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Where do the homeless live?  If you’ve been following our story you know we spent our first two months in tents, camping out at local State parks with the odd weekend in a motel when the parks were full.  Camping fees were $35 a night so it’s just not an option for many homeless and motels are even more expensive. 

There’s a homeless hierarchy of a sort and I’d say we are pretty much at the top of it now.   I don’t actually consider us homeless- preferring ‘alternatively housed’;  but I know a lot of people would say we are homeless as we don’t have a conventional residence- a house or apartment.  Hey, I just subscribed to Trailer Life magazine, so I know we aren’t the only family living in a trailer!  And we live in a RV Park- with utility hook ups, internet, laundry and shower rooms.  We can stay for 6-months (been here 4 so far) before we have to move out, so it gives us a semblance of permanence.

But back to the question- where do the homeless live ?  Some homeless people, generally long-term homeless, live in conditions we can’t even imagine ourselves in- under bridges, in abandoned subway or train tunnels, or abandoned buildings. Some homeless people find a free campground and may even stay there long-term.  Some hit the shelters- and while the  restrictions of shelters can be inhibiting and the conditions less than pleasant and not always safe, at least it’s a warm and dry place to spend the night.  Don’t expect to call it home though.  Come morning you are back on the streets.  Interestingly in an online quiz about what people would do if they unexpectedly became homeless, many people said they would go to homeless shelters and stay there, get a job and save enough money to move to an apartment.  Like it’s that easy-  our two local homeless shelters require everyone have a clear TB test before they are even  allowed entrance.  One is only for single men and the women’s shelter will only allow boys up to 10 years of age.  Explain to me where a single mom’s 11 year old son is supposed to sleep when she and the other kids are in the shelter?  And no, you can’t stay there for months while looking for that elusive job.  It’s first come, first served- a place to shower and sleep and a hot meal if you are lucky.  One night at a time.

Our homeless friends, Benjamin and Tricia have been living in a tent next to an agricultural field for 5 years!  I couldn’t believe that when Tricia told me.  What’s worse is she has a son nearby who won’t help- too ashamed that his mom is homeless!  Now that Tricia is finally receiving disability checks we are hoping they can move into an apartment. Hard to find something that meets her income level and allows pets (they have an older golden retriever) though.

The newly homeless – those with some resources- may stay in cheap motels or camp as we did.  When their resources run out they might sleep in their vehicles- parked by the side of the road or in a different parking lot each night.  Regardless, there’s a lot of moving around which makes it difficult to ‘settle in’ or establish a routine of any sort.  That’s one thing for a single male, another for a family with kids who should be in school.  I’ve been noticing a lot of class C (the sort you can drive- think Winnebago) RVs parked in public lots around here for a night or two.  Some are fairly distinctive and I see them in different areas around town over weeks.

We are so lucky to have a relatively stable space to call home. It’s too small- nothing like a vacation off school to point that out- but it’s ours and it’s safe and secure.  When I say it’s time to go home, the kids know where we are headed.


Merry Christmas and many thanks to all who have helped to make our holiday a merry one!  We feel very cared for this holiday season with lots of nice gifts for the children, boxes of canned food and gift cards for mom.  And a very generous donation from an anonymous santa that allowed me to replace my dead laptop.  We are grateful, and a little overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness.  I am taking a mental break from the stress of job hunting and worries about our future and just enjoying the time with the kids and the fun they are having!

When clouds veil sun
And disaster comes
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
When waters rise
And hope takes flight
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

(You Never Let Go, David Crowder Band)

There was a story in the New York Times recently, recounting the results of a poll documenting the trauma of joblessness in the U.S. They report a “pervasive sense from the poll that the American dream had been upended for many” and roughly half of the respondents described the recession as a hardship that had caused fundamental changes in their lives. Depression and anxiety abound, family conflicts and arguments increase, and self-esteem plummets. The story didn’t have any panaceas to offer.   It ended saying “Unemployed Americans are divided over what the future holds for the job market: 39 percent anticipate improvement, 36 percent expect it will stay the same, and 22 percent say it will get worse.”

We appear, I’m told, to have adapted well to our circumstances.  I’m lauded for my ability to make lemonade out of lemons.  Superficially all appears to be fine.  The children are fed, dressed and attend school regularly. The older two are even excelling at their schoolwork. They participate in drama, choir and sports.  And I get up every day and walk the dogs, feed the children and take them to their various destinations.  Why not? I have ample time to play chauffeur these days. 

People offer prayers, and help.  We’ve been ‘adopted’ for the holidays, insuring the kids receive presents to make their Christmas a merry one.  And I’m grateful, in a sort of removed, distanced way.  Thank you for the food and gifts.  I wish I felt it more deeply but I find I don’t care with intensity anymore. 

The stress of uncertainty seeps inside like acid rain, eating away at my body and corroding my soul. I am plagued by pain, headaches, toothache, nagging stiff neck and radiating pain in my shoulder.  I don’t sleep well.  I grow heavy and sluggish and irritable. New lines appear on my face and my graying hair betrays my age. I am losing essential parts of myself.  Ambition, intellect, patience, dreams. Hope.

I’m like a piece of metal, pitted and pockmarked on the surface, shedding flakes of rust.  And inside corroded and weakened. What keeps me going on?  It’s not faith- that went by the wayside back around Easter.  It’s not hope. I don’t have any.  I think it’s just motherhood. That sinewy tenacity that makes women do what they have to do for their children. Would I get out of bed if I didn’t have them?

Where do we go from here? The future, while always impenetrable, seems ineffably bleak.  What can I aspire to?  Or plan for? Our way is shrouded in a deep fog, allowing no more than the next step to be seen.  So we inch our way forward not knowing whether the path leads to a destination or merely onward.

Sorry folks. My computer crashed during the Thanksgiving holidays and I am only now back online.

Box Car Kids

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John on Moving?