Clandestine Camping

This guy…

Is heart wrenching to hear.  How many of you could this be, if you lost your job next week?  How many of you are just 1 paycheck away from being homeless or destitute?  Often people think that Unemployment Benefits are a safety net, but this is not always true.  For example, commission only jobs do not have this safety net.

Just take a few moment to consider yourself in this mans shoes.  And then remember that feeling when you are dealing with someone who is having a hard time.

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4 Responses to “Clandestine Camping”

  1. When I was still living in mid-southern coastal California (where I grew up), I went through this period in 91-92 where, in a fit of rebellion, I was living in a van. Now, I was an low-executive that had reduced my hours for awhile, it was an extended height, extended length 70’s van, it was decked out like a hippie inside with couch and stove and so on (and my ever present sailboard — and two kittens!). When I bought it, it came with Grateful Dead stickers all over the back which I left — the CEO made me park a block away and walk so customers and investors wouldn’t know it was mine. 🙂

    As part of this 8 months stint of rebellion of a sort, and the fact I had velcro around windows and behind front seat walls/ceiling and black outdoor carpet that stuck to it so it was totally black from outside (sans the little sunroof at top) if I was in it with my light, I would park pretty much where I wanted. I found there were some places people who lived in vehicles commonly parked initially, such as down by the railroad tracks (‘projects’ neighborhoods). People, particularly the upper-middle class, would just FREAK if they happened to see inside the van and realize it was being lived in and was parked anywhere near even a place they liked to _visit_, never mind near where they lived. The fact that I could tell them I was a well employed decent citizen didn’t matter. They had some knee-jerk reaction to the homeless that made me seriously wonder if it was some genetic pass-down of reaction to Gypsies and before that probably someone else.

    So at one point I joined a health club that opened at 6am. This let me take a ‘real’ shower first thing and get decently dressed for work, and was open till midnight, so it helped with a ‘real’ bathroom, too. I used to work right near there and knew that in this business industrial section of town, most the businesses opened at 6:30-7am and there was tons of parking. In one place (the city is Ventura) you could stand at the top street, and every single block down was the same, and an alley ran behind them. So from one place, you could actually see like 10 straight blocks down this alley, that streets between each block crossed. The alley was at the back of the business buildings and then each building was a U shape with the open part at the back. So I took to parking there.

    One night, I had accidentally napped during the day so I couldn’t sleep well. I woke up about 3am. It was stuffy and hot in the van so I opened the door and went out to breathe some fresh air and look at the moon. And I walked into the alley, this was about halfway down in that neighborhood, and I thought I was dreaming for a minute. There were cars everywhere. There were MORE cars then when it was working hours. I was surrrounded by cars, and I looked both ways, and I could see cars on every block all the way in both directions. Probably at least 200 cars, trucks, sport vehicles, etc.

    I heard something and walked a few cars down to look. Kids. A family of 5 was living in their Subaru. The parents both had jobs, it turned out. Their credit was busted, they couldn’t swing the first+last+deposit+credit required to get into any new place and they were living on the edge. They tried to pretend it was ok and send the kids to school and go to work. For months at that point.

    It turned out, that’s what I was looking at. An “invisible subpopulation” of employed people with cars who had no homes. But who often had kids they were desperate to keep the gov’t from taking from them due to poverty. I stayed up all night and when 5:30am arrived, the whole world of people in cars apparently woke up. People walked around and stretched and talked like a campsite and got outta dodge. By 6:30am, when most people just started arriving for work, there was not a trace of anybody.

    I knew then I had to get out of there. Everyone my family knew had left the state. My 3 bedroom tract home during high school that we rented was on sale for a quarter mil. The locals couldn’t afford to live there at all but usually couldn’t afford to get out, either. I’d seen several people I semi-knew in the homeless population under the bridge. I had Hendrix and Doors big cloth posters in the van and would sit there with door open and playing guitar down by the tracks, sometimes cooking, and people would smell it or hear it and walk up and say hello to me. I gave them what I could. I had previously done volunteer work for a church (I sang in their choir, but wasn’t a member, I’m a mystic not religious) working with homeless but in that case they had all been women with kids, no jobs. I had never before even considered there could be that many people who had one or both parents working for a living and still couldn’t afford any place to live.

    I left in March of 1995. I moved to Portland, then Seattle, then Fort Worth, then currently to nowhere NE Oklahoma. Cost of living is not much diff but my rent + property tax for the owner + insurance is $400/mo. Of course the CA corp I work for dropped my salary based on the local cost of living alas, but still I suspect it’s a much better situation than if I were back home.

    The invisible subculture situation is really disturbing.

    PJ

    • I went to school at a smallish, “country” school in West Texas. I knew a few kids over the years that lived, at least temporarily, in a tent with their parents. A couple of kids didn’t have parents, effectively. For example, one dude had parents that were abusive drunks that wouldn’t let him live there from the 3rd grade on (he is now a Sheriff of a neighboring county). They relied on the good graces of other parents who lived in the area to take them in and provide for them (and they did a good job, like any “self respecting Christian family” would).

      Would I like it? Not at first, no. Change is always hard, as you have to break habits and build new ones. But I enjoy the outdoors. About as much as I enjoy Call of Duty. LOL

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