According to the LAHC, 3.5 million people will experience homelessness in a given year.1 That number is expected to go even higher given our current financial situation. Of that 3.5 million, 1.35 million of those will be children.
Inside these records, or perhaps outside them, is another group; the “mobile homeless.” These are people living out of cars and vans and RVs instead of on the street. These people are more likely to have jobs, to have some sort of an income, though perhaps not enough to afford traditional housing.
Some of those are parents without enough money left over for housing after they pay their child support, yet instead of avoiding payment they live in their cars, vans, or on friend’s couches.
Some are elderly, some are disabled. Some are simply snowbirds tired of managing a house full of possessions. Some are students trying to afford tuition.
Some are there by choice; others by circumstance. Some are driven there by circumstance, and end up making it a choice.
Why would someone choose to be homeless?
For some, mobile homelessness is a preferred choice. No longer do they have rent to pay, yards to mow, leaves to rake. No longer do they have to worry about utility bills or housing association fees. Noisy neighbors? Just drive away, and problem solved! No fears of dropping equity or balloon payments.
Done right, mobile homelessness is a pleasant way of life. True, you won’t be working at the high-dollar jobs, but thanks to the Internet there are ways to locate jobs in scenic areas where you can stay both rent and utility free, and get paid for it! When you get bored, simply unhook and move to the next adventure.
Over this past summer I became friends with a mobile homeless couple. They had secured a position as caretakers over a local swimming spot. In exchange for a mere 20 hours of labor a week, sitting in a payment booth watching television, they were given free rent and utilities. They were both retired, so this left them with more than enough money out of their checks to live a pleasant life. Their RV was small, but clean; their good fortune was displayed in the yard of their lot: multiple toys and bikes for the grandkids when they came to visit.
By summer’s end they were glad it was time to move on; they wanted to travel closer to family for winter. They had lived in the RV for a couple years’ straight so were planning to take a break by renting a small apartment for the winter a couple of states away. After that — they were already looking for their next summer spot.
A friend of mine lives in an RV in another state, he has an arrangement with local law enforcement to park in crime-ridden areas; apparently his watchful eye encourages the bad guys to leave! His lifestyle enables him to live close to his beloved mother with his pets; a feat near impossible in today’s modern apartments.
Other friends, as well as myself, have experienced homelessness at one point or another. One thing I have noticed is a significant difference in attitude among camps. Some are angry, resentful that they have been forced into such a lifestyle. They resent every aspect, and struggle and fight to escape, telling horror stories for years to come. Then there are people like my friends, and even my brother; preferring freedom to the slavery of a home.
I look around my tiny apartment, listening to my daughter beg for a pet to play with. I look at my lease, which states that if a pet is chosen, the deposit is not only increased depending upon the type of pet chosen, but if a dog or a cat, size and breed are carefully regulated, meaning that if we were to stay here, not only would there be an increase in rent and deposit to have a pet, but if that pet were to grow more than expected we would be forced to sacrifice a member of the family, or be evicted.
Similar rules exist in apartments across the country. Add to that noise regulations, occupancy regulations, rules about what can go here and can’t go there make a free-spirited person want to scream in frustration.
Purchasing land is near impossible with the economy’s current state; but even if it weren’t it would bring more ties – taxes, utilities, zoning regulations, unruly neighbors, mortgage payments.
During these times I think of the freedom of mobile homelessness. We could travel to various parks for work, giving my daughter an education I could never afford otherwise; yet in exchange she would lose the security of familiar friends.
My parents moved several times while I was young; I did enjoy the changes in scenery, but the loss of a stable base of friends has perhaps affected me in that I do not make friends as easily as some. I do not think I would want that for my daughter. She is too sociable to be turned into a hermit.
However, I think I would like to be homeless when I grow up and the kid moves out. A small RV to live and travel in; with that I could fulfill my dream of exploring America with ease and simplicity. At first if I were nervous I could arrange my stops depending on jobs arranged over the Internet; then perhaps branching out to just picking a spot on the map and setting out for a visit – the job could be whatever simple income I happened to stumble upon during the visit. A temporary service, perhaps.
No bills save for fuel, insurance, and living expenses. No hotels, no landlords saying “sign here,” or “I won’t rent unless you sell your soul to me.”
Just me, a van, and the open road. That’s the kind of homeless I would love to be.