Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Silly Criticism

I surf around finding people who talk about this blog just to see what they are saying and the amount of reach the blog has. One silly criticism that is occasionally delivered about the blog, really one of the few negative things that gets said, is that homeless people could never read the blog.

If you are homeless, and you read the blog, please post a comment. Tell me anything you are willing to about the way you are living. How do you get access to the internet?

If you are not homeless, as I believe most of my audience lives indoors, tell me something about what draws you to the blog.

BTW: I don't allow anonymous comments, because it is hard to separate one writer from another without a handle. If you don't have a blog on blogger, registration is free and easy, and you are not obliged to write a blog to do it.


34 Comments:

At 2:51 PM, Blogger T. Bradley Dean said...

I am not homeless. I read this blog simply becaue it's interesting. I've always assumed 100% of homeless people were beggers, unemployed, etc. I've given pocket cash when asked and always thought there must be some way to find homes for them. I can't say I agree with everything said here, but it's making me rethink some of my assumptions.

 
At 6:06 PM, Blogger megan said...

I love this blog and I am not homeless, but I can easily imagine how a homeless person might obtain access to public internet services, especially the way you speak of many homeless people who manage to make the general populace think they're just like everyone else, at least in terms of going to work, shopping, etc. There are free computers at the library that often are not really monitored, and there are a lot of truckstops these days with public access terminals available. And beyond that, low-end laptops just aren't that expensive anymore, and wardriving is a national pastime. Why shouldn't a homeless person be able to read this blog? :}

 
At 7:26 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Wardriving: The act of driving around the city locating and logging onto wireless internet networks.

 
At 7:37 PM, Blogger zovirl said...

I am not homeless. I enjoy reading this blog partly because I like learning how to be self-reliant, partly I like clever solutions to problems (i.e. using a dry cleaner as a closet), and partly because I am intrigued by the idea of being homeless without being, well, homeless...being nomadic without being a bum.

It is unfortunate that most people lump everything under the term homeless. I think attempts to "get the homeless off the streets" or to "clean up the homeless problem" are really directed at bums, but they make life difficult for nomads (hence all the articles here on how to not appear homeless). I also suspect that calling bums "homeless" misdirects people's help. I expect the bum's problem isn't that he doesn't have a home, but something deeper. Giving him shelter doesn't solve the problem, only the symptom. Thoughts?

As for reading this blog while homeless...that shouldn't be too hard. Every time I go to our local library, I see several gentlemen who are probably homeless reading or using the computers. As others have already commented there are plenty of other places to access the Internet.

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger zovirl said...

I forgot to add one thing (when *will* I learn to use preview?). I suspect that most people's definition of "bum" is broader than it should be. I'm sure many of us have had an unpleasant encounter with someone living on the street. It is hard to overcome the discomfort next time we see someone with a similar appearance. If we do, though, we often discover that the bum we have spoken to is a warm and loving human.

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger TheDreamer said...

I am not homeless, however the idea has always fasinated me since being homeless has become a reasonable idea. I'm meerly 18 years of age, but never have I felt homeless people were deserving of their "lot" or that they even had a bad lot. They simply had a diffrent one, and I knew from experince that it wasn't always forced on them, it was a choice that they were very happy with. I think I became most fasinated due to during high school I rode a train to school and thus spent a lot of time around trainstations observing "poor" people and talking with them. I suppose I read your blog mainly because I'm envious that you had the courage to be homeless while I don't seem to, or not at the moment anyway.

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger Marke said...

I'm not homeless, but like zovirl mentioned, I'm a bit of an aspiring nomad. I've slowly been readying my Safari van for an extended period of traveling/living around the country. Thus I'll take all the tips I can get on how to live out of my car, how to maintain a standard of cleanliness, where to park, how to blend in with the regular crew around me, etc.

I've a friend who spent nine months last year traveling around the country with a backpack, a tent, two changes of clothes, and a motorcycle. He would use backroads and visit small towns to get more of that local flair that most interstate drivers miss. When my friend got tired he would stop and knock on someone's door, asking if he could pitch his tent in their yard for the night. He often awoke to his host offering him breakfast. He also often found work under the table that allowed him to purchase gas to get to the next town. As far as destinations are concerned he simply followed his whims. When the weather was nice he explored the Pacific Northwest. When it got cold he went down to Florida. A few months after his return my friend and his brother again left for a multi-month trip. This time they hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It took them six months. My friend inspires me. He's got no family, no debt, no responsibilities. He's just living. I like that. And so I read pages like this to learn better how to do it.

 
At 11:51 PM, Blogger Marke said...

Mobile Homemaker, I wonder if you've heard about Dignity Village in Portland, OR? Sounds like something you may find very interesting .... http://dignityvillage.org/

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger GrrlReporter said...

I'm not homeless, but like a couple of other users, I'm interested in creative alternatives. I live a low-cash existence, and new strategies are always welcome.

I just started reading yesterday, and I am fascinated.

As for people who think the homeless don't have computer access... that's just silly. I covered a dispute between the Tampa chapter of Food Not Bombs this past spring, and spent a lot of time talking to the guys at the picnics. All of them were regular surfers.

Public libraries are the most common access point. However, if you can blend in, you can often get into college libraries and lounges, where there are usually a few computers that can be accessed without passwords. Some net cafes offer free surfing. If you have a laptop, you can get free net access all over every college campus in the area, too, and at a few Rally stations & St*rBucks.

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger GrrlReporter said...

Okay, that should have said "dispute between the Tampa chapter of Food Not Bombs and the city of Tampa."

Forgive me, I don't seem to be sufficiently caffeinated.

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I am also not a homeless person, but your entries have given me a lot of insight into the mindset of homeless people. In a blogosphere where there are thousands of voices, yours is very distinct, well-expressed, and stands out. I'm not sure if you're reaching your target audience, but regardless of that, your message is being heard.

I imagine you could be reaching your target audience, though -- my understanding is that Internet terminals in libraries are used a great deal by those with no home. Perhaps it's just a matter of getting the word out to them.

(There is another homeless individual who has an extremely popular blog out there. I can't remember what the URL is, but you might want to Google 'Sullivan' and 'blog' together and look through the results. I believe he mostly comments on politics.)

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

There's no question that I am reaching my target audience, Mike. Much more than the currently homeless, who have frequently worked out how they are going to live, I am trying to enlighten the people about homeless issues and prepare them for possibilities.

Writing this blog is one of the most rewarding projects I've ever begun. Marriage and fatherhood leave it in the dust, but aside from that...

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Mike said...

First: Here's who I was talking about.

Second: a thought. Your policy of not allowing anonymous comments may be a disincentive for homeless people to respond. This is just a thought, but if you're not experienced with blogging, are you really going to go through the effort of filling out Blogger's numerous forms in order to answer someone's question?

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

What makes you believe the homeless are not experienced bloggers? You've just provided a link to a homeless blogger. I know of half a dozen more.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I'm not sure if there's a miscommunication going on, given that we are reading words without any vocal tone to give emotional context, but I feel as if this interchange is growing a bit hostile. Please reread my words more in a sense of assistance and not controversy or offense, for none was meant. I'm going to sign off from this discussion now ...

 
At 12:12 PM, Blogger Siddhartha said...

I am not homeless. I did once consider living in a similar fashion one summer when i temporarily had to be on the other side of the continent for two months. I figured I could get a van to sleep in, get a membership at the health club across the street for showering, internet at the office, i had a cell phone, etc. I ended up finding very cheap housing instead, but in going through the planning stages i realized how cheaply one could live without a 'house' and not stand out as a "homeless person".

You've pointed out some other things I hadn't considered like laundry service, but I think what draws me into reading this site is that you're hacking civilization, and I love a good hack. Keep it up!

By the way, you have 57 subscribers on bloglines.com right now. Not too shabby.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger PipeTobacco said...

Hello Sir:

I also am not homeless. I am more akin to what an earlier commenter suggested a nomad... actually... perhaps I am an ex-nomad. For a long period roughtly 35 years ago, I did not own a home or apartment and purposefully drifted around the country to see what was available to see. This wanderlust is still strong within my soul but the responsibilities I now hold prevent all but a few hours of wanderlust at any one time.

Your blog is a part of my reading routine to attain that "zen" like feeling of freedom. Thank you.

PipeTobacco
http://frumpyprofessor.blogspot.com

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Mike... I didn't mean to be hostile. Please pardon me. As you say, vocal inflection is missing.

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger anon said...

I am not homeless, but I think it's likely that I will be eventually. I have severe ptsd and am unable to deal with most work situations that might otherwise be available to me, as well as situations that would allow me a place to stay, like extra bed offers from friends.

Of course, given all that, much of the advice here doesn't exactly apply to me: you're often talking to functional people (or potentially so) who just don't have a house or apartment. I expect that once I lose my home, things are going ot go downhill very fast for me. (That's not a play for pity: just trying to give a realistic report.)

So why am I reading? Because I find myself on the outside of norms in our society where you are absolutely required to be on the inside. It's comforting to me to surround myself with the words of intelligent people who are experiencing something parallel, even if the details diverge in many ways.

Thank you for writing the blog, I always look forward to it.

 
At 3:19 AM, Blogger flonejek said...

I live in Australia with my parents, and am not homeless, but I do read your blog everytime there's an update on bloglines. I find it amazing how well homeless peoples lives can be, and this blog has really shaken up my idea's on how much a home is worth. Thanks for the great blog, and I'm glad people like you can reach the Internet, it makes the world feel safer knowing anyone can express their opinions if they want to.

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger Michael Brooks said...

yeah, I'm homeless, and I been reading blogs since 9/11. I find your weblog interesting, and I've referred others to it. Keep up the good work

 
At 12:55 PM, Blogger Lane said...

I am not currently homeless, but I was this summer and the summer before that, and the last three months of winter three years before that (there are more examples, but you get the point). I have a disability (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities or MCS) that has made me so reactive to many commonly used chemicals (formaldahyde, chlorine, solvents) that the buildings where most people live and work can make me so ill I can't move or think and it is often safer for me to live in my car. It is very difficult to find housing that meets my access needs and when I do find it, the lag time between when I have leave the place I've been and when I can get into somewhere new has been anywhere from three weeks to eight months (and this is assuming something doesn't happen to render the new place uninhabitable and fore me to start over). The MCS makes traditional employment difficult as well, so finances are a factor in the availability to housing as well.

If I had known about your blog before today (I saw it mentioned on a different blog site I frequent and decided to check it out), I would have been reading it. I find it helpful to read and/or talk to people who have some idea of the extra work it takes to survive when you don't fit into the assumptions so often made in this country. Access to the internet helped me stay connected to people I consider my community and also made it much easier to get information/support about things that gainfully employed traditionally housed ablebodied people often take for granted. I live in a city where independent coffee shops have come to see offering free wireless internet access as a way to attract customers so once I got my laptop, accessing the internet has been relatively easy and inexpensive (particularly when I think about that $2 cup of coffee buying me not only internet access but a warm/cool place to sit for a few hours and access to a bathroom).

Before I got the laptop, I accessed the internet at the public library or when visiting/staying with my friends with computers. Getting the laptop was a somewhat arduous process. I participated in a poverty abatement program that offered matching grants to people who had been of public assistance--participants saved money every month for three years and wrote a buisness plan and then we got money to invest in making ourselves more self-sufficient. I used my money to buy a computer and a digital video camera (one of the things I do for money is video tape performances and events). It was hard to come up with the $30 a month (particularly when I wasn't working), but the independence the computer has given me is worth is.

There are so many assumptions made about what homelessness looks like and how folks got there. There is also a lot of societal denial about the fact that a lot more people than want to admit it are just one small catastrophe away from being homeless. For me, it was repeated exposure to pesticides and refinishing chemicals. For my friend J, it was being in the crosswalk at the moment some dumbhead decided to run a red light. For someone else it will be layoffs or the stock market crash or a fire or medical bills or a host of other things.

I don't have all the priveledges/options you have when it comes to living without a home (health clubs and dry cleaning are inaccessible to me because of the MCS), so I do try to find suitable indoor housing when I can, but I also want to thank you for writing this blog/book. I have done better at the nomadic living than I expected, in part because I have access to a vibrant online community of folks with MCS who gave me lots of tips and encouragement, and I think you can do the same with this blog for an even broader group of people. So much of survival is dependent on infomation and support.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Vics said...

I am not yet homeless, but the possibility is always there as the previous comemnter states.
I've been in a position where for several months I have moved from friend to friend to friends of friends - anywhere with available couch space, until I was finally able to get a council flat (In the uk we have a 'points' system, whereby the local authority can place people in living accomodation - if they are unemployed then housing benefit will pay the rent until they get a job and can support themselves) I never wish to be in that position again as it is one of the most demoralising experiences i'd ever had - I just wish I had seen your blog back then, I think it would have helped me see my situation in a whole new light and given me the boost to see that I could do more things for myself than I thought was possible. As it is - had I been a man in the same situation, I doubt I would have been helped quite as much as I was - theres a lot to be said for having breasts!

 
At 2:32 AM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

I am not currently homeless. I was drawn to this blog because I HAVE been homeless twice in the past: once, as a teenager who was thrown out by an alcoholic dad, and another time as a wife and mother of two who lost her home to a fire. I enjoy your insights, and I think your blog has a positive impact. I plan to include it on my blog's BLOGS OF THE YEAR list, which I am working on now. It will soon be up at: www.zenpretzeltrick.blogspot.com/

In any case, I think you're doing a great job...and for what it's worth, I used to get access to computers at the local library when I was homeless.

 
At 5:58 AM, Blogger Shyam said...

I've never been homeless but I find this blog very, very interesting... it gives me an insight into what to me is an extremely alternative lifestyle, although I do understand that sometimes homelessness is not through choice but because of circumstances. I do think, however, that the sort of homeless lifestyle that's been described here can only really work in western countries... the homeless in India (where I'm from) are hardly ever even literate, never mind computer-savvy!

I've added a link to your blog on MY blog , because I want my friends to read it as well. Good work!

 
At 5:31 AM, Blogger Cyn said...

I was homeless twice. Once as a teen runaway and once later as a pregnant 21 year old. I am 37 now and have a reasonably stable homelife which includes living in my own home with my son and my significant other.

Being homeless is never far from my mind though. You never know what life will bring or if you will be able to land on your feet.

I hope more people are able to read this blog and feel compassion for those who have fallen on hard times. Too many in todays society would rather not "see" people in need. Perhaps this blog will open some eyes.

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger DISCONNECTED said...

I have been homeless, and I suppose that is the reason I wondered by here.
It was a scary ordeal for me having never even lived on my own at 22, and then being thust onto the streets pregnant, and with nowhere to go.
I had never before asked anyone for help being far too prideful to do so. That cured me of that.
Most people are only a couple of paychecks away from being homeless...which is what happened to me. I had a car accident, and was injured and couldn't work for only just a couple of weeks...it was enough to make me lose everything.
I could also connect to the internet then at a local library.
So, I'm sure other homeless people can too.

 
At 1:43 PM, Blogger Misa said...

I am not homeless now, however, I have been in the past. One of the things that I did on a regular basis was go to the library and use their computers... it made me feel more connected. At the time (this was several years ago now), blogs weren't "The Big Thing" yet... but I still read a few.

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger I hate names, they're just society's way of labell said...

I find the comments about no homeless person ever being able to read this blog to be downright silly.

Most public libraries in the US have internet access now, although they did not when I was homeless in the 1980s. Back then, the public library was the most obvious place to get out of the rain and get warm. I did not even realize, as a teen runaway, that I was also getting a far better education from the public library than I ever had from the public schools.

Over twenty years later, most people's reaction when I say that I only have an Associate of the Arts degree is laughter and comments on my talent as a comedienne.

I never get a chance to explain that the only reason I was accepted to a Community College in the first place was because I lied about being a high school graduate. I never went to high school.

I come here because I anticipate another spell of homelessness in the not too distant future because of the current political and economic situation in my country. This time I will be a parent, not a child. My health is not good.

Coming here does wonders to relieve what used to be a paralyzing fear about my ability to do it all over again and still provide my son with a decent education, a productive life, and a positive self-image that will allow him to believe that life could still turn out to be something beautiful.

Keep up the good work.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger The Lioness said...

Mike, this blog is a thing of wonder. Have I told you that? Yes I have, but I'll say it again, you are one amazing man. YO! How do you INSERT links in your comments??? I may be a bit in love now! You're my hero! As for bloglines, oy, I seem to lack the gene, can't figure my way around it.

As for No names bcs they are society's label (I'm getting it wrong, sorry, but it's the last commenter), no offense but you're dead wrong, this tickles my curdled Anthropoblood, there's a post here some day, hopefully soon. So thanks for that.

(oh, Mike, the underscore in my URL has been changed to a hyphen, so it now reads
www.lioness-pride.blogspot.com, the underscore was giving people grief.)

 
At 6:15 PM, Blogger Rose said...

I am not homeless but I know that the possibility of being homeless is not quite as far fetched as some think. I agree that your blog is wonderful and I have also added it to my rolling blog list!

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger Nights said...

I am a life long sofa surfer due to a horrible childhood and a pathetic family. I read because I never know when the sofa's will tun out... I would rather not be on the streets as I am disabled but if it happens I am damn well going to be prepared!

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Im homeless. Modern technology however has now made the internet readily available at coffee shops, libraries, some restaurants, hotels, and the big one, mobile phones. With how cheap mobile plans have become it is quite affordable and very feasible to always have the internet on hand.

 
At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this blog while looking for a truck stop where i can shower. Its still reaching people. Thank you and God bless you.

 

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