Would you willingly become homeless for 24 hours if you’d get paid $150,000? by David Dahan

We Sassy Mirror by Hilda were inspired by his story and decided to share.

David Dahan shared his experience on Quora.com

I’ve actually done it – for no reward what so ever – and even shot a movie about it… mostly so I can show my kids, when they get older, that life is not about money and acquiring assets; you can be happy even without nothing…

It didn’t start as a movie idea but more as an experiment – I’ve had this idea for about 7 years now but never actually had the courage to do it…till recently.

Yes… not 24 hours… not 3 days or even a week – a FULL long month !

This issue always bothered me, ever since I was a kid, and I wanted to know if you can be homeless without begging for money or bothering anyone.

I wanted to prove homeless people can be fine if they just knew how… and if they didn’t look like that… I mean, like homeless people. Because let’s face it – no one likes that look…

So my idea started when I kept seeing those homeless people in the street near my home – and I’ve asked myself countless times – do they really need to beg for money ? can’t they find a job ? can’t they find food somewhere and support themselves ?

Some of them were so skinny – practically starving… so I had to prove there IS better way.

I left my mansion… my cars… my pool… my family… my everything… and I became a homeless for a month… with nothing but my clothes, but I had to start from scratch so I just took an old torn jeans and a and old white t-shirt I was about to toss away…

Soon I realized – clothes are important.
You are what you look like… and I did not want to look like a homeless guy… because people treated me like… well.. like a bum.

So my first goal was to LOOK better so I don’t get treated any differently… the fact I was homeless does not mean people need to know I am one. No advantage in that…
I had no money… I had no wallet… I had nothing I could sell.

But I could also not beg for money – that’s the whole point of doing this experiment after all.

No, not what you think… I spent the entire first day collecting bottles to recycle.
I was looking in people’s & businesses garbage… not a fun experience… but at least I was not begging for money…

By end of day – I had $18.55 – not bad for a day’s work 🙂
I went to ROSS DRESS FOR LESS and bought a new long sleeve shirt for $5.99 & a nice dockers pants for $7.99 – both were on clearance – 75% off… not exactly my size , but close enough.
And boom… I looked good… I looked normal. If they had a Tie on sale I would get one too – that would have helped even more.

I also bought a razor blade from the 99 cents store & some tooth paste kit that came with a brush… each was $1 – that I could afford… just so I’m shaved and looking fresh 🙂

The main issue I was facing every day is FOOD & DRINK.

Drink was easy… I went to Starucks and asked for a glass of water… it’s always free.
Later on I found MANY stores that give free water… some actually gave ice tea free as well… some had fruit in their water (strawberry in the ice cream place etc) – so I was always good on tasty water. Some parks had water faucets as well, but I rarely drank there.
I stayed one day – the entire day – at Starbucks… and no one cared. I read news papers people left on their tables and talked to strangers… always close to free water 🙂


I found out that Starbucks as well as other coffee places have MILK & HALF & HALF out for grabs.. and that helped me a lot…it’s a good source for protein when you have no meat … ;(

Many places also have honey and chocolate powder, all for free… in the bar – so that’s how I started most of my mornings. A cold cup of chocolate milk…with some honey.

Later on I also asked for Hot Water – and they always gave me for free – which I added to my milk to make it hotter… but cold milk is fine too.
Again – all is FREE… in many places.

Trader Joe has a FREE COFFEE bar – which I loved… but there aren’t as many Trader Joe stores as Starbucks… but when I was near one – I definitely preferred a good hot cup of joe from them. Drink as much as you can… all for free.

Trader Joe also has samples of food in the coffee area – which I enjoyed – but there’s really many MORE places that do that… and I learnt who they were in my area and did a tour of each – going from a place to a place… trying all kinds of food, for free.
WholeFoods has samples sometimes – but I learnt a few tricks there to get free food regardless.



You can go to almost any Deli and they’ll give you any meat you want to “sample” – and I pretended I didn’t like any of them… and after the 10th sample… I said thank you and left. They didn’t mind.

I did the same in many bakeries and they gave me FREE Cookies to sample too…though that was just for fun… you don’t really need cookies to survive 🙂

You just to go to the same store twice a day – as they have different sellers in the morning and in the evenings… so they don’t recognize you – because you don’t want to be on anyone’s radar and regarded a free-eater.

I have to say that being hungry all the time made me notice that a lot of people leave food behind… at Starbucks, at McDonald, at many restaurants…
So if you don’t mind eating other people left overs… there’s really plenty out there – in many fast food places… so all you have to do is go there – wait till they leave and eat what’s left.
I never needed to do this – as I found free food elsewhere – but if things came to that… how bad can it really be ? I mean, it’s new food… people just bought it… it’s clean and fresh.

There are several fish restaurants & pizza places, as well as places like Chipotle , that most people will empty their trays into the trash, but some will always leave it on the table… sometimes not even half eaten. You just need to find the right places…and wait for the right opportunity.

One time I found almost a whole burrito, barely touched, in Chipotle… (Mexican food place); a couple were eating – the girl barely ate her burrito and they left it all on the table… I simply cut it to half and ate the part that was fully covered and un-touched.

But of course, you can always go and take food from the trash… There’s plenty of food there.

A TRICK : when you see people are about to leave, take a few empty trays and go to their table – as IF you work there and ask them if you can clean their table. 90% of the people will say sure… and you pick up all their left over food before they throw it to the garbage… FREE food – without looking homeless, because taking food from the trash is definitely a bad sign… you do NOT want people to see you do it.
Pick up people’s tray and you look good… and who knows – maybe even get a tip…

All in all – after 3–4 days you really learn all the places you can get free food and there are MANY out there… Sams Club & Costco always have food samples – it’s a bit tricky to get in but when you look normal – it’s never hard.
Just rotate and go to different places so you’re not ever noticed and you’ll be fine…

I found a few parks here in LA that had fruit trees – mainly oranges – but still … that’s FREE food right there… ready to be picked up. And I used to go there in the morning and pick up some oranges for the whole day – gave me energy.
Some also had Prickly pear – which I love… need to be careful with all those thorns – but it’s worth it… very yummy.


I was lucky to be in Los Angeles , where it’s hot… but that’s probably a much bigger issue in cold cities… which I am guessing you’ll need to be in a closed place with a good blanket and a coat.

In Los Angeles, the main thing is to sleep in a safe place.
I mean, you don’t want to sleep in some park on a bench… who knows what’s happening at night… too dangerous.

Now, I’m sure there are shelters and places for homeless people but I did not want to be treated like that and be one of them… that was the whole point in this experiment – to prove you don’t have to be dependent on others… so that was not an option for me.
I had to find places where I can just sleep safely.

I tried a few places – in parks , in buildings , and even in some hiking area forest… where I built a nice camp area … I mean, I’ve watches those shows on TV – why couldn’t I build something from nature ? it was harder than I expected but it’s definitely doable if you have enough energy in you…but since I ate good – I was strong.

Later on I found a casino that was open 24/7 – and they had many couches and it seems there were used to drunk people falling asleep there…
This was a perfect place for me to sleep – all I had to do is pretend I’m gambling once in a while… sit in a table… of course I had no money so I never did… but they didn’t know. On the good side – I did get free drinks just for sitting there…
But they had several areas that you could easily sleep for a few hours and not get noticed… and they were comfortable.

I wasn’t bothered because I did not look like a homeless person – I was dressed nicely and I was clean and not stinky, as I showered every day… (didn’t really take a shower every day but you can wash yourself entirely in every public restroom… take your clothes off – wash your body with water & soap – wipe it down with paper towel – put clothes back… I’ve done it a lot in Starbucks restrooms … ) – which brings me to the next subject…

You really don’t want to stink and look like a bum… so I had to find a place to shower every once in a while.
First – I went to the beach… there’s plenty of public showers there… but it was just too far to go every day.

Then I found even a better way… the GYM !
There are many gyms you can enter for free if you know how… some will give you a tour if you inquire about a membership… some will give you a free one visit.
Others, you just walk in… mingle with the crowd – even if they have a card reader – just walk in as if you’re returning to pick up something… they can see you’re not dressed up for gym so they usually don’t bother you.
One time at the 24 hours Fitness – a lady stopped me and asked if I am a member, and I simply said “NO, but I have a meeting with your sales rep and he promised to show me the place” … and she said “oh great.. good luck ! I hope to see you again…“ and let me in. No probs. I spent the whole day there…

But with some smaller gyms they didn’t give me any issues and I just got inside – there wasn’t even any check-in anywhere…

Nice gyms have saunas too… and a heated pool… I could spent half a day there easily. Having fun at no cost… and coming out sparking clean 🙂

Main point, once again , is that if you look good and ask to just see the place – or for a free one-day trial – they’ll let you in. You just need to be nice… One place actually gave me a PASS for the entire month… I didn’t pay a dime… just needed to fill up some paperwork. Cost me nothing.

It wasn’t easy being homeless – and I’ve never walked so much in my entire life… hard living without a car… but it’s doable – and I never really needed money – so there’s no need to beg or live in the streets… I never did.

IF you beg for money – at least use it wisely… instead of spending your money on getting drunk – buy some nice clothes…and some razor blade. Look normal !
Everything CHANGES when you look good – dignified – normal…
If people don’t know you’re homeless – they treat you nicely – they invite you in…

I never had any issues because I never looked like a bum – I was never stinky – I was always shaved – I had nice clean clothes though I had to wash them a few times (that’s where the beach comes handy… you go into the water with your clothes on – wash them nicely – come outside – take them off – put them to dry while you’re catching a tan… no one ever bothered me when I’m half naked in the beach… underwear looks like a swimming pants… ).

Now , I know this is not the life to live… I don’t encourage it – and I know not everyone can do what I did for the entire month… I mean, I’ve done hard stuff in the army , I fast 14 days straight every year (lemon cleanse ) – I’m not a big eater , and I really only eat once a day normally… so I was fine with the bit of food I got during this period.
But if I can do it – anyone can… you just need to realize that the fact you have no home does not mean you need to look like homeless…

I have to admit , there’s something really liberating in having NOTHING…
You don’t need a shopping cart or anything like that… carry all your junk – you don’t need any junk… really all I needed was one small shopping bag to carry my tooth paste & razor blade, a bottle of water I kept refilling & a few oranges I picked up – that’s it… (I had a tiny camera that I carried in my pocket but otherwise – my pockets were free… ).

I sometimes went to hotels and car dealerships – just to “look around”… and they always had free snacks and coffee… Tesla has all kinds of drinks too – cookies and chocolate bars… so I filled my bag with goodies… but otherwise , I could just put everything in my pockets.

My experiment was a SUCCESS.
I proved it CAN be done.
You can be homeless and not need to beg for money or live in the streets… you can be active (I walked for miles and miles every day) and even travel and see new places… it can be an interesting life. There’s free stuff everywhere…there’s food and water everywhere… just look normal and you’ll always be fine.

It’s when you GIVE UP on life – and start living under a bridge and built a tent… that’s when being Homeless really gets a BAD meaning… it destroys your life.

Now… back home… where there’s plenty of food and it’s all organic 😉

I hope that when my kids are older they could see my movie and understand that Life is not about materials because I was happy even as a homeless guy…

Sure, I initially missed my computer, my phone, my home, my Tesla… I missed the Sushi nights and the BBQ pool parties and what not… but after a week all that was forgotten and I enjoyed just LIVING – just being alive – exploring the world… being FREE… and surviving another day. There’s something powerful in it.

There’s nothing better than “feeling free” like having absolutely nothing… just yourself.

No home to maintain , no mortgage to pay ,nothing what so ever to worry about except feeding myself… it made me value LIFE in a whole new light 🙂

I hope you all have learnt something from his story. Feel free to share yours.

Thank you for reading.


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