The Crime of Poverty - The Part-Time Homeless
The Part Time Homeless
August 15, 2011
Not all homeless are without shelter all the time.
Some sleep in their cars, some in campers or trailers. Some scrape up enough money to rent a hotel room for a night or two every month. At least this way they can get a good night's sleep and shower or bathe.
They are still homeless though and because their situations are so precarious occasional shelter is not a concrete step toward permanent housing.
Jean and Sandy
Jean met Sandy living on the street. Jean was new to the experience. Sandy had a bit more experience. Initially, there was some distrust between them. Being homeless you learn pretty quickly that the people who are so anxious to get to know you may well rip you off in a matter of days.
Caution is warranted.
After the "careful dance" of about a month the two women became fast friends. They don't spend all of their time together. They go their separate ways to go on "scouting missions," but they always plan to reconnect at the end of the day. They compare notes.
Both are working part-time jobs, but both combined do not make enough to rent an apartment. The big problem right now is the deposit (first and last month's rent); they just can't scrape that much together and eat too.
As an intermediate measure they rent a hotel room a few nights a month. At least this way they can get a good nights sleep (it's hard trying to sleep on the street), take a shower or bath, and even watch movies.
Neither is particularly interested in watching the news.
Sandy and Jean do not know how much longer this situation might last, but they are both determined to see it through. It has to change sooner or later.
Ralph's Four Wheeled Home
Ralph had a good job in the entertainment industry. It wasn't a steady job, but he always managed to find enough work to keep him afloat. Being a union member he was able to download and print a list of production opportunities in the area every month. That list typically ran eight pages printed on both sides of each page.
The writer's strike at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008 reduced that job list one page. Ralph's job prospects were reduced by a factor of ten. He did get some short term part time work, but it was very iffy. He barely made enough money to stay afloat, but he did manage to keep his apartment. The strike lasted one hundred days. Ralph barely got through it, but he did get through it.
Shortly after the strike settlement the "great recession" took hold. When he saw that he was no longer able to afford rent he began making plans to live out of his car.
He had to give away or try to sell most of his belongings, reduce his wardrobe, and finally give away his dog. He'd had "Spot" for eleven years. This broke his heart. He still misses "Spot."
At least he wouldn't have to pay gas or electric any more. He did get his deposit back, but it didn't last long. He had to eat and buy gas.
Ralph had been living out of his car for almost a year. He could not renew his registration; it was not in his budget. While out searching for work or food on foot he would return to find his car ticketed. He racked up five tickets. He could not afford to pay those tickets.
In California an unregistered car is deemed "abandoned."
After about three months Ralph's car "disappeared" while he was away on one of his scouting forays. His car was towed as abandoned and it sat in an impound lot for the next month. All of his possessions, what few were left, were in it.
He could not afford the towing fees, impound fee, or tickets. All of these items had to paid for before he could recover his car.
He was allowed to recover his property from the car, but having nothing as large to put those items in he had to make a drastic reduction again. He acquired a wire shopping basket with wheels. His list of possessions was reduced by one quarter out of necessity.
He sleeps under an overpass. He is now truely homeless.
Bob and Mary's Motor Home
Bob and Mary used to live in a nice house in Virginia.
Mary became really ill and though they had a good insurance policy the medical bills bankrupted them. Bob lost his job due to layoffs. Because the value of their home took a direct hit from the "great recession" of 2008 they ended up "underwater" on the home. They sold it not so much to make up the shortfall in funds, but simply because they could no longer afford the mortgage payment. They still owe the bank money from the sale.
Bob's retirement savings were eaten up by Mary's medical expenses, mortgage payments and their combined living expenses.
With the meager funds they had left they bought a motor home and traveled to the West Coast. At least here they wouldn't freeze to death. Bob and Mary have children, but they refuse to impose on them. It just wouldn't be right somehow.
They originally found a place to park near the beach. Unfortunately the daily fees were pretty high and they had to find an alternative. Ideally that alternative would be "free."
They parked the monster on a street in Venice, but residents were getting fed up with the sudden influx of motor homes and campers. Some of the less scrupulous "campers" in the neighborhood were tossing garbage out in the street; even fewer were throwing parties all hours of the night. Venice homeowners demanded action.
At the prompting of residents and with the authority of city council members, the police began cracking down on street parking and waste disposal problems. They chose to do this at three in the morning once a month every month. This time it would be the campers would would lose sleep. Though only a tiny portion of the mobile homeless were at the root of the problems everyone ended up paying for it.
Tickets and warnings were issued. Many would have to find a new place to park. Some could not pay the fees and eventually lost their campers.
So far Bob and Mary have managed to keep the motor home, but they are truly worried now. They can clearly see losing their motorized home in some future crack-down.
Neither Bob nor Mary are particularly happy with the arrangement. There are no lights at night, unless they want to run the generator which sucks up gas and makes a lot of noise. Water and waste disposal are a constant problem.
They are jammed together in a reduced space. Because it's cheaper to park on the street they do not have the amenities a dedicated motor home park provides such as a power connection, water, and waste disposal hookup. They don't bathe as often as they used to. Cooking is a pain and is done a few times a week. They eat a lot of cold or "room temperature" food.
Their arguments were much more frequent for a while, but they got used to the changes. Both will readily admit that this is way better than being hospitalized or dead. At least they have a roof over their heads.
Bob and Mary are hopeful though. Mary is healthy again and Bob continues to look for work. He's gotten a bit of a reputation among Venice residents as a first-class handyman. The spotty income at least buys food, gas, and parking fees. Bob is saving up for the looming vehicle registration renewal. They also manage to keep insurance on the vehicle.
They are living one day at a time, but at least they are living.
Like so many homeless they "keep the faith" by remaining positive about the future. Bob says he doesn't know when things will get better, but he's certain that they will; it's only a matter of time. Mary agrees. They keep each other going.
Brianna lost two jobs in a row. Both due to downsizing in 2008. After she lost her first job she applied and was hired on elsewhere. Three months later the new job cut staff too; Brianna was one of the first let go. The economy was beating her up.
She saw the writing on the wall. She was going to lose her apartment so she began planning for the worst. She sold or gave away a lot of her belongings. Her biggest problem was her dog. She would have to board him or give him away.
Fortunately her father, who she had not seen in twenty years, left her a car and trailer after his death. She moved to a Walmart parking lot.
Though she manages to find part time work none of the jobs pay enough for her to cover rent or deposit. At least by parking at a Walmart she has saved a rental space fee.
Evicted without Notice
Even though the manager of the Walmart told her and others that they could park there indefinitely, someone from the corporate office visited the site and ordered all the vehicles removed. Brianna returned after her part-time day job to find her home had been removed.
It took her a month to get it back.
Because Brianna Karp keeps a blog it wasn't long before she got offers for housing. She currently lives in a shed in Riverside. The shed is not fit for human habitation according to California law. Brianna and others living on the property vacate when code enforcement officials show up. This means she has to keep her possessions in such a state that she can move them quickly; the shed must not look as if it is occupied.
She has written a book, based on her experiences and blog, called The Girl's Guide to Homelessness. She used the advance to pay back loans.
Brianna does not think she'll ever be rich, but she does want a career. She dreams of one day fixing up a Victorian house and having a yard big enough for her dog to run around in.
The government defines homelessness as a living situation with no permanent address. All of the people mentioned above are, by that definition, homeless.
The author was not compensated in any way, either monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.
Though the author does make a small profit for the word count of this article none of that comes directly from the manufacturers mentioned. The author also stands to make a small profit from advertising attached to this article.
The author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.