"Socks! Socks! Socks!" The old man screams as he pushes his shopping cart down the street. He is crazy, he is homeless, but he is right.
Welcome to the first rule of the streets: Socks!
Most people today live paycheck to paycheck, surviving month after month on borrowed money and borrowed time, and we are all aware of how close the streets are away from the tender thread we live on. But are any of us prepared for urban survival? Are we ready for the challenges that face over 100,000 structurally deficient Los Angeles citizens everyday?
If you find yourself heading face first in the gutter, here are a couple of hard fast rules to surviving the streets of Los Angeles.
The first rule is socks. Gotta have them! There is nothing worse than having your toes curl up in a pair of ripped smelly socks that you have had on for a week. Not to mention foot fungus, jungle rot, and the blisters that go along with ill used socks. Out of all the dangers and challenges of life outdoors, any homeless person can tell you that clean socks are better than a hot meal any day. With clean socks, you can maintain clean smelling shoes which can can lead to clean smelling places to sleep. Nobody will ever invite you back into their house if when you take off your shoes, it smells like week old garbage. Also, never store your dirty socks in your backpack. It's like letting a skunk lose inside your belongings as the smell never goes away. Downtown L.A. has plenty of places to buy dozens of socks for below five dollars. Buy them, use them, and toss them out.
Second comes the rule, "Don't look homeless!" There is nothing worse than looking like the stereotypical street vagrant. Extra bags, shopping carts, tents, sleeping bags, your expensive can collection, all these things scream of the streets. Also not bathing and not washing your clothes can be signs of living in an alley. You can't get off the streets if you allow yourself to look like the streets. If you must have extra stuff, there are drop in centers and storage places to put your property in so you don't have to look homeless and most of these places have free laundry facilities and showers. Use them!
Location, location, location! This is important for the third and forth rules. It is very important to find an area that you can feel safe and secure while living on the streets. This area should provide you with temporary or safe shelter, places to get food, drop-in centers for mail, phone, showers, and laundry, and it should also be a place where you can be around some positive people. The next part, rule four, says that while this place becomes your comfort zone, it is only an illusion of comfort. Don't fall into the trap of staying there too long, because days turn into months, months to years, and pretty soon, you own a shopping cart with your name on it and the back alley is your permanent address. Try not to stay in any area for more than three to six months, unless you have a job or are in a program that is helping you get off the streets. If you ain't workin' then that street's not workin'!
Now, we come to rule five: Bags! Most homeless people seem to have an obsession with bags. Shopping bags, backpacks, suitcases, garbage bags, and tote bags. They carry so much unnecessary stuff that they look like pack mules. When it comes to bags, try to carry only what is needed for that day. A messenger bag and a backpack, both looking clean, should be the most you should want to carry during the day. These items make you look like a student or a traveler. They are common n our society, so it won't look like you are homeless. If you must have other possessions, keep them at a drop-in center during the day or if you can afford it, rent a storage space and use it as your personal wardrobe. As the Yaqui indians believe, attachment to the material weighs down your soul. On the streets, attachment to useless items just plain weighs you down.
Rule six and seven piggy back rule five. After you have gone through your essentials, brought yourself down to the basics, the next step is to stay clean and keep clean. All over Los Angeles, there are drop-in centers that offer free showers and laundry. Also, there are public beaches with showers and if you have to cheat, most community colleges have gyms with showers that you can sneak into during the day. That is if you don't look homeless. Keeping clean and staying clean is not just about hygiene, but about self-esteem and having pride in yourself. Lose the ability to care for yourself, and you lose the ability to care. The second part of this, number seven, is to wear layers. Wearing two to three layers of clothes eliminates the need to carry them, which gives more room in your limitless bag. The tricky part is keeping the layers clean. Always machine wash the bottom layer, rotate it for the top and if you need to, go to the beach, wet down, and sun dry yourself.
Eight and nine ride together, too. Stay away from infectious people! I'm not talking about diseases, which are also important, but those in life that are truly unlucky and doomed to bring anyone they know down to their realm, down to the heart of the gutter. Avoid them like the plague! They seem interesting and draw you into their web of drama and need, confuse you with their tales of woe and their fables of nobody gets off the streets, and they will heap their burdens onto your already heaping shoulders. Learn to recognize these people. They live only for the grand drama that the streets provide and don't mind adding you to the cast of characters. While avoid the infectious, learn to hang with those that are positive and willing to get out of their situation. Start connecting with the bottom-level go getters who always have appointments and places to be. Tap these ambitious people for information, for they will know of better shelters, places to do temp work, and the hard to find resources of the streets. When mining humanity, always strike for gold!
Now, we come to the last rule. Never fall in love with the streets! Once you have sunk to the bottom, once you have mastered your daily needs and once you have settled into your comfort zone, it slowly dawns on you that the streets on so bad. You have no bills, no worries, food is dropped in your lap, and always someone is willing to share a story and a bottle with you. You realize how easy it is too forget about a job, an apartment, about family, and friends. Every day becomes an adventure. Life is so simple!
Yes, there is an allure to the streets, especially places filled with counter culture like San Francisco and Venice Beach. It becomes easy, and even trendy, to live on the beach, in the park, even passed out drunk on cardboard. There is a great sense of freedom to no longer caring about society. But the longer you stay attached to the streets, the harder it becomes to return. I have lived as one of the professional homeless elite for six years, and I am just now returning to a world that is almost alien to me. Every time I pass a trash can, I want to stop and look inside for goodies. But I don't, I just keep walking and save that treasure for someone else. I'll look elsewhere, among society, for my rewards.
LEISURE - CELEBRITIES
Copyright © 2010 Crowbar
Gutter 101: Ten Rules to Survive On The Streets
Copyright © 2010 Crowbar
About the WriterWant to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!
8 comments on Gutter 101: Ten Rules to Survive On The Streets
Rate This Article
Your vote matters to us