Lazy Morning: Hobo Style

Sometimes I forget to relax.

I wake up in the morning and think about what all I need to do. What food will I pack? Do I need to pack different kinds of clothing? Should I wash myself in my car, at the gym, or at the library? Will I go to the gym tonight anyway? Do I need to take my books and my laptop? Do I have any appointments? Where will I sleep tonight?

As a hobo, it is crucial to plan your day thoroughly. I start organizing my day as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. It gets me into a habit, which in essence is similar to patterns regular people in regular homes follow. When does the repairman come? Did I pay rent? When should I go grocery shopping? When was that meeting again?

As the picture below depicts, there are days even a hobo just wants to lay in bed (or wherever one sleeps). So, after waking up, I stretched, pulled my covers up a bit more, and enjoyed being warm and comfortable. I began thinking happy thoughts of nature, comfort, and freedom. I thought about how lucky I am. Lucky to be free. Lucky to be healthy. Lucky to be able to afford dedicating my current life to education without working myself to death. A few minutes of happy thinking and relaxation in the morning can work wonders. When I (finally) got up, I managed the rest of my morning with ease and stayed calm and relaxed throughout the day.

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A hobo dog?

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What is this cute guy doing in a sleeping bag? Ladies and gentlemen, this is Loki. Loki is a wolfdog lucky enough to have an owner (or brother), who shares his wild spirit. Together, they roam Colorado and Loki gets to be wild, rather than being locked up in a house or behind a fence like many, many dogs out there. Beautiful.

Check out his Instagram.

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DOJ, US Supreme Court, Not Illegal to Sleep Outside

Thank goodness.

Lantern Timeglass Journal

Posted by Jim Lantern [aka James C. Harwood], Lantern Timeglass Journal, 1:00 p.m. CT Tuesday 15 September 2015, homeless in Wichita, Kansas
http://consumerist.com/2015/08/13/justice-department-says-its-not-illegal-to-sleep-outside/

Justice Department Says It’s Not Illegal To Sleep Outside

By Chris MorranAugust 13, 2015

If I want to sleep in my backyard, no one is going to hassle me (except maybe a few birds and the odd possum), but if I want to take a nap in a public park I may be violating some city ordinance and find myself fined or arrested. But lawyers for the U.S. Dept. of Justice say that laws barring people from sleeping in public spaces are unconstitutional.

In Idaho, some homeless people are challenging a Boise city ordinance against sleeping or camping in public spaces. Last week, lawyers for the DOJ contributed a “statement of interest” [PDF] that supports their contention that, because the city lacks sufficient shelter space, these…

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Through the eyes of a ghost

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As previously mentioned, people see what they expect to see. A parking lot, whether it´d be in the mountains or the city, houses cars, not people. Being invisible like this makes for some rather fascinating observations.

Firstly, I see people follow their bodily urges as they would at home. Butts are scratched, noses are picked (sometimes very thoroughly), and wedgies are taken care of. Furthermore, some inhibition disappears when seemingly nobody is around, and thus car doors are slammed and cuss words yelled. I´ve seen a couple enjoy a sunset together, a lonely cowboy contemplate the world, a young man struggling with mental illness. Gifts, money, and drugs change owners just a few feet in front of me. Desperation, joy, anger, silliness, love; I experience all these moments with strangers, knowing that I can never reveal myself.

I must say, it is a unique experience. I don´t have much choice but to remain unseen. Not only would it put my anonymity in jeopardy if I´d just jump out of my vehicle and announce myself, but it may also cause distress in the person who thought was invisible himself.

So here I am. The invisible ghost who doesn’t judge but merely experiences the world.

6 Duh! Moments in a Hobo´s Life

No matter how well-informed one may be, some knowledge and wisdom can only be gained through experience. Here is a little list of duh! moments I´ve had while living the houseless life.

  1. Tamed nature doesn´t make for a good sleeping spot

I typically make an effort to sleep in natural areas. I enjoy waking up to the view of mountain ranges and lush nature. Unfortunately, I am not always able to sleep quite that elaborately. One night I settled for a nice spot next to a well-groomed park. About three hours after going to sleep, I was rudely awoken by what sounded like a mad animal jumping up and down on my vehicle. My heart was pounding in my chest and I grabbed my pepper spray and taser ready to fight of the monster on my vehicle. When I moved my curtains, I saw that the “monster” was nothing but the sprinkler system watering the park (and my SUV).

2. It´s not written on your forehead

Wherever people go, they see what they expect to see. At a store, they expect shoppers. At school, they expect students. In a neighborhood, they expect residents. What does this mean? It means that unless you´ve had a really rough night or don´t have the means to keep up your appearance and hygiene, most people will never guess that you are houseless. When you sit in your vehicle at a store, people don´t automatically assume that you are waiting for the right moment to sneak in the back of your car. They see a person waiting for a friend or spouse.

3. Air is more useful than you think

When it is particular cold outside, the tendency is to stay mummied up pretty much all day (and all night). A shower or spit bath is sufficient to stay clean, right? Nope. Bacteria thrive in warm stuffy conditions and thus it is necessary to let some air get to your skin. This is especially true for your feet! Now, your top priority remains staying warm, but whenever you get the chance to take off some of your clothes, and most importantly your socks, do so!

4. It gets dark at night

Although I did know I had to remain unseen for the most part, it somehow didn´t occur to me that this meant sitting in darkness when it gets dark outside. Personally, I have no issues with that whatsoever; in fact, I´ve gotten really good at identifying objects via touch!

5. Not everybody hates you

There are a lot of stereotypes out there regarding the homeless and many people have rather negative feelings towards us. While it is true that some people would like for us to be banned from the city, there are individuals out there who actually care. A cop I met a bit ago who was shushing me away in the middle of the night, was actually just concerned about the recent violent crimes in the area. Keep an open mind.

6. The unwritten rules

Signs stating “No Overnight Parking” don´t always mean just that. Also, you can still get towed at stores who allow overnight parking if you happen to be at the wrong part of the lot. The moral of the story? Scout, observe, and learn. Being a hobo means living in a niche that has no handbook to go by.

Good Morning Officer…

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Ok, it wasn´t really morning when my sleep was interrupted by the harsh sound of a flashlight against my driver window. Last night at 2:36 am, I rolled down my window and spoke to who I thought would be the first cop making my life miserable. My first thought was: “From all places, they enforce the “No overnight parking” – rule here, close to the homeless shelter?” I am not sure I can recall the exact order of our conversation, I was confused and sleepy, but it went something like this:

Officer: “Ma´am, I need to ask you to move on. It´s not safe here”.

Me: “Why?”

Officer: “There was a shooting two streets down last week and stabbing about a mile from here yesterday.”

Me: “Oh shit.”

Officer: “Yeah, the mission asked us to come by during the night and get the homeless out of the area. We hope it´ll be better in a few weeks. You know where Walmart or Hobby Lobby is? You can get some sleep there.”

Me: “Uhm…”

Officer: “Over on 8th street.”

Me: “Alright. Thank you!”

I watched him wake up one homeless individual after the other, some of which only reluctantly crawled out of their sleeping bags. It took me about 2 minutes to get ready and leave. Maybe I should´ve told him that the Walmart he is referring to doesn´t permit overnight parking or that I´ve never tried sleeping at a Hobby Lobby. Either way, I made my way to a spot by the rail roads across town and, after fighting my allergies with some pills, went back to bed.

My mind is blown. I did not get in trouble with the law and the officer actually made an effort to keep us safe. He even provided alternatives for something that, in my city, is illegal (sleeping in one´s car). While I don´t assume that this is the rule, it does shed a new light on the authorities here.

The moral of the story? Stay tuned to your local news.

Surviving the Winter

Every season offers challenges to those of us who live outside. While the summer has us fussing about the never-ending heat, the winter will ruffle our feathers a different way. This guide is intended to provide some useful insights on how to make it through the winter in temperatures below freezing.

 Clothing

Although your biggest concern are nighttime temperatures, many parts of the world have ridiculously low temperatures during the day as well. Now, some of this is common sense: Dress in layers, wear long underwear, and keep your head, hands, and feet covered. However, other important methods of staying warm are often neglected.

  • Keep your feet dry, warm, and clean at all times. This means changing your socks at least twice a day (before and after bedtime). If you tend to have sweaty feet, take an extra pair and change your socks around the middle of the day as well. Even a little bit of sweat can moist your socks and feet just enough to cool your body down considerably. Absorbent socks are helpful. Also, try to give your feet some air every day. When you live outside during the winter, your feet will most likely be covered 27/7. This is a perfect condition for bacteria to grow and blisters to form. Air, hygiene, and the use of body powder on your feet will help prevent these conditions.
  • Invest in a good pair of boots. Depending on where you live, your feet may have to deal with excessive rain, snow, and sub-zero temperatures. As previously mentioned, it is crucial to keep your feet warm and dry. A pair of waterproof and well insulated boots can make the difference between healthy feet and loosing a toe. Personally, I prefer waterproof boots from Keen. Here in Colorado we have to deal with snow and temperatures down to 10° F  ( – 12°C) in the city and much lower temperatures in the mountains (I’ve experienced temperatures of – 9° F ( – 22° C) within the city limits – be prepared for the worst). In additionit can be useful to wear gators if you have to deal with extremely wet and snowy conditions. These are strapped around the bottom of your boots and usually extend to your lower leg. Gators keep snow and water out and, depending on what size gators you have, also keep parts of your pants dry. In extreme temperatures, we hobos simply cannot afford to have wet feet, socks, or pants.

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  • It may be time to regress to onesies. While light one-piece underwear can be useful during the day, I find them most helpful during the night. Footy Pajamas and onesies cover most of your body and keep you toasty warm. Shirts and pants may move during your sleep and expose your body to the elements; onesies will stay exactly where you put them. Footed Pajamas have the advantage that they keep your feet warm as well.

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  • Your head gets cold too. But more importantly, you loose a lot of heat if you don’t cover your head. A cheap little beanie will do the trick day and night.

Sleeping in a Vehicle

If you are fortunate enough to own a vehicle, you have the advantage of wind and rain protection. In addition, you are able to store blankets, sleeping bags, and plenty of clothing needed for cold temperatures.

  • Don’t kill yourself trying to stay warm. Believe it or not, sleeping with your car running greatly increases the likelihood of you not waking up again. Personally, I reserve this option for the most desperate of situations and to this day never had to turn on my car to stay warm (knock on wood). If you absolutely have to run your heater, do so while you are awake and only for short periods of time. In addition, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow, ice, standing water, or anything else that hinders the exhaust fumes from escaping.
  • Do I really have to mention propane heaters? If you are tired of your life, go ahead and try running one inside your vehicle.
  • That one candle… may actually keep you alive! Now, I have used candles before in order to stay warm, but I’d much rather rely on layers. Don’t expect miracles; a candle will not keep you comfortably warm.
  • Being invisible can be rather difficult. Who wants to worry about the authorities when trying to stay safe and warm? Unfortunately, an increasing number of cities view homelessness as some sort of crime and make our lives more difficult than it already is. During the winter, a person inside a vehicle equals fogged up windows. It´s a dead giveaway. Thanks to the gentleman who made this Youtube video, we now know that a sock full of kitty litter takes care of the issue.Considering that he intended the video for people who experience fogged up windows after entering the vehicle (and not while sleeping in it), I increased the number of socks from one to three. So far, it works great. We´ll see how good they are this winter!  (Oh btw., don´t be an idiot, like I was, and try filling the socks in your vehicle. You will have kitty litter everywhere for the next month!) In addition, cracking a couple windows will decrease fogging as well.

Sleeping Bags

Similarly to onesies, a sleeping bag keeps you tucked in safely and ensures that your body heat can´t escape. While it makes sense to buy a sleeping bag with an extreme temperature rating, these can be very expensive. Alternatively, you can purchase a regular sleeping bag and add some extra padding on top or on the inside. I recently made a couple sleeping bag inserts that add a layer of insulation and save money by allowing me to wash the inserts instead of the actual bag. I made one out of cotton and one out of fleece.

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Another important piece of advise: Get off the ground. Try to get some padding (cardboard boxes, yoga mats, mattress, anything really) or elevate yourself (bench, vehicle, etc.). I´ve slept on the ground several times before and unless you manage to heat up the ground with your body, you´ll never get warm. In the winter, forget about it!

Too Darn Cold

Even the hardiest of us can get overwhelmed by extreme temperatures. It’s not all about the physical challenge, but persistent cold weather can wear you down emotionally as well.

  • Try adding a little wellness and relaxation to your week. For example, if you have a fitness center membership (which I strongly recommend) make use of the sauna and/or hot tub. Treat yourself. Go to the movies. Or watch a documentary in the library. Go to a concert, an opera, somewhere you can get your mind off of your worries.
  • When shit hits the fan… don’t be afraid to admit that it is too cold. Call a friend or family member, hang out inside a Walmart, 24 hour fitness center, find a homeless shelter, a church, a police station, a hospital, somewhere warm, if you can’t stay warm enough to survive. Hypothermia often goes unnoticed until it is too late. This website offers a short overview regarding this condition. Also, if you are helping someone who is about to freeze to death, make sure the person does not undress herself. The phenomenon isn’t very well understood, but some individuals on the verge of freezing will experience a sudden subjective feeling of intense heat and thus try to rid themselves of their clothes.

That´s it; I hope you will find this helpful. Do you have additional advice? Leave a comment!

Stay Warm!

The Power of Society

I can’t even begin to understand how social constructs obscure our view of the world. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that some of us want to live freely?

It is the power of the collective that makes our children believe nature is dangerous, dirty, and a place that is to be visited occasionally during the weekends. Society teaches us that somehow we need new clothes, tables and chairs, 500 TV Channels, whitening toothpaste and braces, a house, a thin body, painkillers for every ache, and much, much more.  If one doesn’t posses the right kind of objects, society makes sure to mock said human starting in Kindergarten and continuing all the way in the oh-so-sophisticated world of work.

It appears to me that we have turned our backs to our planet. We control the temperature, cushion every last inch of our homes, tune out nature with our phones, music players, and televisions, and kill plants and animals that are in our way.

I want to feel the dirt under my feet, sleep under the stars, and hear the coyotes’ music in the distance. I want to live life as a part of nature, not separate from it. How is it crazy to live where one belongs?

I finish this post with a long sigh…

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