Surviving while homeless takes a toil: finding food when hungry, creating heat when cold, and getting clean while being dirty. As a diabetic, I would barter and haggle with what I had in my hand. Anything was up for trade. I once traded a cigarette for a lighter, a blanket for a tarp, and some bandaids for a wrist brace.

Create fire, find canned food, scavenge for raw foods, gather goods, find clean water sources, and pray.


The Heater Exercise*

Part 1

Make a list of fire fuels in your everyday life that can be used to make a heater.

Part 2

From the items in your fire fuel list, experiment and build a series of heaters each using different materials.

Part 3

For the heaters you make, come up with a name, write out the ingredients, a simple set of instructions, the pros/cons, cost and duration for each.

*Emergency use only: when fingers or toes are in jeopardy of frostbite.


Part 1

Wood, paper, tree sap, pinecones, liquid gas, petroleum products, hand sani- tizer, dryer sheets, shirts, sticks.

Part 2 & 3


  • Good long thick stick.
  • Shirt/piece of clothing (polyester burns better).
  • Knife or cutting instrument.
  • Lighting source.



  • Cut the shirt into long strips, but make sure the pieces don’t come off.
  • Wrap strips around the stick, weaving them so they don’t fall off.
  • If earth is available, bury the stick into the ground. If not, find a way to prop up the stick so it doesn’t fall.
  • Light the stick.


PROS: Easy to get ingredients. You can find them in any free box. With a good stick you can burn shirts all day.

CONS: Labor intensive. Loud. Might get the police called if in public view.

COST: Free.

DURATION: 30 minutes or longer for one shirt.


  • Copenhagen can, empty.
  • Dryer sheets, six or more.
  • Lighting source: matches, lighter, zippo, butane torch, or propane torch.
  • Liquid gas (optional).



  • Open the snuff can and take the top off, exposing the inside.
  • Stuff the can with as many dryer sheets as you can fit.
  • Make a long thin cut in the top of the snuff lid.
  • Put the top dryer sheet through the opening in the snuff can, like a box of tissues.
  • Put the lid back on. Can be stored for later use.
  • Light the top sheet like a candle wick. If the heater doesn’t catch cor- rectly, add liquid gas to the candle wick and light again.

PROS: Easy. Once made can be stored for later use.

CONS: Expensive. Bad smell.

COST: $5-10, free if found.

DURATION: 20 minutes


  • Toilet paper roll.
  • Lighting source.



  • Wrap TP around an outstretched hand 20 times or more.
  • Roll and tuck the bottom of the TP wrap to make a donut shape.
  • Light the bottom of donut.


PROS: Easy. Cheap. Once made can be stored for later use.

CONS: Short time usage.

COST: $1, free if found.

DURATION: Three to five minutes.


  • Hardbound book, large, thick equals more pages.
  • Lighting source.



  • Take a book, crinkle ten of the middle pages.
  • Set the book down open at the center in a pyramid shape, with wrinkled pages open.
  • Light wrinkled pages at center.


PROS: Easy to get ingredients. You can find them in any free box or library. Last awhile.

CONS: Guilt trip, it feels bad to burn a book, unless it’s the Bible. I’ve burned the Bible many times. Don’t burn any Dr. Seuss!

COST: Free.

DURATION: Up to one hour, depending on the thickness and size, more or less.


  • Hand sanitizer - 12oz.
  • Can: Empty Campbell Soup can or any metal can could substitute.
  • Use a tuna fish can as a lid for it.



  1. Cut top off Campbell Soup, after eating, or if already empty.
  2. Cut three holes into the sides of the top end of the can for air flow.
  3. Cut multiple holes into the top of the tuna can.
  4. Pour sanitizer inside, 1/4 full.
  5. Light sanitizer with lighting source.
  6. Put tuna can on top with holes facing up.


PROS: Easy to get ingredients. Long burn, cheap.

CONS: Smells bad, fire could get away, liquid.

COST: Free from donations box. Don’t let them know you are burning it.

DURATION: 30 to 45 minutes.