Find Shelter, Food and Medical Care. If you are homeless or otherwise without steady access to adequate food or shelter, the very first thing you need to do is to find adequate shelter and food. Most cities of any size provide temporary shelter and food kitchen assistance to the needy. You can look these resources up in the telephone book, but it is frequently easier to learn this information by asking a social service professional for referrals. Social service professionals are employed by some community hospitals and clinics servicing the homeless. Such hospitals and clinics will typically offer pubic health care services (or know where such services can be had). They are a good destination for homeless people who are mentally ill and/or addicted to drugs or alcohol or just have no other place to turn. In some cases, social workers can arrange for ongoing medical care or addiction treatment, and even put people on waiting lists for housing options that are safer and more permanent than what is available in shelters.
Even if you wish to work on 'higher level' needs (such as feelings of loneliness, or dissatisfaction with how your life has turned out), you must first make sure your basic needs are taken care of before doing so. People are, to a great degree, creatures of habit. They often resist change, whether or not it is good for them. Purposeful personal change efforts of the type necessary to alter your higher level needs will demand your close attention, a lot of your energy, and some level of discomfort. You won't be able to sustain this level of energy and attention for long if your fundamental needs are not well met.
Keep in mind that there are levels of getting your basic needs met. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, you will find yourself having more energy and attention for higher level change efforts, if you spend time focusing on meeting your lower level needs. We review methods for optimizing your lower level needs (diet, sleep, exercise and socialization) in the following sections. There are so many suggestions here that you may end up reviewing this material and feeling overwhelmed. If this is the case, don't feel compelled to take them all seriously. They are suggestions, only. If your basic needs are reasonably met, and you want to work on other problems for now, you should do so and not worry too much about this stuff. If, however, you have some time and attention, and want to make sure you are doing as well as you can, then consider the following methods for improving how you meet your basic needs.