19 grim things about being homeless

Homeless man

The following facts and quotes have been collected from three homeless people in Manchester, UK, (names have been changed for privacy) as well as from other sources…

  1. It’s almost impossible to get a job
A sign which says 'once I was like you'
Source: unknown

Without ID, companies can’t legally hire you, so you can’t get a job. And you can’t get legal identification without a registered address. You can’t earn money because you don’t have a job. And without money, well… you see where I’m going with this… you can’t rent a place to live.

  1. You can’t rent a room

See above… Without an ID, you’re trapped in a cycle. “Without ID, it’s not possible to legally rent a room in a B&B or any other safe place.” – Lisa

  1. Hostels can fill up quickly

Securing a space in a hostel is luck of the draw because there are only so many beds to go around. “It can be very hard to get a room for even a night when hostels fill up quickly. Rooms are often given on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, so unless you spend the day waiting outside of the hostel, there’s no guarantee you will get a room for the night.” – Lisa

  1. Some people refuse to give money

“When someone becomes homeless, they rely on help from the general public to live their lives. Since people worry their money will be spent on drugs and alcohol, many people just give us food or drinks. Many food charities give people free food and drinks so the person you’re buying food for might not actually need it.” – Jack

A homeless person with signs which say 'please help' and 'hard times, just trying to survive'
Source: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

“Sleeping cycles change when you don’t have a safe place to sleep and some people feel safer staying awake at night and sleeping in the day. But no one wants to give you a coffee unless it’s the morning.” – Daniel

“Money allows us to travel via public transport to reach friends and family who could house us for a night. It lets us afford a room in a hostel and it allows us to buy basic essentials like toothbrushes which charities only have so many of to give away. But no one knows which ones of us are actually desperate.” – Lisa

  1. ‘Fake’ homeless can take money they’d otherwise get

It’s grim to think about but some people are classed as ‘professional homeless’ workers. After being given an opportunity to rent a room, they continue begging for money on the streets so they can pay for the room. And then, despite having access to a legal address in order to acquire a job, they just keep going back onto the streets.

  1. Some people take all the food

There are multiple food drives which run in large cities and, believe it or not, some homeless people will go to all of them and receive a free meal from each.

“There is only so much food available and the people at the back of the queue might miss out while other people will have had 2 or 3 lunches that day. I know a couple of people who do this.” – Daniel

  1. Some people beg while claiming benefits

“Many homeless people claim benefits because they use a friend’s address to claim from and to get a bank card from. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but when someone is receiving hundreds of pounds a month and has no rent to pay, why do they still beg on the streets?!” – Lisa

  1. You have to practically beg a council to prioritise you

“I have gone to the town hall every day for 3 months and I’m still sleeping on the streets. A friend was given a small room in a flat block for homeless people by doing this so I’m on the list and she told me I should keep going back to let them know I still need a room. It isn’t the council’s fault but I’ve felt so ignored for so long.” – Daniel

  1. Some people enjoy the lifestyle

“No job, nothing to pay for, no responsibility – some people love it. I’ve met many people that sofa-surf at friends’ houses. They sleep on the sofa, eat their food, use their electric and internet and then leave. One guy I know was offered a room to rent out by his friend and he said no because he didn’t want to spend his disability benefits on rent. He claims for depression and anxiety and I told him if he had a room he wouldn’t be as depressed. I asked if I could rent the room but his friend said no because he didn’t know me well enough.” – Jack

“One of my friends likes being ‘in the know’ about everything. He knows where all the illegal parties are and he is very sociable. He sleeps on friend’s sofas and they give him free food and clothes because they feel sorry for him. He spends his money on himself. I think he is actually happy.” – Daniel

  1. Homelessness = depression

“It’s scary, it’s cold, it’s lonely and it’s depressing. I’m always exhausted because I don’t feel safe enough to sleep at night so I sleep in the day instead.” – Daniel

  1. It’s not safe to sleep out there

Homeless people are forced to sleep anywhere they can find, whether it’s a back alley or a park bench, under a bridge or in a shop doorstep. Some people squat in abandoned buildings too. There is a grim amount of stories of homeless people’s tents and/or sleeping bags being set on fire, sometimes with someone sleeping inside and people on the streets getting attacked in their sleep by drunk locals.

Lots of homeless people fall under the term of ‘hidden homeless’ because they sofa-hop, sleeping on friend’s and family’s sofas whenever they get the chance and they’re never completely sure where they’ll be staying one night to the next. A big problem with this is that it can cause the homeless person to be seen as a fake friend. They start to give the impression that they’re just taking advantage of other people’s kindness because they know their friends will feel guilty putting them out on the streets.

  1. Ignoring people is as bad as being rude to them

Some people just look away, pretending like the homeless don’t exist. They assume that all homeless people will spend the money on drugs, or that they deserve to be there because they didn’t try hard enough to get a job. Or that they’re just worthless. People can be grim.

A homeless man with a sign which says 'seeking human kindness'

“Some people mock me and others just ignore me. It’s like they don’t want to catch my eye and tell me they have no money so they just put their heads down instead. I don’t even ask for money, I’m just sitting here.” – Jack

  1. It’s hard to access basic essentials

“Many of us don’t have toothbrushes, toothpaste or a hairbrush because sometimes the charities run out. I knew one guy who used to go into Selfridges every day to spray aftershave on his unwashed clothes.

Some people mess about with the weighing scales at the self-service section of shops so they can get free food and only have to pay for half their shopping and I know some people that get food out of bins behind big supermarkets when they throw away the out-of-date food at the end of the day but some companies put locks on the bins because some idiots make a mess and throw rubbish on the floor which employees have to pick up.” – Jack

  1. Some people assume all homeless people are drug addicts

“We get looked down on and some people comment that they won’t give us money for drugs. Yeah, some homeless people end up addicted to drugs or alcohol. Life is exhausting when you’re tryna stay safe, warm and fed but everything seems hopeless. We don’t take drugs but we get judged the same as people who do.” – Lisa

Obviously some people end up homeless because of addictions, but even people who have never tried a drug in their life can get hooked after their first time. And some of the more affordable drugs, such as heroin, are the most lethal…

  1. There are veterans out there

If you experience being homeless, or speak to people that are or have been, you will find that there is a grim amount of war veterans out there, freezing and going hungry on the streets.

  1. Many homeless people rely on their skills to earn money

… and some people take that away from them.

A homeless man with a guitar

Some street buskers and artists are homeless but want to provide a service instead of just asking for money outright. They’ll play their guitar or create drawings and paintings to sell to passers-by.

“When someone broke my guitar, I had to beg for money so I could buy a new one to earn money with. I never wanted to do that.” – Lisa

  1. If you’re lucky enough to have personal items, you have to take them everywhere

“I know some good hiding places but my friend’s sleeping bag got taken from his hiding place, so he had to wait a week to get another from charity. He now carries it everywhere because he was freezing without it. And it’s mad some of the looks he gets for carrying it around. The guy just wants to be warm at night” – Jack

So when you see homeless people walking around with a bin bag, it probably contains spare clothes and a blanket or sleeping bag. They’re so concerned someone will take their things that they’ll carry heavy bags with them all day to keep them safe.

“When you’re walking a mile or more because you can’t afford a bus ticket, you’re carrying a bin bag of clothes and you’ve had 3 hours sleep, it’s exhausting.” – Lisa

  1. It can be hard to get back into society

Ex-homeless people can find it hard to get a job with a big gap in their resume, they have trouble accessing loans due to a lack of credit and they have to find a way to get out of the ‘fight or flight’ mindset which often comes from living in unsafe conditions for a prolonged period of time.

“I saw an old friend on the street a few weeks after he started renting a room at his brother’s house. I asked if he had been kicked out and he said no, he just couldn’t get a job. No one would hire him and he didn’t want to be a burden on his brother.” – Daniel

  1. Some people have pets
A homeless man cuddling up with a dog on the street.
Source: unknown

“Their pets are like therapy animals so they don’t want to give them up but they sometimes have to choose who eats and gets the water – them or their dog. Some always choose their dog even though they’re starving.” – Daniel

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