Working While Homeless

Money is an obvious thing. We all need it. You can overlook the effects of a warm meal on your state of mind when they’re just the norm, but money is hard to forget. On that note, I do hope to be able to monetize this blog soon. After all, the more money I can make, the faster I can get into a home.

But I’m not relying on the blog, of course. I have a job. Specifically, I’m a transcription editor. I compete for jobs with other self-employed editors. On a really good day, I can make about $50. You may notice that’s $6.25 an hour, which sounds pretty good, right? But first, remember that’s a good day. That’s a day where the market is flush with work, and I’ve worked my ass off to get it and get it done fast.

And second, my days are not eight hours and then go home for the evening. My work day starts when I get up, and it ends when I go to bed.

Now, you may think, “But Car Dweller! How do you find time to blog?”

Answer: by slacking off. The human brain is not capable of focusing on nothing but work for days on end. People who work more than a single job are frequently killing themselves to do it. And then they get called lazy because they’re barely making ends meet.

Well, that’s a tangent I don’t feel like going on right now. I started this post to talk about the important of having a job. You know, for your sanity. Even beyond the need for money, having a job gives you something to structure your life around. It gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and a reason not to drink yourself to sleep every night.

The reason I keep such grueling hours, and the reason why I have to be careful to keep them from actually being grueling, is because this job helps me to overcome the depression that lurks in the back of my mind. I have a job. I have a reason to keep going on. As long as I have this job, I don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed by the fear and anxiety of not being able to eat or afford gas. As long as I can keep making that much, I can keep hoping that I’ll get out of this situation.


A Warm Meal

Well, we made it through the night. And you know what? It wasn’t too bad. It got down to about 17 this morning, and that was the only time I had to wake up and run the car heater. I managed to sleep in my coat and gloves, which was my biggest worry. And we both stayed pretty warm for most of the night.

So since sleep went well, here’s something else I was thinking of today. I’ve mentioned before that depression is a huge problem when you’re homeless. Well, eating cold food all the time can contribute to that. Especially if it’s food that’s not supposed to be cold.

Does that seem weird? You might think having food at all is enough, and in some ways, it is. We’re not starving, and lack of gratitude for what I have isn’t the problem here. The problem is humans need comfort as well. When your basic physical needs are cared for, you step up to the next level on Maslow’s pyramid. Kate and I have food and shelter, so we move up to safety. We also have safety, so we move up to love and belonging, and here is where we struggle.

See, we have each other, so we definitely have love. But we don’t have anywhere to belong. There’s no warm bed to snuggle into. No kitchen to cook a hot meal. No couch to cuddle up and watch Netflix. And that’s what this post is about. A hot meal (that isn’t junk food; McDonald’s doesn’t really count) would go a very long way right now.

More on Sleeping in a Car

Well, we’ve found a better place to sleep, finally. It’s a church parking lot. It’s a little more exposed than I would like, but we don’t have people banging car doors and yelling at all hours around us, and no one stared into the car while we sleep. And Kate finds the exposure more relaxing because she doesn’t have to worry about where a sound is coming from. I guess I can see that. We’re probably a lot safer when we have a nearby busy road to deter would-be thieves.

I’ve touched on it before, but sleep is a lot more complicated than I would have thought when I was living in a house. You can’t really just park wherever. Cops will hassle you. People will stare into the car. Sometimes, they’ll call the cops to come hassle you. There’s banging. There’s cars going by. There’s street lights shining in your face.

Then there’s the comfort issues. Kate is like some kind of monkey. Give her a couple pillows and a blanket, and she’ll find a way to curl up comfortably in her seat. But I’m overweight and stuck underneath the steering wheel. And on top of that, I’m claustrophobic. I can barely stand having a sweatshirt on under my blanket. I could not handle adding a pillow to the mix. So shortly after we moved into the car, Kate got me a travel pillow. A bit like the ones in the featured image up there. That thing has been a fucking lifesaver for me.

I can move it around to support my head where I need it. I can put it right up under my chin to stop my mouth from hanging open, which helps us both with my snoring. And I sleep so much better with my head supported by something other than my shoulder. Not to mention how it protects me from the cold during this winter. I’m a little worried about if we’re still out here when summer comes, though.

Weekends Suck Now

This post is a bit late. I spent all day thinking about it, but the one chance I had to post, I forgot. I’m kind of sick the past couple days. But then as I resigned myself to leaving it until tomorrow, a friend asked us to spend New Years with him. So it’s not quite as sucky as it was.

Weekends are bad because nothing happens on the weekends. Our schedule is library as soon as it opens, lunch in the library parking lot, then hit the gym around four or five and spend the rest of the day there. But weekends throw a monkey wrench in everything.

First the library doesn’t open until noon, so we have to find some other means of keeping busy. Mostly, we spend the morning at the gym and try to cook some food, maybe do some laundry. McDonald’s doesn’t allow us to use the internet for more than 30 minutes, so we can’t work there. Panera Bread lets us stay as long as we need, but their internet isn’t fast enough to run the transcription software. Plus, it starts getting busy before we even get there for the day, so it’s frequently too loud and unpleasant.

Sundays are even worse. We don’t have the gym at all, so we mostly end up driving around aimlessly or sitting somewhere and watching Netflix and YouTube on my tiny iPhone screen.

When homeless, boredom is the mind killer. Don’t have a job? Panhandle or dig through the trash for bottles and cans. You’ll soon have enough to at least buy a breakfast burrito or a candy bar. But then what? You’re sitting around staring into outer space, trying desperately to entertain yourself. Before long, you’re drinking and doing drugs just to pass the time.

If you’re thinking/worried of becoming homeless, this should definitely be something you think about. Not just what are you going to do with yourself, but what will you do on the weekend.

Sleeping in a Car

This is probably the worst part of car dwelling for me. We have relatively safe parking, but that doesn’t make it judgment free. No less than ten people walked by our car this morning. Five of them stared in at us. And that was just the ones who passed by while I was awake.

There’s no privacy in a car. Anyone walking by can look in and see you. And they will because humans are curious creatures who want to see what that is. And when they see that it’s two people sleeping in the front seat of a car, the assumptions start.

I’ve mentioned getting hassled by the cops before. This is why. We’d try parking in residential areas. The owner would look out and see two people sleeping in a car and call the cops to “perform a wellfair check.” (Lol, pretending cops are here to help.)

We never slept in the same place twice, but it just started happening every day anyway, every time we dared venture out of the gym parking lot. One time, we hadn’t even slept there. We’d been sitting there for an hour while we waited for the library to open.

We, as a society, like to pretend there’s no homeless problem. We especially don’t like to think about what we might have done to contribute to it. So when folk see the two of us sleeping outside, they react with alarm and disgust. We have to be lazy or evil, we have to be getting what we deserve, because otherwise, we live in a society where even a polite young white couple can’t get help.

But at the same time, we also have to be victims. We’re not allowed to be OK sleeping in a parking lot. We’re homeless! We have to be beaten down by life and probably broke and on drugs! Because that makes sense, right? People with no money buying drugs?

Fun fact: it’s actually possible to make a pretty good living while homeless, and I’m not talking about begging. Kate and I are freelance transcription editors. As long as the library is open, we can make between $500 and $1500 a month. And without rent eating into that amount, we’ll be able to put most of it away into savings for an RV, or maybe even a real home.

The point is, homed folks, next time you wake up to see some people sleeping in front of your house, just leave them alone. They’ll be gone in another hour or so anyway. If you really care about helping and not just getting rid of them, leave some breakfast on the hood of their or slip some money under windshield wiper. Calling the cops just makes their day worse.

But You Can’t Live in a Car!

Kate and I hear this all the time. Over half a million people live on the streets, some of them for almost their whole lives. Most of them don’t have cars. They’re lucky if they have tents. But for some reason, we can’t live inside a portable heat source?

OK, so here’s my belief. It’s all down to privilege. See, just a few short weeks ago, I didn’t think I could live in a car either. I expected we’d spend part of a night, get cold, and then go crawling back to our abusers. But we didn’t. Aside from my lower legs being swollen from the car seat, we were fine. The hardest problem we’ve had to solve is where and how to cook for ourselves. (Most places don’t look too kindly on someone plugging in a hotplate, and it’s been too cold to feasibly break out the grill.)

Most of the time, when people look at us, they see a couple of kids running away from home. And even when they support us in that decision, they seem to think they need to take on the responsibility of saving us from our choices. I recently lost a good friend because, instead of listening to us and trusting us, he spent all day trying to find homeless resources for us, retreading ground we’d already considered and discarded, just to avoid facing the fact that there was nothing he could do. His pestering got so stressful that I finally asked him to stop. He blocked me on Facebook and hasn’t spoken to me since.

The fact of the matter is, you can live in a car. It’s hard. It’s often unfun. But you can do it as long as you can find a safe place to sleep and make sure to keep warm during the winter. Make sure you have a place to shower. And if your local supermarket has one of those free membership card things that gets you deals and coupons, sign up for that shit. Our place is having a sale on 10 for $10 maltomeal. And these aren’t little bags. These are average size for a box of cereal bags. I’ve gotten five meals out of a single bag so far, and that’s with snacking mindlessly. If I wanted to ration myself, I could probably get even more.

Also, when taking advantage of these deals, try to remember that the store words things to separate you from your money. 10 for $10 really just means $1 each. You very, very seldom have to buy the suggested amount, so if you only have $8, just get eight bags. (Or six or seven if you’re in a state where sales tax on food is a thing.)

The important thing is don’t go off all half cocked. Plan in advance. Do research into homeless shelters and see if they might be more appropriate to your needs. Do research into being homeless to get some useful advice on making money and finding safe sleeping locations. And try to travel light.

Car Dwelling and the Gym

One thing I have learned over the past month is that it is vitally important to shower every day. I know that’s just basic good hygiene, but when you’re living in a car, you’re not getting ventilation to parts of your body that really need it. Like your groin area or, for women, under your breasts. Or if you’re fat like me, the backs of your knees and between stomach rolls. Or even just that spot where the waistband of your pants sits against your skin.

TL;DR – I’m currently fighting some sort of bacterial or possibly fungal infection because I figured if I’m not getting out of the car, then it’s not that big a deal if I smell.

No, the smell is the least of your problems, and that’s why it’s very important to have a place you can shower. Depending on where you live, you might be able to use truck stops or rest areas. I dunno. I live in a series of small towns that are so dense and close together that I honestly thought it was one big city for about a year.

Gym memberships are your best friend. Especially if you can find a 24-hour place. My gym isn’t, but Kate is so popular and awesome that our coach lets me piggyback on her membership and gave us permission to stay overnight on the couches there. We don’t, mostly because of the aforementioned seizure problems. Sound is a big trigger for her, and for some reason, the ambient noise of the gym sounds like people talking all night long. So we live in the parking lot where cops won’t bother us.

Probably too much to hope for some place like that, but you should definitely have a place to shower. And working out helps with those little kinks and aches that form when you sit in one position too long. Plus, it releases endorphins, which’ll help battle the depression you almost certainly have or are acquiring from boredom.