How to Make a DIY Homeless Survival Kit

We first outlined the ideal homeless survival kit in 2018 but have since added more information and DIY instructions. We’ll continue to update as more gear becomes available, and as homeless needs continue to evolve in our society.

Life can be tough and things do not always work out as we plan for them to. When you find yourself without a home, life can become even tougher. This is a situation where a survival kit could most drastically alter your life. A little help when you most need it could help you climb out of homelessness altogether.

Whether you are here looking to brace yourself for homelessness, or if you are looking to assist others by putting together a care kit: we have you covered. We will talk about basic survival needs, lay out a homeless survival kit list, and list some extra items you may need during winter below.

Homeless Survival Needs

To physically survive, we only require a few basic necessities. We break these down when we talk about the 5 Pillars of Survival. Just as a refresher, these include:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Fire
  • Self-Defense

All of these come into play when you are without a permanent home. Self-defense is often overlooked, but homeless people are unfortunately highly targeted victims of crimes- especially assault.

While those are great to know and get familiar with, there are also emotional, mental, and spiritual needs associated with survival.

Giving or receiving homeless survival kits can do wonders for anyone’s emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Obviously, the utility of the kits are great for those receiving survival kits, but a little compassion can help everyone involved.

Homeless Survival Kit List

The homeless survival kit is not only based on the 5 Pillars of Survival but it is also derived from our standard disaster survival kit. You do want to be mindful of the preparedness tools that you include, since high-value items may end up being bartered rather than being used for their intended purpose.

Splitting up the homeless survival kits by function can help keep everyone organized. Gallon Ziploc bags are very useful in accomplishing this. Here is the list organized by functionality:

Shelter Bag

Shelter is massively important for survival, and homeless shelters do not always have vacancies. Helping the homeless be self-sufficient with survival is a strong start to any homeless survival kit. Clothes protect you from the elements, so for survival purposes, we consider them ‘shelter’.

Tool Bag

This bag has some optional contents. While extremely useful, you may elect to not include the can opener, lighter, and knife. If you are gifting the kit, it may not make sense to distribute anything that could be conveniently used as a weapon.

Food/Water Bag

Inexpensive is the way to go. Food in a kit can be replenished and is easier to come by in most areas except during disasters, emergencies, and survival situations.

First Aid Bag

Often overlooked, being homeless can be tough on your body. A small first aid kit can be a clutch addition.

  • Gallon Ziploc Bag, Labeled
  • Package Band-Aids
  • Gauze Bandages (2)
  • Antibacterial Wipes (5)
  • Lip Balm
  • Moleskin

Hygiene Bag

Another overlooked area, hygiene is important for health but it is also important in changing your station in life. Many jobs require workers to be clean, and just because you are homeless doesn’t mean you have to be jobless.

  • Gallon Ziploc Bag, Labeled
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Toilet Paper (Folded)
  • Deodorant
  • Wash Cloth
  • Disposable Razor

If you are making homeless survival kits to hand out, bagging all of the functional bags at once makes the process go quickly. Once you have them all bagged, labeled, and sorted out you can gather them in a sturdy black trash bag, or in a backpack if you are being generous.

The list is not fully inclusive, and one thing we would urge you to consider adding is a Bible. Even for those that are not spiritual, reading a bible can just pass the time. It doesn’t hurt to include it in the kit, and who knows- maybe it will inspire someone and change their life.

The Best Backpack for Homeless Survival Kits

Storing the equipment for the kit can be pretty varied. If you are gifting the homeless survival kits, delivering the kits in large trash bags is not unusual. A trash bag is very cheap, but it is not going to withstand the abuse of living without a home.

Backpacking backpacks have always been a great resource for homeless people. They are large enough to carry all of the survival equipment (and more). They are lightweight, water-resistant, and can be relatively cheap if you get one with a lesser-known name brand or second-hand.

Our budget pick for the best bug out bags is an excellent option for a homeless survival kit bag: Venture Pal 40L Hiking Backpack.

Something as simple as a comfortable backpack that can hold all of your possessions can make a world of difference.

Homeless Winter Survival Kit

Winter can be especially harsh for homeless people trying to survive. Dreary weather conditions can be both tough physically and mentally.

Many people suggest holding matches and lighters out of homeless survival kits for safety reasons. I disagree with this strategy, and adverse weather is a big reason why. Cold weather can be a dangerous killer and a small campfire can be the difference between life and death.

Including a warm cap, outer layers, and a survival blanket is even more important for homeless winter survival kits. You should also consider upgrading those to better-insulated versions and providing twice as many. Most people understand that layering for various weather is the way to go, especially if you are on a shoestring budget. Multiple layers are definitely preferred over a single large parka since you can adapt your clothes to the weather as needed.

The Final Word

Homelessness can be one of the hardest experiences a person can go through. It makes you much more susceptible to emergencies and disasters.  Climbing out of homelessness can be a challenge, but hopefully, our homeless survival kit list can get you back on your feet.

Here are some other articles our readers have found helpful:

If you are creating the kits to give out, we admire your compassion and willingness to spread the importance of preparedness- no matter the situation in life.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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How to Make a Homeless Survival Kit

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

13 thoughts on “How to Make a DIY Homeless Survival Kit

  • I like more survival information about being in the winter cold with no shelter.

    • Thanks for the request and we’ll get to work on it.

    • I lived in Seaside, CA for 30 years. It was a rough area, lots of transients and homeless.
      Once, our washer broke and I had to take the family laundry to our local laundry mat at 4:00AM before work. The place was very cold and empty, but after about a minute a little old homeless lady walked in, saw me and asked for a quarter. Startled at the small amount, I handed her a quarter which she took to one of the big dryers there. She threw her coat, knit cap and her blanket in and started the dryer. After a couple of minutes, she opened the door, climbed in, put on the coat and hat and after covering herself with the blanket, propped her feet up in a rolling laundry basket and fell asleep. Urban survival at its cleverest.
      BTW, I’m 6’2 and look like the guy you don’t want to meet in a dark alley.

  • Where can one shower or bathe if they are homeless?

    • Showers or baths are luxuries the homeless can’t get often, but bird baths using sinks are pretty easy to come by.

    • In nearly every community across the nation there are multiple homeless shelters — often these shelters are full (meaning they have as many people as they have beds) but generally these shelters still offer shower facilities even if they don’t have capacity to stay overnight. Likewise many churches will make showers available. And, of course, most larger communities have a Salvation Army corps which typically serves as both a shelter and a church.

    • my uncle used to go to the local park (it had showers) he also became friends with one of the people that worked there and the guy would turn the hot water on for him.

  • There are many reasons for homelessness, but poverty is often a result of homelessness, not the cause. The lack of inpatient mental health care in the US, combined with the lack of follow-up for outpatient care is a major factor.

    The article is correct that the homeless are often victims of crime (usually unreported), but it must also be mentioned that the majority of the crimes committed against the homeless are committed BY the homeless. This is something that should be considered when thinking about kits for the homeless often a lower profile is preferable to a “better” item that attracts attention.

  • I started volunteering for the Salvation Army in Hyannis Ma. I have recently lost sight in one eye and can no longer drive. I take the bus all the time now. I walk a lot I have learned about how people survive in many situations. To understand things fully you must have to do what unsheltered need to do to stay alive. I am just starting this process. The Salvation Army provides a good breakfast and lunch for people who are unhoused, living in the shelter, living in domicile homes, low income apartments, in the woods, and in cars. Many of the folks who come in for breakfast and lunch are working despite poplar beliefs (people are lazy and don’t want to work.) They work and work hard because when their job is done they need to find food and shelter, a cup of coffee or a smile.

    I started making waterproof sleeping bags which we put on two long tables in the dinning room. People take what they need. I get Tarps at Harbor Freight (they are good, inexpensive, and I get a free one with any purchase. I can also get moving blankets for $3.99 with a free flashlight as a gift. I put the flashlights in the sleeping bags. I tack the sleeping bag to the tarp with tufted quilting stiches and outdoor thread. I fold the tarp over and machine stich the side closed. I put a sheet inside the blanket which can be removed as needed and aired out. The sleeping bag is waterproof and airtight so mold could grow. The sheet prevents this. When it is warmer and dry, the tarp can be used as a shelter. I also received free grommets from Harbor Freight which I can put in myself. The tools are in the bag. If you can use a hammer you can put grommets in. Large trash bags are used to secure the trap when not needed for the rain. I also hold the bag together with bungie cords (again I got a bundle of them from Harbor Freight for a cheap amount.
    The feedback on the taps has been good except that the tarps should be black. The authorities can spot the blue tarps and tear down the homes that have been secured in the woods. I understand the authorities point of view but there are exceptions to every rule. On of the unhoused people are my brother and my son. I want them to be warm and have a cup of coffee. I am not a bad mother for how things worked out. The mental hospitals were closed for good reasons , there could have been halfway houses. The people in this field know what is needed but they are seldom asked (they are just the workers.) The people who are charged with making the rules probably never had to eat at a soup kitchen. I was that person too until I got sick and couldn’t work to pay the bills. I was also beaten up by my former husband and I lost everything. I had a good lawyer but he hid the money in off shore accounts and no one could find it.
    I have met a lot of people as I walk the streets and take the buses and started working at the Salvation Army. I have paid attention to what is needed, I fail sometimes but I don’t stop. I fix that problem and move on.
    One day at breakfast there was a woman lying out in the parking lot, she was really sick. I am a nurse3 and asked the chef if I should go to her and help. He said no and I was mad. Five minutes later a group of her peers were at her side helping her. They did all the correct things and didn’t need me.
    There is a good support system in place . We only hear about the sick man who is un housed and causes problems. I am here to tell you that even doctors sell drugs. They are talked about as all the other Good Doctors do their jobs each day. Mental health, addiction is an equal opportunity employer. Addiction is a disease and can be found in code books for medical diagnosis.
    I am learning a lot but the best thing I have learned so far is that a person can say “Thank you” for helping them, it isn’t the words, it’s the look in their eyes when they say it. Take a look into their eyes, it may be my brother David and I love him.

    • You are definitely resourceful and have a kind heart. That’s also a great example with your story at the restaurant- thanks for sharing Anna!

  • I Jay before I saw a man walking around us but in a corner downtown as if he was trying to find a home 18 hours later I see him sleeping on the concrete blanket I’m going to head back down with some coffee at the least and then anything else I can come across

  • Hello. I’m a 60 yr. old male and homeless. I’m in Boise, Id now but it’s not working out here. I just got out of prison (served 8 yrs.) in Sept. 2019. Low income housing is almost non-existent and takes an avg. of 1-2 yrs to get. Can anyone recommend a good place to go? I’m thinking Oregon. Thanks.

    • I hope you’re well and safe, Robert.
      I’m praying for you.
      God bless.


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