I was going to wait awhile to talk about this, but now seems like a good time. I’ve decided to be homeless. Well, it wasn’t one hundred percent my idea, I’ve been out of work for over two years, excepting the occasional writing gig. For the last few months, I’ve been staying with friends, but, over time, that has become less and less comfortable for all of us. It’s not natural for an unrelated, single adult to join a household with a family with children. So, I moved out.
I had considered this option before, many years ago when I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you’ve ever lived in The City, you know how expensive rents can be. I had a good paying job and still had a hard time paying bills every month. I figured, hey, I’ve got a gym membership (for showers) and a car, I could be homeless and do all right. That ended up not happening, the idea of living on the streets or even in my car in Bay Area was too scary. I’m sure I would not have survived. That was over fourteen years ago, but the thought never left me.
I am now living in the California Central Valley, a much kinder, gentler place to stay in general. Also cheaper. Spring is right around the corner, so I figured if I was ever going to test my ‘homeless is awesome’ theory, now would be the time.
Now, I am lucky and blessed that I am not, yet, in the same financial position as most of the homeless people I’ve met. I receive Student Financial Aid – I am taking a full load of classes online. It’s not a lot of money, certainly not enough for rent and utilities, but it’s enough to get me through until I can find a part-time job or land some more writing and/or web design gigs. I also have some things in storage that I can sell if I get desperate, but I hope it doesn’t go that far.
Another thing that sets me apart from many of the other people on the street is that I have friends and family that I can stay with if I choose. So, this homeless thing is, ultimately, my choice.
I’ve taken a few steps to make this easy on myself. One thing that I’ve rented a storage space so I don’t have to keep everything in my car (not that I could). I also have a gym membership, so I can take showers everyday, which is very important if I want to find and keep a job. Last, but certainly not least, I got mobile 4G broadband Internet service from Clear Wireless. This is important for my sanity. I’ve gotten used to working in Starbucks and bookstores to utilize their WiFi service, but often I want to work alone. When I’m not working on school or other writing/web projects, I like to relax and watch shows and movies on Hulu and NetFlix. So, yeah, I need Internet.
I also have a power inverter laying around, so I can plug my laptop into my car’s power supply. Watching Internet TV as I fall asleep has helped deal me deal with the loneliness and fear of sleeping in my car.
Another positive of this experience is that since I go to the gym everyday to shower, I might as well work out. Since I started this journey, I’ve worked out at least one hour everyday. This is very good news since I am about 80 to 100 pounds overweight. I expect that before long, I’ll be under 200 pounds.
It’s not all roses, though. For one thing, it’s very lonely. I can’t exactly invite someone over to hang out. Not to mention that I just came from a home that was full of people. The quietness is hard to deal with. Like I said, TV helps.
Worse than the quietness is the noise. There are a lot of scary noises on the street at night and I feel very vulnerable knowing that people can just look in my windows and see me sleeping. I also worry about the police waking me up and questioning me. I deal with this by parking in fairly active parking lots of places that are open all night, like the gym. I’ve also parked in front of my old church. It’s not necessarily such a safe neighborhood, but it makes me feel safe.
Another pressing issue is the price of gas. It’s currently @$4.00/gallon. I have to be very careful about my movements throughout the day. If I stay in one place for very long, I risk being exposed as being a vagrant and asked to leave or, worse, entered into the “system”. This will become less of an issue once I get a part-time job or a few paying writing/web gigs.
Honestly, sleeping in my car isn’t as bad as it may seem, but it’s not very comfortable, either. So far, I’m dealing with it okay. Working out everyday helps. We’ll see how it works long-term.
My plan is to do this for forty days, until Easter. It vaguely corresponds with Lent, but I am not Catholic and I picked my own forty days. If I adapt well to this situation, it may well become my lifestyle for the foreseeable future. My imagination keeps leaping to the thought of how much I can save and pay off my debts if I got a good paying full-time job and didn’t have to pay rent for a few years.
I’m hoping that at some point I can get a pickup truck with a camper shell. That would be the life!
Please stay tuned to this space as I will be writing about my journey as well as writing general blog-type stuff. Because, you know, what else am I going to do?