The Homeless Experiment / Experience

Update: There are several easier ways to read this whole experiment:


Leave my house in Austin, TX. and live on the streets for 5 days and 4 nights.

Purpose of Experiment:
There’s simply not one solid reason for performing this experiment, but several:

  1. To learn what it’s like at the bottom rung of the socio economic system
  2. I’ve studied how many successful people get successful…it would be interesting to see how some people have “failed.” Getting to live directly with these people would be a great way to learn.
  3. I’ve always considered myself pretty spoiled. Not in the spoiled brat kind of way, but in the fact that I’ve never once in my life really have been worried where my next meal was going to come from or where I was going to lay my head down at night. It seems important that every once in a while I give myself a good whack over the head to realize just how good I’ve got it, and that all those opportunities I have should be utilized to their full potential.A few examples stick out in my mind:
    -It was weird as a little kid going to India and visiting relatives and seeing the things they treasured or worked for as opposed to what I did. For example: a magazine subscription to National Geographic. This was just something that showed up in our mail and often sat unread at home. However over there it was a relatively big deal to have, and to absorb all that information. Books, magazines and other literature were thoroughly read and reviewed.

    -I went on a two week hardship hike when I was a Boy Scout to Philmont, New Mexico. You load up with gear at the home base (which itself is 6,000 ft. above sea level making every physical activity much harder than normal), they load you up in a bus, drive you way the hell out in the country and leave you. The whole trip is definitely a physical and mental strain.

    When I got back to base camp, I remember two experiences I had which I can still remember crystal clear: 1.) I sat down in a chair…and this regular everyday chair just seemed like the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in. The closest thing I had to a chair in the last few weeks before that were perhaps a stump or rock. 2.) I bought a $0.75 Coca-Cola from a vending machine, and remember thinking it was the BEST thing I had ever tasted. It was cold for one, and two it was sweetened. We weren’t allowed to have sweetened things because bears would smell the containers and try to eat them. I remembered thinking I would’ve paid $75 for the Coke.

    SO the last few years I’ve been a little spoiled and haven’t done anything like that. Even if you go backpacking, it’s usually pretty clear where you’ll sleep and what you’ll eat. You end up going with enough resources to make it through pretty comfortably. You’ve got the tent, high quality sleeping bag, energy bars, GPS and all sorts of other stuff which make the trip safer. This experiment will force me to actually seek out shelter from either homeless shelters, in the woods or other places where city officials won’t force me to move. It will also force me to beg for food.

  4. Ostracism. I’m Indian, but have never experienced any real discrimination that I know of. If I walk into a fine hotel to use the bathroom, I’m always allowed based on my overall appearance. However what if I was disheveled looking, carrying bags, looked like I was dirty and smelled? It might be a different story. I personally discriminate against these kind of people who come up to me on the street. It’d be interesting to see what it’s like on the other side.
  5. I’ve always wondered: If someone got kicked out of their apartment, had no money and no friends/family to stay with…what would they do?

So on Thursday, June 4th, 2009 I will officially begin my Homeless Experiment and start living on the streets for 5 days and 4 nights.

More info to come.

Blog posted on: May 29, 2009

18 comments on “The Homeless Experiment / Experience


    Seriously. You’re the most interesting man I know. Well, I don’t really know you, but I enjoy the blog. Look forward to seeing what happens.

  2. Oke

    I like what you are doing. I have been thinking of the best time to do my experiment. How ironic is that that I am picking a time to be homeless. I’m looking forward to your writeup. I know Austin isn’t Houston, but it is hot, regardless. Good Luck.

  3. Anonymous

    When you are ready to really experience what homeless people go through, give me a call. The "homeless experiment" you have conducted is a failed experiment from the beginning, because you have failed to give yourself an unbiased and balanced "control quotient". (i.e. Control quotient is different than control group btw.)

    In successful scientific experiments on culture submersion, a control quotient is used to make sure that the "participant" is submersed in an alternative culture, without being too overwhelmed, or (as it was in your case), not being submersed enough. In order for culture submersion to be successful, the individual needs to be submersed for longer than a 10 day period, at least. The first rule of successful culture submersion: the level of new understanding for the individual is equal to the amount of culture shock they experience during the submersion. If the individual merely "dabbles" in submersion, their insights will be shallow and lacking in any in depth awareness. This will be directly apparent in their lack of compassion and true understanding of the culture they are being submersed in. Chloe:

  4. Neville


    When you have a full 10 consecutive days to immerse yourself in homelessness, please do. Then report back with YOUR findings.

    I of course don't have that kind of time, nor do I wish to get that involved. Dabbling was the only way I could perform this experiment.

    However thanks for the info.

  5. buzz maxwell

    Neville, i have an offer for you..i am an undergrad here in dallas and there is a lot of research to do here concerning chronic and shelter resistant homelessness. The problem i have is getting IRB approval for safety concerns. I think I could get approval with a second researchers participation. I can get you more details if you would be interested in a 5 day participant observation project.

  6. Neville


    I'm done with the homeless experiments….well, unless I ACTUALLY become homeless :-)

    However thanks for the offer!

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  9. Mike

    Its easy to jump out of plane with a parachute – Many years ago I was damn near homeless, and unemployed for an extended time (and had dropped to 160lbs from 220), its not easy when you have an escape like you did… And it is completely impossible to come back from without the help of a lot of people.

    True, I agree on your analysis about how you think – but it is easy to get caught into the trap of “a great idea” that just eats your time.

    I’d say positivity and a great social network of support are 1000% of getting out of those kinds of situations. Now If we could change the general culture of support to work on skills and capabilities, opportunities – then the homeless who really want to will have an opportunity to rise above.

    Being hungry and unemployed taught me a very simple prayer: “Thank you for the food, thank you for the opportunities”

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  12. Shay

    I stumbled across your blog while researching options for my friend who is temporarily sleeping in his truck. Great post! I have always wanted to try a homeless experiment and found your post a very interesting read. In researching I also learned Austin has a hostel people can stay overnight (must be from out of town though) and there are still a few boarding houses in operation that charge around $550 a month for a bed, sharing a room in a furnished place with 3 meals a day.

  13. Carlo Rebich

    Energy bars, like all food, supply the body with physical energy, as measured in calories or joules. Energy drinks, by contrast, are intended to improve mental energy by stimulating the central nervous system, usually with moderate to large doses of caffeine…..

    Best wishes
    <a href="


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