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Surviving the streets

December 18 2015
Being on the streets is tough ©Buzzfarmers Being on the streets is tough ©Buzzfarmers
Ian Kalman slept rough for 18 months. Here’s what he learned...

Ian Kalman was a rough sleeper for 18 months – he wouldn’t advise it, but he’s managed to stay alive. Here’s what he learned...

1. Sleep
Everyone needs to sleep, but finding somewhere safe can be difficult. I was lucky, and luck does play a part in this. I found a doorway and as long as I got there soon after the place shut, it was mine – remember: you are not the only one looking for a place and others could soon take your spot. You don’t own it or pay rent, so if the spot you had the previous night is taken, find somewhere else.

2. Safety
The street is never completely safe. The first night I was on the street, I woke up to see a person leaning over me. I was sure he was going to steal my bag. I had two holdalls, one of them beside me. Luckily, before I got in my sleeping bag I had tied them together. Theft happens a lot on the street, so the rule is: never let your possessions out of your sight. When you get into your sleeping bag, place your shoes under your rucksack and use it as a pillow.

3. Food
One thing you won’t be on the street is hungry, but let’s face it – it won’t be the Ritz. There are many soup runs and days centres that provide food – ask other homeless people which are the best and which are free. I found out about a great sit-down meal just by talking to a fellow rough sleeper. The Pavement is also a great resource for finding out where to get food.

4. Health
If you don’t feel well when you’re living on the street, you can’t just have a lie-in – the owner of the shop or office won’t let you stay. So make sure you know where the local hospital or doctor is. One myth I will dispel is: don’t expect to spend the night in hospital. That will happen only in exceptional circumstances.

5. Get off the street
I would urge anyone to get off the street. Contact your local day centre, they can advise you. Be polite but be persistent.

Next: Getting off the streets