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Old 01-11-2014, 11:01 PM
 
Location: Redmond, WA
559 posts, read 692,241 times
Reputation: 743

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Hello. As promised I wanted to give everybody an update on my decision last fall to try and live without a dwelling. I don't know where the original thread went, and I don't know how to link it, feel free to search for it if you're new to the forum or need a refresher. As some of you might remember I had made the conscious choice to become homeless for an indeterminate period of time in an attempt to cut expenses, save money, and embrace minimalism. And I'm man enough to admit that it was not possible, at least not under the circumstances I was facing. Some of the issues were predicted by members of the forum, but there were other problems as well. Here are the highlights:

1. Weather: while Seattle normally has a mild winter climate (mild in the sense that it does not often go below freezing overnight), November/December were unusually dry and it was very cold without the perpetual cloud cover. This made outdoor sleeping of any kind impossible and dangerous. I was forced to spend many nights lodging with friends, family, and cheap (somewhat sketchy) motels. Even the most expensive housing is not going to cost more than $40-50 per day averaged out, so this alone spelled failure.

2. Clothing: in order to interview and search for work I needed to look good and this was impossible because for starters it looks plain silly to arrive at an employment office with a backpack and several layers of clothes. It "screamed" homeless. Now in one or two cases the recruiters knew me from past relationships, but more than once I cancelled an interview because I knew ahead of time I would not be able to arrive wearing the proper clothes. I had initially thought I could pull it off by stashing clothing at a relatives house or even the dry cleaners and just rotate the outfits. But funds ran out much quicker than planned and the relative was several hours away by ferry, too many added variables made the plan unfeasible and complicated.

3. Food: a pretty vital necessity. At first I thought I could take advantage of the many meal programs that can be found throughout the city. But much to my surprise, they are only accessible if you do not have a job because all 3 meals are served between roughly 7am and 6pm, the long commutes made it impossible because the dinner places for instance start at 5 and close up promptly at 6. In other words, you have a choice, work and starve or eat and stay broke. No wonder homelessness is so chronic.

4. To be or not to be: everybody has to "be" somewhere. No matter who we are, at any point in time throughout the day, we have someplace we need to be. But without a dwelling there is nowhere to go and most cities/jurisdictions have made it illegal to inhabit public space like sidewalks. Not that I would have done that, but there weren't too many allowable options, the library maybe. Even shelters often kick everybody out during the daytime hours or vice versa if it's a day center. But more importantly was what it did to my psyche no matter how much I tried to deny it. Walking around with nowhere to go was very depressing and lonely, in a clinical type way, not good at a time when I had to be thinking clearly.

5. Money: Everything in life requires start up costs and I clearly did not have enough of it to take on something so radical. Despite my minimalism, I found that I was a lot more dependent on "stuff" than I first thought. And the day I had to pawn my tablet was not something I was happy about or proud to be doing. And it still saddens me.

My life was going downhill, and fast. I knew that I had to put the brakes on this whole plan, which might have been possible to pull off had I started with a lot more money out of the gate, but then if I had that kind of money the whole effort would not have been necessary to begin with. Fortunately, the story ends happily. I moved in with my Mom while I looked for work, she has given me free room/board until I'm on my feet again. I just accepted a job offer yesterday and start Monday. I paid off some bills with money I earned from a brief job I had in December. And I made arrangements with creditors on others. A sympathetic friend loaned me money for living expenses until I get my first paycheck.

What lessons have I learned from all this? A lot. You have no idea. Like always having money set aside for a rainy day. Always having a need for "stuff". And always having countless expenses in life that just can't be avoided, there's no realistic way to eliminate them; not when our health/wellness are at stake.

As a reward to myself for landing a job, I'm treating myself to a newer better tablet with my first paycheck.

Post any questions and I'll be happy to answer them.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:00 AM
 
Location: Portlandia "burbs"
10,236 posts, read 13,648,135 times
Reputation: 25862
What a profound post! And I think it's an important one, as it's given from someone of clear and sound mind who chose to try living homeless.

See, most people who choose to live homeless do not want regular jobs, or they are too addicted to drugs or alcohol to really care. Some of these people do not even want a permanent roof over their heads. Therefore, they know their resources and are more willing to tolerate the inconveniences and lack of hygiene. For you, you decided to try this option while looking for a job, and you've shown us that it could not work very well.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:57 AM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
15,750 posts, read 9,771,243 times
Reputation: 26644
I also am impressed that you tried this route.

That indicates a lot of strength and open-mindedness.
Bet you learned a lot that will stay with you for a long time.
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Old 01-12-2014, 03:51 AM
 
Location: northwest Illinois
2,331 posts, read 2,548,094 times
Reputation: 2423
What you tried to do, CAN be done but it has to be in a much smaller area using several caches of supplies in hidden locations. Daily disciplines have to be followed for it work also.
Do you have any bushcrafting experience?
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Old 01-12-2014, 08:04 AM
 
11,492 posts, read 6,619,094 times
Reputation: 6270
This reminds me of a show I watched where a very wealthy older man would venture out for months as a vagabond. He would hop on trains and ride around the country. He enjoyed it and his wife was OK with it too (she stayed at home). I guess some people get a kick out of ditching life's typical worries and being tossed into a struggle for life's most primitive needs like food and warmth. It's basically survivalist living that includes some urban terrains.
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Old 01-12-2014, 08:54 AM
 
Location: USA
6,182 posts, read 5,060,881 times
Reputation: 10556
Very interesting story.

I was homeless for about 6 months (I was splitting a $800/month apt with a alcoholic roommate who lost his job leading to us both being evicted.) I only make $9 an hour @ 32 hours a week so it was a no hoper. For 6 months I lived out of a back of a Ford Bronco I bought for cheap off a desperate cocaine addict who really needed the cash. Honestly it wasn't too bad except in winter time and eating chef boyardee and fast food everyday got old after awhile. Luckily I found a motel in which I got a reduced rate and have been living in it ever since.

There is a huge difference in being really homeless and being a "hobby" homeless since they can get out of it anytime they want so the survival mentality is a lot different.
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Old 01-12-2014, 10:04 AM
 
Location: Jamestown, NY
7,841 posts, read 7,030,575 times
Reputation: 13779
Well, Garethe, at least you're now in Seattle and your story has a "happy ending" for now. Kudos for coming back to tell us about how it actually went.
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Old 01-12-2014, 11:02 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
17,055 posts, read 52,001,536 times
Reputation: 28184
Excellent analysis! Even when we were stealth camping in our van on a vacation there was that feeling of the landscape society not wanting to allow it or make space. I can't imagine having no consistent home base at all. What was startling to me was your comment on how a person would find it difficult or impossible to work and get subsistence food. Catch 22.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:53 PM
 
Location: East of the Sun, West of the Moon
15,093 posts, read 16,859,544 times
Reputation: 29230
I think you just didn't try hard enough.

If you try again, consider developing a severe addiction or mental disorder. Most of the homeless people who come off as truly successful seem to have parleyed these traits into maintaining, and perfecting, their homeless lifestyle.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Consciousness
659 posts, read 932,733 times
Reputation: 834
Bravo for your experience and growth.

What wold be even more phenomenal would be to pay your friend back, help your mother on utilities and create an emergency fund before buying a tablet which is not a necessity. If for some reason you were immediately laid off would a tablet be what you'd want to show for your life's lesson?
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