Just because you are homeless doesn't mean you should be homely....
Do you know the primary reason that the general public tends to think of the homeless as being smelly and icky?
Because they are.
That's why your first priority as the newly minted homeless should be appearance and hygiene. Yeah, that's right, appearance. Think you've got bigger things to worry about? Wrong! Appearance and hygiene, or rather the painful lack of same, is one of the prime reasons your company isn't welcome. Nobody wants to be around dirty, stinky people. Got it? Good. Here's a stale cookie for you.
Make no mistake, staying clean and maintaining a civil appearance can be a nightmare. I know. Doubly so if your situation forces you to become a 'bush-baby' at night to get some sleep. What most people take for granted every morning may take you, the intrepid camper, half a day to accomplish. Still, unless you like your present situation or can convince people you are a French national, you'd better make the effort.
Staying clean and somewhat presentable not only helps you stay healthy, but allows you to move amongst the mundane with nary a sidelong glance, up-turned nose or hassle. As you will discover, this is a priceless key to elegant homeless living. And don't you deserve the very best?
Except for the time involved, keeping yo nasty self clean is probably the easiest part about Extreme Camping. Unlike food or shelter, places to clean up are plentiful. All public buildings have that fancy new fangled indoor plumbing, or restroom for the rest of us yokels. And I'll be darned if some clever rascal hasn't done gone and put soap in there too! A sink and towel bath may not be that refreshing but it's a lot better than being dirty.
Here's another idea if you live near a lake or beach. Jump in! Or maybe not, after all the idea is to get clean. Fortunately there are often public showers available there. Granted, it's cold water. Most people view cold water showers with the same enthusiasm they reserve for root canal and rashes. Still, it is a shower, and as you will have hammered into your pointy little noggin, cleanlieness is everything. But wait! It gets even better. If you happen to be near a university or jr. college.... Ahhh Bonus! I think I just saw the lightbulb go on over your head.
Here's another point that is very very important. If you are a man, you must shave everyday. EVERYDAY. Not shaving on weekends is a luxury reserved for people with a place to live. So shave, even if this means using a dull razor. It will still work, it just takes longer. Again, I know this from experience.
"But why why why? I've had a beard since I was six." you say.
Tough. Stop whinning, it's gotta go. Even for guys not facing your challenges, keeping a beard from looking like a rat's nest is a chore. It doesn't matter what some drunken trailer troll once told you, the ZZ Top look was never sexy or presentable. Trust me, neither the girls nor anyone else goes crazy over a homeless man, or that mess.
Here's another important reason for shaving. Do a quick inventory of your wardrobe. Not much there huh? As you will be/are sleeping in your clothes and washing them (more on laundry in the future) frequently and brutally, they are going to begin to look worn out faster. At this point even a neatly trimmed beard fails. So shave. Everyday. It's part of the package and you can grow it back when you're life has stabilized.
Now, if you are worried about people seeing you performing your daily cleaning rituals, congratulations, you should be. The vast majority of people are going to be less than thrilled to see you doing this. The obvious solution then is To Avoid Being Seen. Who'da thunk it? This means careful timing and scouting (remember the word scouting, you'll be seeing a lot more of it). Do your clean up when the flow of people is at its lowest. If you have the college shower option available, being seen isn't as critical but you still want to maintain a low profile. Try to hit the showers right after classes begin. Usually about 10 minutes past the hour.
If you are fortunate enough to have access to a restroom with a locking door, use it, but remember that timing is still important. Though you won't have to worry about someone walking in, you don't want a line of people waiting for YOU. Remember, you are homeless. Your tolerance/slack quota from the general public is nigh about zero.
So. You've done your scouting, you've timed it out, you're inside and ready to go. Now what? First of all common sense. If you are taking your street bubble bath in a salle de bain without a locking door, for the love of God don't drop trou' in front of the sink and hope nobody walks in. There is a word for a person who does this: Jackass.
If the restroom doesn't have a locking door, use the stall to clean your naughty bits. Furthermore, you should wash yourself in stages. This means don't get all nekid.
Wash each area separately, keeping the remainder of your clothes on. If you have personal grooming supplies, keep them in your bag unless you are using them. Don't have it all spread out all over the place. You observe these precautions because someone might walk in. Seriously bad Ju-Ju. If someone does walk in on you, the appropriate response is to STOP what you are doing and vacate as quickly as possible. The above mentioned practices help facilitate a quick exit.
What you should NOT DO is cop an attitude or brass it out and go on as if they hadn't walked in. Or act as if there was nothing unusual about bathing in a sink. It's VERY unusual! Unusual things get people's attention. These people might very well then complain. Complaints can lead to actions. Actions like you being asked to leave and not return. Or the police being called. Or any number of other things that might tend to spoil your personal poverty party.
Remember, in the pecking order of life, right now household pets and flowering plants rank higher than you. (That is no exaggeration, if you type in - Orange County homeless - on Google, the number one hit is for Homeless Pets) Yes, you are only performing a function essential to human dignity, but perforce you are doing so as an interloper. I don't say these things to shatter the remnants of your self-esteem. I say these things as a reminder to do constant reality checks. Reality checks that will help you to avoid making things worse than they are. Sort of like, umm, Tough Love! Aww shucks, come on, group hug.
A final point. Once you have finished cleaning yourself, clean the restroom as well. Repeat after me: Puddles on floor, hair in sink BAAAD. Neat and clean GOOOD. Got it?
Give yourself another stale cookie.
If you don't leave a mess, and you are as quick as possible in the restroom there is a fair chance that a) you won't be noticed, or b) the proprietor might turn a blind eye to your activities. Besides, it's just plain common courtesy.
Leave a mess, use up all the paper towels, tie up the restroom and I guarantee it won't be long before you are looking for another place to clean up.
Okay, that's it for our first lesson in becoming HC (Homeless Chic). Our next topic is, "Where do I lay me down to sleep?" Which in some respects is at first (second and third too) the most frightening aspect of joining Club Homeless.
By this stage you should be overflowing with questions, all of which I will be happy to answer. Even the stupid ones. Yes Virginia, there are stupid questions. No worries though, I'll answer anyway. In fact, that's part of the fun of this site. Your questions mold future topics. I know what you're thinking.... "tight". And well you should, I'm a clever little monkey. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a stale cookie waiting for me.
Gee a home. I sort of remember what that was like.
Wish I had one to go BACK to.
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