I have been drawn to the plight of those who live on the streets – who have lost their jobs and homes, who are trying to survive. I recently watched several Youtube videos about folks who live in their cars. And then I gravitated to videos where the narrator lives in an RV of sorts, often a van, converted into a living quarters.
Living in cars is an unimaginable situation. One video shows a young mother making the bed in the car for her 6-year-old son. She sleeps behind the steering wheel with the seat leaned back. She relates that she likes a “neat” car, and that when she drops her son off at school, and goes to work herself, that she feels that the car is now a car. Then at the end of the day, that same vehicle becomes their home.
You see, not all of the street people are vagrants or addicts; however, many need mental health counseling and they are getting little to none. However, there are many who can no longer afford the escalating rent costs and/or are unable to make their monthly loan payments when presented with these dire decisions.
One man, age 55, who lived in an apartment and has a decent job, was evicted when the owner raised his rent and he could not pay it. After his moving out, the monthy rent of $2,000 was raised to $4,000 because the landlord could now get it. There are laws protecting the rights of the renter and keeping the owner from raising the rent unreasonably but in this case the incremental rent increase could not be paid and the owner was evicted.
But here’s my point. Several who now live in converted vans spoke of how happy they are now. They do not define themselves as homeless. They recognize that they have a home, it’s just not a wooden structure. They can live off of their Social Security and do not have the many bills of those of us who live in houses. One van-dweller who lost everything defined “homelessness” as one who lives in a tent, or in a car, etc. but wants to live in a normal house. That’s homelessness. He said, “I am not that. I love this freedom.” He then added, “It’s a trade-off. The more possessions, house, furniture, cars, etc. that a person owns, the less freedom he/she has. The less possessions and items to care for, the more freedom one has.”
I decided to test my very structured, very home-oriented husband. “What would you think if we sold our house and property, bought a small RV and just traveled from place to place?” (I realize this is living in a different fashion than those I just described.)
His look. Hard to describe! ... like a raccoon caught in the headlights as a car was speeding toward him. Maybe a squirrel, or a deer.
His entire life was flashing before him. His truck, his place at the dinner table, his bed, his sports on television.
“I can think of nothing even remotely worse than parking our vehicle in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and having to make small talk with the guy in the next RV. And not having anything to look forward to other than heading down the road the next day.”
Yup. That’s exactly what I expected. I assured him I agreed. However, a part of me would actually like to have the chance to drive down the road, not knowing where we were going, but just going ... making no plans, and having no notion where we would park the next night. However, I agreed, it would be pretty meaningless and boring after a while.
I want to add, I hope for all of us that we are not faced with that decision, ever.
What about you? Anyone reading this relate to any of this? In the meantime, my heart goes out to the people who have to live with no shelter over their heads. That is a different story.
Judi Tabler lives in Pawnee County and is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.