How can a homeless person maintain decent health and hygiene?

Staying clean is the hardest part of being homeless, but to stay or get employed you have to be clean, smell clean, look clean.

Find a place to shower. Planet Fitness has $10 a month memberships. If there's one in your town, join. You can maintain your health and hygiene there. If you can't afford or find a gym, find a community center, or a YMCA. The Y offers low to free memberships for the homeless.

If there is no Y, or gym, or community center (you're rural), find a McDonalds or Burger King. They have the best bathrooms because most of their stalls have doors. You can take a collapsible bucket in, fill it with water and take a sponge bath in the privacy of the stall, then brush your teeth etc. at the sink.

If you're in a rural area there are almost always streams and rivers to bathe in. I bathed in a waterfall for two months when I worked as a raft guide in college. The well at the dorm was always running dry, and it was the only option most days.

Laundromats are a must have. Try to look for apartment complexs with laundry facilities rather than public laundromats. The cost is almost always $1 to $3 a load cheaper. If you are college age, dorm laundry facilities are the best, but security on campuses, plus parking hassles, can be a deterent.

If you go into a laundromat with ONE load of clothes and explain your situation I'm betting 90% of people will pay for your wash/dry for you. I certainly would.

If you're in a big city, you're in luck. Many high rise office buildings have bathrooms on the upper floors with showers. I found two in Denver and used those during the day to take a QUICK, and I emphasize QUICK, shower because employees use them in the am. and at lunch to shower after running or working out and they will know if you belong in the building or not. If you're going to use a shower in a public building wear workout gear - sweat pants and t-shirt etc., so you at least LOOK like you work there and belong.

Some major airports have showers. In Europe I noticed there were as many showers in the airports as bathroom stalls. They were generally free, but you had to provide your own towel.

Carry a superabsorbent (and small) bathtowel, washcloth and soap with you in your pack so if you ever do happen upon a shower you can take advantage of it. Never pass up the opportunity to take a shower, even if you had one a few hours prior. Use deodorant liberally, but don't substitute it for a shower unless you have to. Wash your pits, crotch and face every day (not in that order tho).

If you can't find a laundromat, but have a job interview and no clean clothes, hit Goodwill or the Salvation Army. You can throw together a good outfit for less than $10 if you shop right. Another point, always keep at least one outfit clean for job interviews. This is easier if you have a small storage unit or car to store extra stuff in. If all else fails, get a locker at a gym, or airport or someplace to keep your stuff. Ask a friend if you can keep a footlocker in their garage or on their property where you can keep some things. Consider buying a small rubber tool tote you can padlock to a tree in the woods and camoflauge if you have nothing else. Get creative.

Maintaining health is a matter of eating healthy - also hard to do when you're homeless. Dumpster diving can actually provide you with good food if you know when to scavenge. Most food in grocery store dumpsters is in its original package, even still frozen. Just pull it out and heat and eat. Many farmer's markets and stores will give you, or sell at a greatly reduced price, their left over veggies - especially if you tell them your situation and offer to help them load/pack up at the end of the day.

The only thing standing between you, your health, hygeine and well being is your creativity and yourself. Ask, be matter-of-fact, truthful and honest about what you need and offer something in exchange for what you want and you will always find a way to get what you need. 

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