07/31/2015 02:38 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2016

5 Survival Hacks If You Find Yourself Homeless

What are the best homeless living and survival hacks?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Answer by Ryan McGrath, Web Developer, Designer, Author

I was homeless for a year when I was younger.

  1. For a place to sleep, twenty-four hour Fed Ex Office rocks! This might sound odd to some, but it totally works wonders. If you happen to have a laptop, it's much easier to pull off, but you basically go in, start working, and "fall asleep" on your laptop. Most of the time they won't question you, since a lot of college kids will work out of them and inevitably crash while working. The trick here, though, is to be clean shaven and not threatening. If you smell like you just got done dumpster diving, you'll be picked up on in a heartbeat and asked to leave. Common sense works wonders when you're homeless.
  2. Twenty-four hour "Walmart Garden" sections. Sadly, I'm not joking about this. Works best in the summer, but most Walmart garden sections are outside and easy to get into unnoticed. Find a decent low-traffic section, you can sleep between plants and such. The people who work here will almost never notice you, because to be honest, ninety-nine percent of the time they don't want to be there anyway. Yes, the last sentence sounds a bit cruel, but sometimes being realistic entails this.
  3. Libraries are your new best friends. Most libraries these days have computers you can use for free, so use the time to submit job applications and do some basic networking. If you're on Facebook for any of this period ... well, this kind of explains why you're homeless. On top of that, libraries are just a huge source of knowledge. I probably learned more when I was homeless than any of my schooling years, as I had so much free time I'd just sit in libraries and book stores all day, reading anything I could get my hands on. If you play this right, it can easily act as somewhat of a "mock degree." If you're smart about this, you'll grab a ton of books and grab one of the "study rooms" that are usually littered throughout libraries. It's also worth noting that this trick isn't new, though, it probably won't be very useful in inner city situations. In more rural areas it works very well, though. Inner city libraries will make you feel less human due to the activities of other homeless people.
  4. Quit talking to other homeless people. I'll get untold amounts of hell for this comment, but it was quite possibly the best thing I ever did for myself during my time like this. It's very easy to think that homeless people are just down on their luck and in an unfortunate spot, and while this can certainly be true for some, I found that the majority of homeless people are just abusing the system because they can. The more you hang around lazy people who game the system, the higher your chances of never getting out become. If you have friends who aren't homeless, do everything in your power to keep hanging out with them for some sense of normalcy. Getting through this on your own — in a mental capacity, not talking handouts here — is incredibly difficult, but ultimately so worthwhile.
  5. Public pools equal decent showers. Now that I've probably grossed out everyone reading this, let's get to the point: if you go early, community pools are often free and a great way to wash up for the day and get some exercise in. Besides, I guarantee you're actually not the worst thing to end up in that pool over the course of a day.

Most of these tricks rely on a very important concept, though: pay attention to your perception. It took me such a ridiculously long time to realize this — maybe due to my age at the time, I don't know — but the way the world perceives you plays such a heavy factor in what you get out of it. This might sound vain, but it's one hundred percent accurate, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you try to pretend otherwise.

On one final note, don't eat the Dollar Menu because it's the cheapest food available. It will bite you in the ass.

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