Monday, March 19, 2012

Homeless "Again"

It can be difficult to regard one's self according to "profiles" or stereotypes. Just so, as it's turning out, I am among the "chronic homeless" apparently, although the reality - my real life experience - has all the unique, individual elements and aspects that comprise my daily experience ... yet the upshot is that I am "homeless" .... again. And that qualifies as "chronically homeless" by now. This is the fourth year since the fiasco that displaced me and drove me to the streets then.

Last year, I'd managed to rent a "cottage" (converted garage) in the backyard of a private home, largely due to finally obtaining a very modest, but reliable, income and as a result of some personal networking. Meanwhile, I finally lost half or more of my earthly possessions that I'd been keeping in a commercial storage unit for almost three years.

That, too, is a painful passage that's so common to "the homeless" that it's as painful to watch your self suffer the very same stereotypical losses and indignations, despite the custom particulars of one's own version, as it is to suffer the actual losses. One steadily becomes a "type", including the "typical" sequential demises and vagaries.

For me, this was compounded by the rawer fact that I'd gone to such real lengths, extreme efforts and true deprivations so many times, in so many ways, and for so long ... fighting to stave off that loss. Only to then fail after having done so - as happens to so many others.

I didn't fail completely, nor as badly as many others have, in that I was able to salvage and keep my most precious and valuable of belongings, plus some. Again, perhaps a little less than half of all that remained (after having progressively sold off quite a lot of the more expensive and luxurious stuff through those same years). But it was a major relief to finally get my treasured and most basic of usefully valuable things out of the clutches of those predatorial storage vultures' grip, at long last.

And then I lost the little RV van that had become my "lifeboat" while still "out there". It had gotten me, literally, "off the streets" and was an invaluable refuge from the worst of all that. Then, gone. It's hard to describe the sensation, after having so intimately relied upon that resource. In the circumstances, it's far more than just a "resource" -- it's a much more personal, significant thing. It's more a "lifestyle" or something. A sanctuary. Retreat. Bastion. Precious.

I felt rather naked and vulnerable without it, despite having a key and rights of entry/occupancy to a little building in which I could yet more "comfortably" live. And, as it eventually turned out, that somewhat insecure sense of risk proved to herald the underlying truth it foresaw .... when things increasingly "didn't work out" with The Landlord (over-emphasize LORD, actually) and I, again, made fairly hasty departure into the netherworld of The Displaced.

BUT (and, yes, it's a major but), this time I'm truly far better prepared, equipped and enabled to do so in a much different manner. To whit - I now have another RV. A somewhat larger one, and with more "systems" of functionality and relative "luxury" -- within the context and scale of living inside a vehicle, that is. AND, rather than get my stuff back into one of those storage dens of usurious thievery, I've taken a different, and so far much better, tack on this.

I used to feel so frustrated having to regularly empty my pockets of virtually all of my hard-won cash and sleep on sidewalks in storms, in order to fork everything over to pay to have all I owned safely indoors within a heated  unit ... and mostly inaccessible to me. Many a time I fantasized being able to somehow sneak in there and just nest inside to enjoy the same comforts and benefits I paid for my inanimate objects. But it wasn't allowed.

THIS time, I can. Because instead of renting a "storage unit", I've rented an "office" -- one which I also am purchasing "24 hour access" rights/privileges. MUCH better. AND I've arranged to be able to park my RV in an almost adjacent lot, escaping all the vagaries and risks of having to play the parking/meter/ticketing game, etc. and/or "residing" in noisy, bothersome places with only public places to spend the rest of my time.

What's more, I've got free heat and electricity here. AND nice, clean bathrooms. AND use of a "kitchenette" down the hall, with refrigeration and microwaves, etc. AND I pick up a free, 'round the clock wifi signal. AND I have a stunning view!

Yes, it costs more than twice what I was paying for only storage, and all told (I also had to obtain a commercial insurance policy in order to rent), it's monthly rivaling what that cottage deal was costing me.  But at the cottage, I had to "share" the bathroom and kitchen with the landlord, in the house. In HER house (it became clearer just how much it was NOT at all to be my "home" in any way, shape or form). And that's exactly what went haywire, as she got more and more haywire, and in more and more ways, too.

Thus far, this is much, much better. While it's seriously short of "being at home" to be sleeping on a camping mat surrounded by a stacked jumble of all my remaining possessions in just one modest room (organizing furniture, like even just reasonable shelving, was lost), and having to maintain appearances once I step out into the hallways and other common areas of this office building, I'm finding it refreshingly better than having to do similarly walking into someone else's home and, indeed, being perched within their backyard and constantly surrounded by them, their animals and all their activities. Here, I'm on somewhat egalitarian and far less interpersonal basis with others. And that makes an important difference. Plus, a maintenance crew well cleans the halls, bathrooms, and kitchenette, five days a week.

[to be continued...]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Homeless No More (for now)

After more than three years, I'm now not "homeless". I'm renting a right nice little place located well in a good area, conveniently handy to many businesses/services of value. And I have a good vehicle. And, as of just the other day, as fine a laptop and camera (or better, really) than I did when the whole jam started.

Whew! Imagine my relief!

As is so often the case, this was a direct result of some very few personal friends manifestly helping me, both with stunning generosities and caring assistance and to enable me to do further on my own to make real progress. Even remarkably and extensively so. My major benefactors have been persons that became friends with me while I was homeless, too. That seriously surprised me. In a very real and practical way, they "saved my life" in real measure... the life as I'd previously had it going on, including roughly half of all my former belongings. The crucial half.

Just earlier today, I acquired a very good futon mattress. It was out at a curb in the neighborhood, wrapped in its original plastic bag and looks just like "new." It happens to be the exact right size to fit the great, imported hardwood futon frame (convertible to a couch) that I found at a different curb location in the 'hood a few weeks ago. Many other such "household" items, wardrobe, etc. have similarly been acquired through foraging, scavangeering, and "creative" means.


Now I ponder and contend with "after effects" of those hard, precarious, homeless years. It's not insignificant, nor always easy, as it turns out. I may be writing/reporting about this more, although I've become pretty sure my "readership" is tiny. Perhaps "posterity" can somehow benefit from such a tale, among them all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reflections

Last night, I caught a news show feature about a fairly sizable group of people working to house homeless folks. I especially appreciate people who take direct action like that, outside of "the system" supposedly for the same purpose but comparatively dismal at doing so.

Just over three years ago, I became homeless. At the time of my "anniversary" date I was considering a posting here to mark that. Instead, I've let this blog idle out again. The reasons are distinct.

First and foremost, through that time I've realized how few people actually even want to read about this stuff, much less continue to on an ongoing basis. Heck, even good, caring friends tire of hearing about the vagaries, hardships and mind-numbing, dragged out saga. So I had to rethink my own purposes in keeping the blog going.

Secondly, I'm not "as homeless" as I was. I've managed to secure a rather modest, reliable income which immediately meant important improvements in my predicament, of course. Although I finally lost the RV I'd been relying on for over a year and a half to stay off the streets, I've also "been indoors" a lot this year. I haven't yet managed to arrange for a more full, real residence yet, but continue to try toward that. So it's back to the bicycle, public transport, etc. to get around in the meantime, too.

The streets and places I most relied upon while so totally "out there" have steadily become far less accomodating. In a rather ironic sense, I realize how relatively "fortunate" I was to have to go homeless at the time I did. There was quite a lot more resources, community and other "support" aspects available then, than there is now. It all would've been seriously harder to have to go through that now, especially that initial, disorienting and difficult time and process while still new to the predicament.

While I've been pleased to see that some of my efforts devoted to this topic, and particular local activist involvements I've pursued, have actually produced some manifest results of true benefit to some people, I also have had to reckon with some deep disappointment and discouragement about the overall, larger situation and how formidably the basic adverse conditions perpetuate. And even worsen.

So I seem to be perched on a possible or probable "escape" from those years of very precarious homeless plight. Yet, my life as I knew and had it going for so long, has apparently been fundamentally changed. I've lost so very much that took me years and years of earnest efforts to acquire and build. It's likely that I'll not be able to much restore myself to a lot of that again, too.

And the experience of having had that all happen, to find one's self "out there" on the streets with nothing and then be considered and treated so differently due to that, is something that also kind of changes one, in a pretty basic way. I'm now suspecting that some of the effects don't go away, especially when this happens later in life.

I continue to reflect on all these angles, even as I continue to ponder my way ahead. And just what I ought to continue to keep going, or not.


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Saga Continues

Recently, there have been demonstrations against local biz group efforts toward a "Sit/Lie" law in Berkeley, as has been accomplished in SF. Further efforts to "enforce" against homeless (and other "undesirable" people) in certain areas have been mounted and continue, such as foot patrols by police and "selective enforcements" of various existing code.

During my time in the area, I've noted that a number of the "regular" homeless folks have come and gone... with quite a few "gone" now. This has resulted in a larger population of the younger folks and "street kids" and "travellers". And these are among those targetted for official riddances.

The "issues" can get difficult, as I've discussed with some local officials and business owners/operators. But there they are.

Likewise, apparently People's Park is under similar scrutiny and attentions, with some influential persons now advocating that the Food Not Bombs meals no longer be allowed there. My own personal guess is that as the new U.C. student housing building construction across the street proceeds, we have a manifest gauge for a timeline for concerted programs to "clean up" that park. As the project nears a point of completion enough to go into marketing mode to sell parents/students on occupancy, chances are that's roughly the time that the Powers That Be would like to have effected their intended changes in the area and, especially, right across the street.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Change.org "End Homelessness" Solution!

UPDATE:
Well, Change.org apparently has ended ALL the various "blogs" now, ONLY offering online "petitions". Just so, ALL of my previous postings no longer show on that site. Awhile back, they emailed blog authors advising that a new contract was being emailed out, to supercede and replace all the existing ones.

I never received one of the new ones, and so was removed from their authors/bloggers list. Wonder why? '-)

About a year ago, there was an interesting "story" that developed involved Change.org and a homeless author. Perhaps it's time to take a closer look, now that it's played out even more. Where will it be published and available? Stay tuned....

[Original Entry here:]

End the "End Homelessness" blog! Voila!

That's just what they did, apparently, and folded all the "homeless" categorized items under the umbrella Issue: "Poverty in America". Hmmm ... why just "America"? While at it, that could all get collapsed under an "Economic Justice" category, - globally, eh?

As usual, these kinds of matters basically come down to various priorities and practicalities. Things like "positioning", "demographics" and the like. And now that the site/venture has honed its cachet to be "action" specific (i.e. mainly linked, online things to simply click a mouse-button, rather than more real world involvement like show-up-somewhere or go-do-something-directly-in-person) the slant compels, and filters, "blog" entry picks on a basis that there be a reasonably relevant such "action" available, to merit inclusion and publishing. Many significant, even important, truer blog entries aren't that, of course. Oh, well...

It was actually some time after I'd "joined" there and had even begun to have material published that I discovered that Change.org isn't even a nonprofit venture. Understandably, it was the ".org" in the name and URL that fooled ... uh, that is, threw me, of course. For a long time the internet custom and etiquette was to reserve/use "org" for nonprofits. For-profit businesses typically use the familiar "dot com" [.com].

As it turns out, there is no actual rule or law or anything that outright prevents for-profit businesses from using "org" ... so maybe this is news to you. Sure was to me, and I've been very involved online for literally decades. Well, more accurately, I realized that there was no real "authority" that can or was checking on that kind of thing and "enforcing" - rather, there's been a voluntary ethic about such usage. For a business to deliberately breach such a longstanding practice could even seem ... what ... even a bit knowingly deceptive?

But such might be some of the emerging vagaries of the newer type of business that Change.org is, known as "socialpreneuring" ... meant to appeal to people's responses to various "social media" while harnessing various, say, "assets" of their personal activity, efforts and certainly their personal contacts and family/friends. Possibly meant to "do good" as well. And to mine and purpose these for business and, naturally, profits - if not a nonprofit org ... er, outfit. Whatever.

Perhaps the Change.org business came to find that Ending Homelessness wasn't turning out to be a profitable thing? After all, how could it be? That's probably an examination best left for another time, and possibly another place.

Still, is actually Ending Homelessness even a realistic mission? Or is demoting, de-emphasizing, subordinating and/or dropping any such campaign while manifestly cutting way back on resources, people, efforts so deployed more the order of the day? After all, just take a look around. The latter appears to be something of a trend, most places. Business ... as usual?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting over ANOTHER bout of "flu"...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All The News That's Fit To.... ?

When I think I think of "Blogs" I think of the original term: "weblogs". Logs, as in a personal logging of one's own experience. Anymore, this has come to mean just short postings, often topical and with a sprinkling or slant of "comentary". And less and less "personal" in a bona fide experiential way, but more a contrived "style" of writing.

Just so, I found Change.org to be far more of a commercialized blog "venture" than anything else. And now, more so. The "editorial mission" is to position online as the website that devotes its "blogs" to linked "actions" only (automated petitions, email campaigns, etc.). But what with professionalized writers groomed for this purpose, it continues to lose "voice" as a real blog, in terms of being a venue of relevent, ongoing personal experience, in my opinion.

This is why those of us yet willing to do so must find ways to keep chronicling the realities. I see some of the more successful at garnering online and other attentions tending to "professionalize" their status in various ways, to their own personal benefit if not anyone else's (although some vehemently argue that it's ALL to do "other" good, really). I don't know, but think it merits some real examination.

Maybe it's time to get this blog going better, and with wider exposure, too?