Infographic: How to Survive the Street and Work toward Employment and a Home

York University; The Homeless Hub
July 16, 2014

This week’s infographic, titled Help for the Homeless: How to Survive the Street and Work toward Employment and a Home, was created in order to help people currently experiencing homelessness by providing useful suggestions on planning for the future. Additionally, it seeks to advise those who wish to aid the homeless on how they might assist in helping persons experiencing homelessness in their pursuit of a better life. The contents of this infographic were put together using Kylyssa Shay’s article What to Buy if You are Homeless.

The infographic identifies steady employment and housing as important goals for homeless people. To meet said goals, persons experiencing homelessness must maintain their appearance and health, meaning that they need to be "clean, well-groomed, rested, [and] fed." More specifically, in order to demonstrate upkeep of good appearance and health, and in general, to progress toward the goals just mentioned, one must have access to "nutritious food, clean clothes and a place to bathe, a way to stay clean when they sleep, [and] a phone and a mailing address.” The infographic reminds us that these things are necessities as they can be integral to the process of getting off the streets. For example, "a cell phone and a mailing address" can be crucial to securing a job.

Essentially, what this infographic makes clear is that although it may be very difficult depending on the circumstances, there are certain things one can potentially do as a person experiencing homelessness to plan for the future. For example, people experiencing homelessness can:

  • Reach out to peers or a local church in order to obtain a temporary mailing address, or even rent a mailbox for approximately 30 dollars per month.
  • If possible, obtain a pay as you go cell phone to assist with job hunting. (Solar-powered cell phone chargers can be convenient.)
  • Save money where possible to put toward a future housing rental and use a bank account “or have money orders made out to yourself so people cannot steal your money from you.”
  • Be conscious of the end goal of securing your future, and refrain from substance use and spending money on “one day hotel stays [and] entertainment. Save only for your goal to rent a safe, lockable room.”
  • Apply for any assistance, “you may qualify for money, food, housing or other aid.” (“Homeless shelters or other non-profit aid organizations” are great places to ask for such assistance as many typically have access to and are familiar with relevant resources.)
  • Sleep in shelters whenever possible.
  • Bathe frequently (i.e. in sinks of locked gas station bathrooms, using damp paper towels in regular bathroom stalls), and attempt to stay cleaner by laying a tarp on the ground to place bedding on.

Additionally, there are many ways for others to assist, starting from things as simple as acknowledging those experiencing homelessness as fellow members of society by pleasantly greeting them, to donating inexpensive, yet necessary items for addressing some of the health issues that may arise for those living in poverty, most of which can typically be purchased from dollar stores, discount stores, and second-hand stores. Some key items identified in this post that are recommended for those experiencing homelessness to carry in a backpack are:

  • Hygiene items - bar soap, antiperspirant, toothbrush, hairbrush.
  • Clothing - pants and shirts, underclothes, lightweight socks, hats and gloves (ideally silky and polyester material items as they are fast-drying).
  • Food - cheap high calorie foods such as ramen noodles, canned beans, peanut butter, etc.
  • Shelter - mylar emergency blanket (which is useful for both warmth and cooling), plastic tarp.

Help for the Homeless infographic
Media Folder: 

Alicia is an undergraduate student in Political Science and Psychology at York University. She is currently working with the Homeless Hub on a lived experience book and a research ethics guide for conducting research with Aboriginal participants who are experiencing homelessness. Her main research interests are Aboriginal homelessness and youth homelessness in Canada.


2:48 AM 13/10/2017

You really provided great information to us. This is really helpful. Thanks for sharing.

Stanley Q Woodvine
12:58 AM 23/11/2015

While I agree with the steps listed in this article, I find that what's missing is any reference to the necessary role of government in facilitating homeless people in getting themselves off the street through work and saving.

I consider myself a case in point because I tried hard to get myself off the streets by getting a job, saving my money and trying to rent.

Within a day of becoming homeless in Vancouver B.C. in 2004, I had half my stuff stolen while I slept, including my I.D. and my bank safety deposit key.

The B.C. welfare worker I spoke to days later told me it was my job to get my I.D. back and that I would have to get an "intent to rent" before any assistance of any sort would be forthcoming.

I found a part time job in a book store until 2005 but it paid next to nothing. I still had to collect bottles to be able to feed myself and wash my clothes, etc.

In 2007 I managed to get a more-or-less full-time job by not telling my potential employers that I was homeless.

For the next two years I worked like a dog -- sometimes for 19 hours straight. I banked every dime I could, but I couldn't keep it up. The absence of any real support for working homeless made trying to hold down a full-time job fairly intolerable.

Simply getting a shower or doing laundry was a terrific ordeal. There should have been shower and laundry facilities available at least from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. so working homeless could access such facilities around real-world work schedules, but no -- The city-run Gathering Place in downtown Vancouver, for example: 10 a.m to 4 p.m. with a generous lunch break for unionized city staffers.

And no matter what I saved, no one would rent to me because I was homeless and had a giant hole in my rental history.

Unfortunately their were no government services such as I could see to help give me some credibility in the eyes of landlords. I had a job after all -- welfare was for unemployed people.

I gave up the job at the beginning of 2010 -- it was too much stress. I

f I must be homeless then it's better that I support myself collecting bottles; that way I can control my schedule and get showers and do laundry within the limited window that such services are made available.

And I had to give up my bank account in 2012 because I could no longer afford the service charges.

Another thing that I believe you neglect to say is that the Housing First model is fairly antithetical to people trying to work their way off the street.

Housing First not only does nothing to help and encourage homeless people to work, save money and find market housing, I believe it actually sucks up the resources that would be needed to provide such services.

In Vancouver, certainly, HF appears to be little more than a project to warehouse drug addicts and get them on disability assistance so that so that they can continue their panhandling and drug-taking forever, from the secure base of a government-paid sleeping spot. I'm sure it's not that way in all cases but from where I sit, that's what it looks like.

There is now a wide spectrum of structural homelessness built into our complex Canadian society. It will never leave us. Some people will be homeless for days, others for weeks and so on.

I believe that Canadian society needs to build am escalator designed to provide the services to help homeless people lift themselves out of homelessness and back into mainstream society as self-supporting citizens.

This is not anything like the goals of Housing First, which simply seems to tie people perpetually to the government purse.

It should be the law across Canada that all levels of government must insure that everyone has access to the legal identification that they need to work, vote and otherwise fully participate in society.

There should be something close to 24-hours shower/laundry and storage services in a city the size of Vancouver -- such services need not even be free.

And the government should stand behind homeless people who are working and trying to become renters again.

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