and safe.

Disclaimer: None of these tips encourage stealing or theft of services. I would not advise you to break into hotel rooms or anything like that; this is generally a bad idea. Anything in this post is hypothetical.
The author is not responsible for any misdemeanours committed as a result of this article.

Hotels are your friend

After you check into a hotel legitimately, you feel comfortable walking around, using the amenities; basically treating the place like you own it, and very infrequently are you asked to prove that you have a right to be there. Only once have I been asked to produce a key-card to wander the halls of a hotel that I was staying at.
If you take on this air of confidence and treat a hotel as if you were checked in, you are likely to be able to spend a considerable amount of time using the warmth and safety of the hotel to your advantage.

Hotels have a wide range of areas that can be used without having a room key, these vary from hotel to hotel and chain by chain, but by and large they will all have at least one of these:

Guest floor waiting-areas
On various guest floors, usually right by the lifts, there will be an arrangement of sofas and/or armchairs, usually with a coffee table and an assortment of newspapers.
I would estimate you could get away with sitting here for a few hours at least and, if questioned, just say that you’re waiting for a friend to come out of their room.

The lobby/reception area
Every hotel lobby has sofas, newspapers and chairs for guests or visitors to use. I have sat in hotel lobbies, reading a book or newspaper, un-hassled for hours on end in the past. They are warm, comfortable and I believe that you could easily lounge around here for 6-12 hours before arousing suspicion.

Gym changing rooms
Vital to this guide is keeping clean and looking respectable, so use gym changing rooms to have a shower, wash your hair, etc. Usually you can get into these without any trouble but are asked to provide proof of residence on trying to use the pool, sauna etc. I wouldn’t advise trying to have a morning work-out; this is just pushing your luck.

Conference facilities
Almost all hotels these days double up as a place for businesses to hold events, where the members can sleep and then attend seminars and the like.
The advantage here is that there are a lot of people roaming around the building. You could easily be taken for one of these people should you be wearing suitable attire (this goes back to the shirt and trousers point above). Every single conference will put on a buffet, or sometimes three; breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When I have attended these in the past I have always thought that getting into one of them uninvited would be a cinch, either by pretending you’ve lost your pass or, at the registration table, simply looking down at the rows and rows of laminated badges that are on the table in front of you and picking a name at random. If the badge hasn’t been handed out, they aren’t there yet. Get your tea, coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat or whatever and get out of there. Perhaps even come back for lunch, but don’t hang around to take in a seminar just in case the real Bill Smith turns up and you are forcibly ejected.

Little things make a big difference

The wheelie suitcase
The wheelie suitcase has become symbolic in western culture of importance, and depending on the colour or brand, wealth.

If you’re homeless and want to maintain a sense of social worth so that you can use your blagging skills to stay alive, purchase a wheelie suitcase. It will be the best investment you ever made.

Have you ever been walking behind someone with a wheelie suitcase and thought they might be homeless, as you’re cursing them for getting in your way? I doubt it.

On the final leg of a journey that has taken over 24 hours, do you worry that your fellow passengers think you’re homeless? No. The wheelie suitcase expels that possibility, and expunges your bad smells. You’re a traveller, a world traveller, and all because of the wheelie suitcase.

What this guide has been written to prove is that while society has a lot of perks, those who get to use those perks do so mostly because they emit a sense of importance from the way that they act or look. Once that importance is lost a lot of life’s perks go with it. You start being immediately dismissed. As soon as you approach somebody to speak to them they have already made a distinction, that you are homeless and that anything you have to ask should be treated with suspicion or that you should be treated with less importance than somebody who is wearing a suit jacket and shirt.

I do it, so does my father and so do all of my friends. If a man with a backpack, dirty tracksuit bottoms and unwashed hair approaches you on the street, you immediately wonder what they are going to ask you for and what their story will be; perhaps 61p for the train, or money to get a coffee. But if a man with a wheelie suitcase, a rigid crease in his trousers and a tie approached you, you would be less weary, less expectant that they will ask to take your change, you treat them more like a human being.


  1. wow, awesome post, I was wondering the same thing. and found your site by google, many userful stuff here, now i have got some idea. bookmarked and also signed up your rss. keep us updated.

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