That’s the provisional (revised) title for the novel, because this little journal / blog thing is proving quite popular and gaining followers. I’ve even received a tentative offer of publication as a semi-fictitious diray of a homeless person and a guide to homelessness in general.
Some tips then:
- Dry weather is your friend, as discarded cigarette ends (if you smoke) remain dry and can by de-constructed, the tobacco collected and roll-ups made.
- The best time of day to get cheap food is just before the supermarkets close and they mark prices down.
- Good spots for free food are at the rear of take-away establishments. You can spot the rear of catering venues by the metal flumes leading from the kitchens.
- Get to know people who work for food joints.
- Public toilet hand dryers are a good source of warmth for hands and food. Warmth can also be gained on trains: buy a ticket to the nearest station and travel to and fro for the two hour validity of the ticket. Rail replacement buses are also good during engineering works as you don’t normally have to show a ticket.
- Libraries are good for warmth (and reading, newspapers as well as books). So are hospitals and police stations, although the latter doesn’t permit reading and emergency service facilities are best avoided anyway.
- Charity shops often discard surplus stock at the rear of their premises. Sometimes a minor gem will emerge, which can be sold (on eBay perhaps, by virtue of free wi-fi hotspots). The Cloud is a great resource and app.
- Bubble wrap makes for warm bedding; wooden pallets, good mattresses, raising you from a damp floor.
- Talk to people: don’t beg but engage. The generousity of strangers and new-found friends is amazing.
- Lidl is good for cheap food and drink. Also Aldi and all supermarket “basic” ranges.
- Chew gum and swallow it: it fills the stomach and staves off hunger.
- Library books, as well as being free to read, are laminated and therefore protected from the outside elements.
- Toothpaste and a tooth brush can be acquired from 99p Stores and their ilk. Sainsbury’s Basics water is 17p (at the time of writing) for two litres. Baby wipes also, for a “bath”: 99p Stores etc. A complete wash bag for just over three quid.
- MacDonald’s and Wetherspoons are good places to keep warm and dry. Both sell coffee for 99p to £1.49, don’t seem to be in a hurry to move you on and offer free wi-fi.
- Hot meals could be few and far between. MacDonald’s Saver Menu is useful (99p for a Cheeseburger for example; and free wi-fi).
- A makeshift camping stove is easy to construct: cheap candles (£5.99 for 100 tea lights which last 4 hours each from Robert Dyas), placed beneath a disposable baking tin (99p for six from 99p Stores) perched upon a tin can. One-pot meals are key here and Frankfurters, baked beans and potatoes (all tinned and ready-cooked; from supermarket “Basic” ranges again) make for an acceptable sausage casserole. The sausage brine and bean sauce mean that you don’t have to worry about stock. Tin foil is good too: wrapped around that which you wish to cook; instand mini oven.
- (Hospital food is genrally good. Police station food is shit: try to avoid injury or arrest).
- Ask favours of those whom you meet, including getting laundry done. Launderettes are relatively inexpensive though and tend to charge around a fiver for washing and tumble drying up to 16LBS of clothes: save it up; try to have three of four outfits in rotation.
- Larger branches of Greggs have inside seating. They sell cheese rolls and ham rolls for £1. Visit outside of the traditional lunchtime and you’re unlikely to be moved on. It’s warm and dry too.
- Baths and showers may also be rare. Public lavatory hand wash facilities are useful, as are baby wipes (99p Stores etc.) Toilet paper is freely available from public lavatories.
- I don’t condone this but if you really need to get somewhere, get in a cab and jump the fare. I’ve done it but eased my guilt by leaving say a watch as collateral and going back to pay the fare subsequently.
- Carry a tool: pen knives are useful and legal, as are walking canes. There are people out there who prey on the vulnerable.
Be safe; be strong; be good.