This article uses case histories to document the experiences of 30 homeless people from a range of backgrounds in Pretoria and Rustenburg, South Africa. Factors that contributed to their becoming homeless were poverty, unemployment, a lack of affordable accommodation, divorce, disability, illness and an underprivileged childhood. More than one-half of the interviewees reported growing up in dysfunctional families. There was evidence of solidarity among homeless people, especially those living in shelters, and there were informal networks for identifying job opportunities. Many of the interviewees hoped to improve their circumstances by finding affordable accommodation or some form of employment or receiving a state grant.