• International star, actor Jim Carrey, was once homeless. (FilmMagic/ Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)Source: FilmMagic/ Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Before rising to fame and riches, some of the world’s best known celebrities were homeless.
Shannon McKeogh

29 May 2017 - 9:37 AM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2017 - 7:07 PM

It’s not a trivia fact that most people are aware of but, some of the world’s best known actors, musicians and business entrepreneurs were homeless. A number of your favourite celebrities have slept on the floors of friend’s rooms and taken refuge from the cold in the backseats of cars and vans. Currently glamorous and glitzy, it’s been these celebrities’ very real struggles of homelessness and poverty, which proves that anyone can fall on hard times.

Steve Jobs

Before founding the hugely successfully multi-billion dollar company Apple, Steve Jobs was a struggling and homeless college student.

In his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005 he said, “I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.”


The American singer and song-writer is an advocate for Rethink, an organisation which aims to change the perception of public housing and homelessness. Before her successful music career, Jewel had a personal experience with homelessness. After being sexually propositioned by her boss, she quit her job and had to live in her car, which was then stolen.

She told the US morning show Today, “when you don't have a physical address, much less of an education, it's very, very difficult to get a job and break that poverty cycle”.

While homeless she was caught washing her hair in the toilets at the shop, Denny’s. “People looked at me like I was absolutely disgusting. I wanted to yell at them and say, 'I'm human! I may not have a house, but I matter!''

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Jim Carrey

When Jim Carrey was 12 his father lost his job and he and his family struggled to make ends meet.

“We lived in a van for a while and we worked all together as security guards and janitors,” the actor told James Lipton on the Actors Studio in 2011. Carrey worked eight hours day in a factory after school, which made him want to “bash somebody’s head in”.

He also spoke  about his family’s poverty in his earlier comedy routines to US audiences at The Comedy Store :

“I know a lot about the poor because we were homeless for a long time. It was in Canada, so I just thought we’d just gone camping ... I said to dad ‘Are we poor? And he said, “No son. We’re rich as long as we have each other. Now get in the dumpster.”

Hillary Swank

The Oscar award winning actress grew up in a trailer park in the USA before dropping out of high-school. At 15-years-old with only $75 to her name and a Mobil petrol card, Swank and her mother packed up and went to Hollywood to pursue acting. With no money for accommodation, they lived in their car for a few weeks.

Swank told CBS News, "we had a friend who was selling their house. And so they said, 'you know, there's no furniture, but you can stay there at night. And then, during the day, you have to leave so we can try and sell it,'" says Swank. "So we got air mattresses. Blew the air mattresses up. Slept on the air mattresses. And left in the morning." 

William Shatner

When Star Trek went off the air in 1969, the famous actor, recently divorced found himself living in his pick-up truck for months.

“I had three kids and was totally broke,” he told Metro. “I managed to find work back east on the straw-hat circuit – summer stock – but couldn’t afford hotels, so I lived out of the back of my truck, under a hard shell.

“It had a little stove, a toilet, and I’d drive from theatre to theatre. The only comfort came from my dog, who sat in the passenger seat and gave me perspective on everything.

Otherwise, it would have just been me counting my losses.”

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If this article has raised issues for you and you would like to talk to someone, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website by clicking here. For information about services from St Vincent De Paul, click here or for services offered by Salvation Army, click here. 

'Filthy Rich and Homeless', a new three-part documentary series, will explore the experience of homelessness when it debuts on SBS on Tuesday 27, Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 June at 8.30pm. Each show will be available to view on SBS On Demand after broadcast.

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