What to do if you need to sleep in the open

What to do if you need to sleep in the open

We all know that life can be tough and one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face in modern life is homelessness. If you find yourself without shelter and need to sleep rough overnight, here are a few things you can do to remain safe:

Find a safe place to sleep. 

No matter where you end up spending the night, try to stay in a well-lit area and close to other people. This will help deter any would-be criminals and make it easier for you to get help if you need it. 

Check if there are any 24-hour cafés, restaurants or fast food outlets nearby that you can sleep in. Some places may not allow this but it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

Reach out for help from friends or family.

Asking to stay overnight at a friend’s house is always an option but if you don’t want to impose, try asking if you can camp in their backyard for the night. 

Here is how you can make it a win-win situation for both you and your host.

Find outreach programs in your area and speak with them.

There are entire charity organisations built to respond to the needs of people in exactly your situation. These companies hold street outreach programs in every major city in Australia. They provide immediate, on the ground food, shelter and support. 

One such charity is Unity WA, they service the City of Perth by “supporting people to access immediate accommodation and working with them towards securing stable, long-term accommodation.” Call them on 0408 987 607.

Stay away from drugs and alcohol. 

Using drugs or alcohol can make you more vulnerable to violence and theft. Do your best to stay away while you’re finding your feet with accommodation.

Trust your instincts. 

If you feel like someone is following you or that something isn’t right, it’s probably best to leave the area.

Keep your belongings with you. 

Try to keep your most valuable items on you at all times, or hidden in a safe place. This includes things like your ID, money, phone, and any medications you may need.

If you have a backpack and some spare clothes, it can mean the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep and a cold, sleepless one. You can always use a backpack as a pillow and layer on clothes for warmth.


Try to get some rest, so you can be alert and ready to face the next day. Take naps during daylight hours if possible, as this will afford you the energy to change location in case you are being disturbed and reduce the risk of being attacked or robbed at night.

The important goal for anyone sleeping rough is to find permanent, safe and secure housing as soon as possible. So get in touch with a homelessness service provider in your area who can assess your individual needs and help you access the services you need. You can find these services listed on our guide to Overcoming Homelessness.

iYARN has curated this list for a WA audience based on research conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Read their full publication on at Sleeping rough: a profile of Specialist Homelessness Services clients (full publication; 2Aug2018 edition)(AIHW) 

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