Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jobs and Moneymaking


if you already have a job when you become homeless, then the most difficult part is already taken care of. however, it is still possible to get a new job while homeless.

things you need:
-a bank account [most jobs are direct deposit]
-clean, presentable work attire
-an 'address'
-a phone number
-the right attitude

-bank account-

the first thing, a bank account is only necessary if you plan to get a steady job. temp agencies cut you a cheque each day that can be cashed at depots such as moneymart, or some corner stores will cash them for a small fee.

if you already have an account, it's best to switch to paperless statements. you can stretch your time at your most previous address by not making it obvious that you're still using it. i have personally gone a year and a half using my old address without anyone noticing. apparently mastercard makes debit cards that you can load and use without having an actual bank account, these are available at cheque cashing depots as well.


getting an address can be tricky, sneaky even.. but not impossible. if you're freshly homeless or about to be, set yourself up with a mailbox at a UPS outlet or something similar using your most recent or current address. make sure you use a place that gives a street address and PMB [private mail box] number, not just a PO box. when filling in your address on applications, use the street address and box number, just drop the PMB prefix. your mail will still arrive in your box. if you can use a friend or family member's address, even better.. and free.

some youth help centers allow you to use their address, and will even collect your mail for you. it's also possible to use the address of a hostel, i've done so in Vancouver when applying to work at Labour Ready. instead of putting 'room number' on you address, use the word 'suite'. sounds much fancier too. i mean, even if you're not really staying at the hostel. so many people use them as their address, they get tons of random people's mail anyways. of course this is only good if you don't need to receive mail, just have an address as a placebo-place-to-live.


proper work attire is easy. there are second hand stores everywhere with perfectly decent clothing for next to nothing. you can even find free clothes at some housing help centres or food banks. keep your clothes nice by folding in half, and then rolling tight to prevent wrinkles. if you have a vehicle or a storage unit you can keep a few days worth of outfits hung and crisp. find a laundromat that you can run the dryers one quarter at a time, and toss in a couple outfits for 5 minutes to refresh if you have to. some jobs like mine give you lockers, a much added bonus if you happen to find one. and if your job doesn't require neatly kept clothing, all the better.


cell phones are getting cheaper by the day. you can get a prepaid phone for as little as 20-40 bucks, and some include some air time upon purchase. there are 'prepaid plans', some as little as 15 bucks a month with free incoming calls, perfect for awaiting a callback for a job.

Temp Labour

if you're looking to work and travel, agencies such as Labour Ready will transfer your file to their other locations so you don't have to register every time you move about. as long as you are willing to get up fresh and early each morning to beat the sign up list, you will likely find a placement, at least 3 out of 5 days. they will choose to send you to placements more often if you prove to be punctual and a hard worker. you will most likely need steel toe boots, most Labour Ready places will have boots you can borrow, they make a check list of the gear you borrow and if you don't bring it back it comes off your pay.

if you're a female getting a temp job might be harder, some placements ask specifically for men for construction and demolition jobs. you will have much better luck in bigger cities, especially ones with a big tourism industry. traveling acts such as Cirque du Soleil use temp agencies to find large crews of people to help with set-up and maintenance, or even to work in their kitchen or box office. you never know when you could find your chance to run away with the circus.

Alternative Moneymaking Strategies


there are other ways to make money on your own time, using skills you already have. if you're desperate, sitting out front of a busy transit station with a cup and a sign will get you enough to eat for a day, but this is not my first choice. busking is different. buskers, also known as street performers, can pull in a decent amount of loot in a day.

remember that instrument you bought back in high school that you learned how to play? now is the time to blow off the dust and warm up your skills. just about any instrument will do as long as you can do it well, and grab the attention of people passing by. you could use a violin, guitar, saxophone, an accordion, or even just a simple hand drum or a harmonica. the more interesting or unique the better. partnering up with another busker can be beneficial, i saw a dude with a flute find a dude with a japanese bow instrument of some sort pair up and make some awesome sounds. you could draw a crowd and make some good coin to split.

choose your space wisely. you will want to pick a spot with lots of foot traffic, but make sure you're not in the way of business entrances, or close enough to the storefronts that they have a reason to complain. flip open your instrument case or turn over your hat, put on a smile and play.

i went downtown to do my taxes the other day and a young fellow with a saxophone played for maybe an hour out front of the cafe next door. i thought it was pretty sweet to have some live entertainment while i waited.. just as interested as i was in his playing was how much loot he was making. i watched as people walked by and tossed change into his case, the most popular donation was a toonie. [yes, i'm Canadian, and a toonie is a two dollar coin.] some even dropped him five bills. by the way, if you do get dropped a bill, it's best to pick them up and cram them in your pocket so they don't blow away. anyways, in the hour that he was there playing, he made well over 20 dollars. yep, more than i'll ever make per hour at my regular job.

in some places busking is not only welcome, but encouraged. on Granville island in Vancouver Canada, there is a huge farmer's market. out back of the dining area is a large multi-tiered deck backing onto the harbour. inside the dining area is a sign-up sheet for buskers, where each performer can sign up for a half-hour time slot out back on the deck. musicians, jugglers, magicians and comics take the stage here, and people collect to eat their food and toss some change. make eye contact and smile to the people you are performing for. always say thankyou.


this option isn't for everyone, but it works. in some provinces and states, just about any type of drink container can be returned for a refund at a recycling depot. this job can get dirty, but if you're in a pinch you can make anywhere from 20 to 100 dollars in a day, depending on how diligent a collector you are. find some big plastic bags, keep cans, glass and plastic separated, and pick up anything you see that is worth a refund. most cans and bottles are worth 5 or 10 cents a piece. bigger liquor bottles collect for more. check out what types of recycling are refundable in your area.

you can go collecting solo, but it's much more fun with a partner. if you can scoop a shopping cart, even better. keep the heavier glass inside the cart, and tie your bags of plastic bottles or cans to the outside. check ditches, garbage cans along busy main streets with lots of foot traffic, parks or places that hold large outdoor events, or anywhere likely to collect litter. be careful in bigger cities though, if you're new to the scene some other street people may have their own collection route staked out, and will likely give you a hard time if they catch you collecting on their turf.

i have friends that collect recycling, and they find treasures all the time. you never know what you will find in someone else's trash. also in some suburbs, you might even find that some people, ie nice old ladies, will run out of their house and bring you their recycling if they see you picking up cans and bottles. they may even offer you a snack or drink.

-et cetera-

be creative. you can sell just about any trade skill. you can sell things that you make by hand. you could even score an under the table job for a landscaping or roofing company doing clean up, especially from smaller independent companies. if you see a company on a site and you spot the supervisor, it doesn't hurt to ask if they can use a labourer. some may be willing to pay you a dollar under regular wage to keep you off the books. put a local ad online [Craigslist etc] to offer your labour and services.

money isn't the only thing you can work for, there's also jobs that will offer room and board. farms and hotels or hostels are a good place to start. some hostels offer a free bed for a few hours a day of your time helping with laundry, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, or working at the counter.


yes, WWOOFing deserves it's very own bolded subtitle. if you haven't heard of it, consider it as an option, it could open up entire worlds of opportunities. in fact, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms [or Willing Workers On Organic Farms]. There are literally WWOOF placements to be found anywhere in the country, and all over the globe.

the idea behind the whole thing, is that you go to these farms and work for room and board, all the while you get to learn about whatever it is that you're farming. some places raise animals, some grow organic herbs and keep bees, some are small and in cities, some are huge and remote, and anything in between.

the way it works, is you pay a fee for the year, usually around 50 bucks, and this covers your membership that gives you access to all the listed farms' contact information. you email or call them to see if they have any space available. you agree on how long your stay will be, could be a few days or weeks, some will take you for a whole season depending on how well you get along. the thing is, you gotta find your own way there. bus tickets are usually cheaper, and if you pre-purchase weeks before for a specific day, you can get tickets half price depending on the bus line.

so you get out there, they provide you with a place to stay [be it a bed, a cabin, a camper or a place to pitch your tent] and they feed you, in exchange for 25-30 hours a week of labour. investing in a bus ticket to a farm of your choice could lead to opportunities such as learning how to grow, keep seeds, and livestock or bees or whatever you end up doing. you could even score a somewhat permanent spot if you and your host hit it off. if you check out the host listings on the websites, you will find that some hosts even allow you to use their stuff like maybe a bike or even a car, ride their horses, use their canoes or kayaks, hike their trails, and the list goes on.. some host places are actually communes that accept WWOOFers to come help out in their gardens. the possibilities are endless.

bottom line, keep an open mind and have an eye for opportunity. it's everywhere you want to be, believe it.

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