People Who've Been Homeless Explain What Those First Nights Without A Home Were Like

People Who've Been Homeless Explain What Those First Nights Without A Home Were Like

Becoming homeless is an experience many hope to never live through.

However, that fear is a daily reality for millions already. You may not know what to do when the time comes. However, what appears to be standard, as evidenced by these stories, is the first night will be rough. Very rough.

Reddit user, Eniv3n, wanted to hear about the first night without a roof over your head when they asked:

"People who are / have been homeless, what was the first night without a home like, and how did you adapt to your new situation?"

Happy Campers

"I was about 9 years old, and my mom said we were going on a camping trip. I didn't really suspect anything, as it was summertime and we went camping a lot when I was younger. Although I did wonder why we were packing so much stuff. After a few weeks of "camping," I started to complain, but my mom kept insisting that it was good for us to get in touch with nature, etc. Then school started, and we were still camping. And we kept camping for another 6 months. When we finally got a house, my mom cried with joy. And we don't camp anymore."


Sugar Drop

"I remember being really hungry and acting weird because of the low blood sugar, almost delirious. This was when I made a futile attempt to run away from an abusive home with no money. I ended up going back because of that."


It All Came Crashing Down

"I was only homeless for about six weeks, at 36 years of age. After several years of depression and anxiety slowly eroding my resources, relationships and general will to try anymore, I ended up having a final blowout with my gf, who reasonably couldn't handle me anymore."

"I started sleeping at work, which wasn't even a full-time job."

"The delicacy involved in not getting caught, and the freedom from the extremely unhealthy state my relationship had been in, kept my mind away from the absolute, abject terror that was hiding beneath the surface; the scary part of homelessness for me was the growing sense that if I fell any further I'd probably never get back up. It takes resources to be clean, fed and rested, and if you aren't those things it's very hard to get resources, let alone find the will to try. But that first night was all triage, all focused on being sure the second night wasn't going to be on the street."

"I pulled it off for six weeks, and that time, actually, saved my life; I was away from conflict, intimately connected to how dire my circumstances had become, forced into a very regular schedule (routine is really good for me but nigh-impossible in a depressive state), and, without bills, was able to save enough for damage-deposit and rent."

"I still struggle with depression in a pretty serious way but the animal terror of having no where and no one really seared itself into me. A better motivation would be the-future-i-want than the-future-i-fear, but as it stands I at least have a motivator strong enough to escape the incredible gravity of mental illness."


The Loneliness

"I was kicked out by my mother at 16 and spent 2 months homeless before the local authority placed me in foster care."

"I think what hit me first was how my own mother could make one of her own children homeless. I felt like the least favorite of her children - it all came out of nowhere, I racked my brain for years after, trying to think of what I might have done in particular."

"Also the crippling loneliness you feel when you are trying to get hold of people to ask for a place to sleep for the night. I could not feel more alone in the world when someone would either not answer my message or tell me they were busy."

"I'm pretty sure I camped out in the park that night. Didn't sleep at all."


Dope Sick

"I was getting high, so it really didn't truly sink in until I was broke and dope sick. Then the desperation started. Going to gas stations jumping car to car asking for money. Stealing what I had to. It was a miserable existence. There are so many things you don't think about when your not homeless... taking a shower, washing your clothes, and the boredom. Hours upon hours of nothing to do. And the constant noise. There was nowhere to go where it was truly quiet."

"Fortunately I eventually got arrested for shoplifting reached out to family who helped me get back on my feet"


Savior Mom

"Had a single mom. We slept in a station wagon at the lake. We thought it was just an amazing summer camping trip. Mom didn't sleep much at all and when she did the slightest sound/movement woke her. Kept a pistol within hands reach at night since we had the windows down"


Had to Go

"I lived at school until I dropped out due to a bunch of personal reasons piling up. My mom was mad that I dropped out and wouldn't even talk to me the first few days after and my relationship with my father is complicated/nonexistent."

"I took the train to my home town, even though I didn't know what I would do or where I would go when I got there. I ended up staying the first night in my brothers room (not quite an apartment, just the one room with a kitchen and bathroom he shares with like 5 other people)."

"After that, I posted to social media that I was in this unfortunate situation, and a friend I had lost touch with despite once being very close offered that I could stay with him and his fiance until I got a place of my own."

"I never actually had to sleep outside, and I found an apartment after about one month so all in all I was pretty lucky with how it turned out."

"Oh and my mom and I are cool now, and my dad and I are also trying to rebuild our relationship after he finally divorced his no-longer-new wife (I've always referred to her as his new wife even though it's been over a decade)"


No Safety

"I was homeless for a little while in the 80's. Its terrifying at first. You feel so unsafe. I was a teenager, and wasn't willing to close my eyes and sleep on a park bench alone. So, I went to a local shelter and lied about my age. The forced me to shower and do a pee test. It turns out the women in that shelter were scarier than the street so the next night I didn't go back. I slept in a park but ultimately made squatter friends and stayed with them. It was very much a community and I felt safe and loved there."

"The biggest problem with being homeless in the city is no one wants to let you use the bathroom. Even park bathrooms are locked. Squat peeing in between cars can be done quickly and undercover, but when you get your period its a nightmare.These days I have stability so I never pass a homeless person without buying them some food or giving them a little money. And if they use it for drugs or alcohol I don't care. Living on the streets is HARD, drink if you need to my friend."



"My ex wife made up a bunch of crap to get a restraining order. I got served at work while she simultaneously shut off my phone service and locked me out of our shared bank account."

"This was Jan 7 2016. I had a t-shirt and slacks to wear for clothes, and no where to sleep. My car didn't have working heat. Thank God for my parents who got me a hotel, new phone, and some money for clothes."

"I ended up living in an extended stay hotel for 2 months while I looked for an apartment, and got my affairs in order. The restraining order was dismissed, the divorce went to trial, and I got the house and the kids."


Not the First Time

"I don't recall my very first time exactly. I do remember looking for a friend that was homeless and his friends ended up watching over me. Everyone was drunk except me. I didn't sleep."

"More recently. Less than a month ago I lost my housing and everything I own. I'm alone this time. I sleep during the day and browse Reddit at night. I was homeless for 10 years the first time. And I am terrified now."


Just Wanting To Be Left Alone

"My first night was cold and more depressing than anything. I didn't have anywhere to go, as shelters in my area didn't do intakes on the weekends, and as it was, there were only two shelters for men (aka actual shelters that offered resources to help remedy that, as opposed to salvation-army-type "work programs" that required 40+ hours of working for them for little/no pay to just not sleep in a gutter). I had eaten maybe a can of chili in the previous few days (I was officially homeless within a week of the new year) and felt like crap for having to steal food to get something to eat. It was still winter break, so I slept in some bushes and shaded areas at ASU by the memorial union to avoid being harrassed. I did not sleep much."

"One point at the middle of the night, a cop car drove on the sidewalk (the walks were very wide in this part of campus) a few times and even stopped on the other side of the bushes. I was sure I'd be arrested. But nope, it drove off a moment later and didn't bother me the res of the night."

"I was 20 at the time."

"As for how I adapted, I kept as hidden from attention as I possibly could until I could get an intake at a shelter. I then took full advantage and tried my best. I ended up hospitalized for bad mental illness. Round two was much the same but as I was deemed SMI (Seriously Mentally Ill) by the state, I was given more resources and had case managers working to help me get referrals to housing. I got disability on my own. I now live with a family member in another city, but plan to try to get either section 8 or public housing."


The Car Is Your Best Friend

"I was homeless for a couple of months a year or two ago. I had a car and a low paying job so I lived in the woods in a tent for a bit. The first night was miserable. I ended up sleeping really uncomfortably in the passenger seat of my car and it was a really cold night. After that I got a tent and slept on an old climbing pad I had. The first night was hell but the next several weeks were actually not so bad. I had a spot in the woods where I was well hidden and would cook over a fire. I really didnt have it that bad but it gave me quite a bit of sympathy for people who really do end up on the streets in a much more desperate situation."


From Couch To Recovery

"Slept in my vehicle, couch surfed with a friend, squatted in an unused trailer; all while still working at a Walmart. Saved enough to get a crappy apartment and just kept going from there."


Walking To Nowhere

"I kept waking up in the middle of the night and would start walking "home". I'd get a few steps then stop and realize I had nowhere to go and turn and walk back over and lay on the ground."

"The ground is very cold and I felt a lot of shame."


Tabletop Sleeping

"First night my wife and I landed up sleeping outside we slept in a local park that I knew. We had come down from the countryside with a few Rands (enough for 1 meal maybe) and had hoped to stay with a friend. He was unable to give us a place to stay, so we had to sleep outside."

"After the insecurity of that 1st night I told my wife that we have to find a safer place to sleep, so we climbed up the slopes of Table Mountain (about a 1 hour walk) and found quite a obscured spot amongst some bushes and trees. We cleared it out of sticks and rocks, made it a bit habitable and then went make to the city looking for work. We'd spend the day going from one place to the next looking for work until it started growing dark. Then we'd head up the mountain to our little spot for the night."

"Did that daily for a month until we were able to secure a small shack room in the townships, where we stayed for another few months until I get a job offer."

"Was my wife's temp waitering jobs that kept us fed whilst I was looking for work."

"Biggest challenge was mental, keeping focussed, clean, looking presentable and just making my job looking for a job."


Anything To Get Away

"When I was a teenager I had lots of problems with my mom, I pretty much chose to be homeless. I slept at a Catholic Church across from my high school so I could still make it to school and graduate early. I remember feeling really sad because I slept where they put peoples ashes, and I remember being so sad that those people could comfort me in death more than anybody alive. I used to talk to them, if there's camera footage I look insane. I never realized how alone I was in the world until I was homeless. And I never realized how cold concrete can be, it chills you right to your bones and is painful."


Nothing But Negative Thoughts

"I started being homeless at 19, a previous foster parent put me out for coming home from college one night, and I had called up a friend last minute. When I started to realize I wouldn't be able to crash or stay anywhere, I am fairly certain I started to dread, and spiral into a constant, underlying depressive state. All I could think about was "am I going to die like this? Do I matter? Will no one help me? I'm sad, I'm scared. I don't want to feel like I have to beg. What if I'm stuck like this? Is this really my life right now?" 19-26 was a very challenging time..."


Finding Resources Wherever You Go

"Sleeping in my car wasn't that bad. It was summer, so it was pretty warm which was my biggest issue."

"Showered in the gym, and spent most of my day at the library before going to work."

"For the first few nights it wasn't bad. However one night police found me sleeping in my car and escorted me to the local homeless shelter, which was one of the most terrifying nights of my life. Since I'm lying there in a top bunk, when a huge argument breaks out because one guy breaks out some drugs, wouldn't share it with a second, then a third got pissed and started screaming at them to be quite because he needed to sleep."


Too Young To Comprehend

"I didn't really realize what was going on, I was about 6-7 at the time. Dad said we were going to go for a drive and to pack my backpack with all the clothes I could fit and one toy. Mom was just crying. Me and my brother sat in the backseat, he was a little older and was holding our Sega Genesis and looking scared."

"We drove for a little while (it was already getting dark) and we parked in front of a Walmart and dad said he had to rest for a while. Was the first of many... many nights we slept in the car."

"I remember one of my parents was always awake, with their hand in their coat pocket. Looking back it was obvious they had a gun for protection, sleeping in shifts."


Nothing Will Ever Make You Ready For It

"It was terrifying and cold and hungry. I didn't sleep a wink. I adapted over time. Extremely steep learning curve to surviving homelessness."

"Nothing really prepares you for it."


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