Homeless Survival: Stealth Living


The Basic Concept

Stealth living is just one method among many used by homeless people in their quest for survival…but when all else fails, it’s an important method. Before providing examples of stealth living, though, how about a definition?


Stealth living, in the context of this post, refers to the ability of a homeless person to find and utilize sleeping quarters that are consistently safe, relatively comfortable, and absolutely invisible to those who would “roust the bum” if they knew where he (or she) might be snoozing.

Our friend, Red Elk, has long been a master of this art. He’s written of his ability to build a shelter from nothing but a pile of leaves in the woods or even to sleep in a small patch of bushes in the middle of Detroit…with none of the “civilians” passing by ever having the slightest clue he was there. In the woods, even deer have jumped over his sleeping form without noticing his presence.

Hard to beat that.

My own wife, Pam, spent two years homeless, often setting up a stealth living campsite on public land that went unnoticed by Ranger Rick for weeks on end.

Even I, though never quite technically homeless, have napped contentedly without observation under rock overhangs and even hidden my car in the middle of San Diego for a full night’s sleep when more traditional accommodations were too expensive to consider.

The Champion of them all, however, has to be a lady we’ll call Jenny (not her real name). She and her husband run a small business these days; no one would guess Jenny was once homeless for five full years. For all five of those years, she proved herself the absolute master of stealth living, making her camp in just one spot and never once moving it for all that time.

Where? Are you ready for this? For five years, she lived under the front porch of an occupied house…and the owners of the home never knew she was there.


Just Guessing, But…

Jenny and I haven’t had the opportunity to go into the myriad details that would have to be involved with a living arrangement like that, so here’s my semi-educated guess regarding just a few aspects of this homeless survival technique.

    1. Location, location, location. The chosen porch would need to be situated in a state where snow does not accumulate–so that tracks to and from your hideout would not become a dead giveaway with the first winter storm.

    2. It would also need to be an area you could access without being noticed, at least after dark, and also within walking distance (no more than a few miles) from your daily “hunting grounds” in town…whether you’re panhandling, looking for work, making the food bank rounds, dumpster diving, etc.

    3. The home’s residents must not have pets who could (and would) sense your presence and give you away. (Jenny did mention this point.)

    4. The porch would have to be constructed in such a way that you could get in and out of an access door quickly and quietly.

    5. You’d have to be willing to “sweep” nightly to clear the area of spiders, scorpions, snakes, and such–with minimum or zero light to assist you.

    6. Never would you either “go porch” or leave the camp except under cover of darkness. Never. If you were exhausted, slept in until noon one day, too bad. You’re there for the day, kiddo. Period.

    7. No partners. In this world, a secret can be kept by two people…if one of them is dead. You’d need to guard against being followed to your hideout as zealously as the old gold rush miners guarded against claim jumpers tracking them to the mother lode.

    8. Any time you couldn’t avoid relieving yourself “in position”, you’d have to use a portable container…and carry the pee or poo with you the next time you went out, disposing of it far, far elsewhere (and pity the next dumpster diver!).

    9. You could never, ever, ever afford to lose focus. Even the slightest mistake in your security routine could result in discovery.

    10. A bit of spiritual protection couldn’t hurt!

As readers discover this post, it is our hope that those who’ve had experiences in stealth living will leave comments. Homeless survival is no laughing matter…and you never know when a little hint might mean the difference between life and death for others.

Finally: Jenny, if you happen to read this, please do let me know how close I came to guessing the rules by which you lived for those five long years.

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