Living on the street poses many hazards, from irritating to life threatening.
Winter is considered the deadliest time of year, especially for areas with snow. Most cities have winter shelters that open from November-March, providing hundreds of extra beds to keep people from freezing to death.
Even moderate climates have days and nights below freezing, and when rain is added to the mix, it’s a particular misery.
John Holmes said winter can be tough, but in the South, every season has its pitfalls.
Spring brings on pollen and biting bugs, including ants that crawl all over you if you try to rest. Summer has mosquitoes and the constant worry over dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Keith Bourne, who spent his time in rural areas, considers summer the worst. He said he could always build a fire and layer up with sleeping bags and blankets in the winter, but in summer, the combination of bugs and heat is maddening.
“There are just so many clothes you can take off,” he said, “and then the mosquitoes attack you.”
In cities, bum bashing is a constant danger. Holmes said he was assaulted while trying to sleep, kicked in the head and beaten, ending up in the hospital.
For women, it’s even more dangerous. Most have to find a companion in order to have even minimal security, he said.
Steffanie Godsill, with Crisis Ministries, said the belief that homeless people are dangerous is a misconception.
“Homeless individuals are usually preyed upon and become victims instead of being the ones committing the crimes, because they are so vulnerable,” she said.
When everything you own is tucked in one bag, the loss of it can be devastating.
Holmes said one of the first survival skills a homeless person learns is sleeping lightly, with one eye open.
Still, theft is one of the most common crimes committed against the homeless.Read more in For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven