Spot 4: Compromised

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This does not happen very often at all. And by not often, I mean never. I have lost spots due to criminal activity, increased police presence, or construction. Not once, however, did I have to abandon a spot because of a suspicious neighbor. Not once!

Spot 4 has only been used 3 times before being compromised. It never was one of my top favorites, but was good enough to provide an occasional parking space. It was located at the edge of a residential area. Close enough to the neighborhood to look like I belong, yet far enough away to have some privacy. Just a bare field without sidewalk to my right, and a road to my left. Not bad.

A couple weeks ago, I pulled into my spot and began packing my bag next to me. Even before I had a chance to unhook my safety net behind me, a woman with her two dogs passed me on the other side of the street. Usually, that is nothing to be alarmed about. People typically don´t even notice me and if they do, I am just like everyone else who is about to head to their house.

This encounter was different. Very different. She didn´t just notice me, she stared at me. It was a stare as if I was dancing on top of my car, naked, while burning the American flag. She reminded me of a deer, as she managed to locate, bag, and discard her dog´s poop all without once taking her eyes off of me. It was making me downright uncomfortable and I had to resist the urge to roll down my window and yell “Stop staring for fucks sake!”. I tried to ignore her as best as I could by faking a phone call, inspecting my purse, and checking my finger nails. Eventually, she replaced her continuous stare, with an awkward let-me-turn-around-every-two-steps-stare. I knew I had to leave and could not come back.

I have not the slightest idea what made her so rudely suspicious. On one hand, maybe she went through some sort of neighborhood watch training and learned “awkwardly staring” as a defense skill. On the other hand, she´d totally get shot for that in some other parts of the country. Just saying.

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The intersection that I call home

“The intersection I call home” is an amazing post about making a home when living outside. Enjoy!

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Note: this post began as a commissioned 600-word essay for the September issue of the United Church Observer magazine and is immeasurably better for the edits by both managing editor Jocelyn Bell and editorial intern Elena Gritzan; I thank them—for the opportunity to reach a larger audience, as well as their editorial judgement; flaws will indicate where I have ignored them. I would also like to thank Trinity United’s Doug Jameson, who was probably right when he suggested that I needed an attitude adjustment regarding everything north and east of the Fairview neighbourhood.

* * *

As a long-term homeless person, I now have a much greater understanding and appreciation of home than I ever did when I had a ceiling over my head and four rooms to myself. This is less ironic than it sounds. Before, I simply had no good reason to think critically about what “home” meant.

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Brand Spanking New Tiny Mobile Home

After the very painful process of purchasing a vehicle from a dealership, the fun began! For years I´ve been wanting to design and custom built my own tiny mobile home and the time had finally come. Although I really wanted the interior of a Sprinter van, I needed the exterior of an SUV in order to stay low-key and navigate through the city. This led me to pick the Ford Transit Connect as my future house.

Step 1: Taking out the seats

Despite the fact that the seats fold down perfectly flat, I wanted them gone in order to fit a custom bed inside. I did gain a few inches height wise and I have enough space to mount one seat back in if need be.

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Step 2: Evening out the floor

Since I bought the Wagon instead of the Van, I had to deal with air ducts behind the front seats. The ducts are made of thin plastic and would me smushed the instant I stepped on one. A large piece of plywood with little legs screwed onto it took care of the issue.

Step 3: Building a bed

I´d be lying if I said I could have built this without my uncle´s expertise as a handyman. We bought some plywood (top of the bed) and a few framing studs (legs and support underneath), applied nails, used saws, hammers, and various other tools, and ended up with a pretty neat bed.

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Afterwards, I spent hours sanding, treating, and painting the wood. It was at this point that my best friend began making fun of my “goth car”. I could do nothing but assure him that color was going to be added soon.

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We strapped the bed down in multiple locations and added rubber insulation to the sides in order to keep the car from getting beaten up.

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Step 4: Adding storage

My aunt was getting rid of a couple old shoe shelves and before she could say another word, I was nailing them together to create one large unit. After a little sanding and throwing around some paint, I attached them to the bed. Believe it or not, they hold all of my clothes.

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I bought some fabric to hang in front of the shelf via sewn-in magnets, which makes for a cleaner look and keeps my clothes from sliding out. I also bought some fabric storage boxes that fit perfectly underneath the bed.

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Step 5: Sewing a mattress

Finding a mattress that´ll fit my oddly sized bed is pretty much impossible and thus I had to be pretty darn creative. My uncle had an old mattress he unsuccessfully had been trying to sell, and decided to donate it to the cause. I took the cover off the little foam pad, threw the pad in the bath tub, and about washed the stuffing out of it (it still smells like pine three months later). I then cut the foam to the right size and pretty much sewed a giant pillow case for it out of an old sheet. Voila!

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The mattress is strapped to the bed with two cargo ropes. Otherwise, I´d find myself on the floor by midnight. Now that I am using a sleeping bag, I´ve strapped that to the bed as well. It actually makes for a cozy feeling to be strapped in so securely. And let me tell you, cozy feelings are hard to come by out there.

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Step 6: Sewing curtains

Let´s just say the curtains were and still are a little bit of a nightmare for me. I bought two different kinds of fabric: black cotton that hangs towards the window and pretty cotton to hang towards the inside of the car. First of all, don´t ever use cotton for curtains. Imagine trying to cover your windows with wrinkly newspaper, except that it won´t ever flatten. EVER! Also, the curtains ended up way too short for the purpose of completely covering every last crack. But they are pretty; I guess that´s a plus.

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Step 7: Adding a safety net

The purpose of the safety net is to a) keep me from getting killed by flying household items in case of a serious accident (Today’s News: Hobo killed by can of tomato soup!), b) provide a professional looking barrier between the front and the back and c) serve as a professional looking attachment area for my screen I put up at night. It holds 350lb and can be detached on one side so I can get to my bed room at night without leaving the vehicle. It wasn´t exactly inexpensive, but it is absolutely worth the price. I had it custom made by some very very very patient experts at US Netting.

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Step 8: Decorating, move-in, and little additions

I added some glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling, because they are awesome. Period. In addition, they give me something to look at at night when l am listening to my audio books.

I also added a cargo net next to my bed to hold items such as my phone, keys, pepper spray and other items. It also provides a barrier between me and my curtains, which is rather useful considering that I´ve been know to rip down my curtains in my sleep.

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The back behind my bed offers enough space for my all-kinds-of-little-crap drawers and my emergency generator. My new tiny mobile home offers so much more space than my old one did, I don´t even need a storage room anymore.

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That´s it fellow hobos. Let me know what you think!

Take care!

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Nature´s Pantry: Acorns

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My first reaction to “Acorns are poisonous” was “Well, that´s bullshit”. I spent my childhood stealing them from the neighborhood squirrels and enjoyed them as a healthy snack for years. After consulting with the interwebs, I found out that in large quantities acorns can cause an upset stomach. Not quite the same as poisonous, yet good to know!

Acorns are rich in protein, vitamin B6, and fat and thus make the perfect wilderness snack. Although you can pick them green, you should wait for them to turn brown before eating them. Make sure that the acorn is free of any imperfections as this may indicate the presence of insects. Also, don´t literally steal a squirrel´s acorns. Instead of plugging empty an entire tree, take a few acorns here and there.

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Depending on the type of oak tree you gather from, Acorns are more or less bitter in taste and thus you may wish to further process this nut as illustrated on this website. Personally, I enjoy them raw, but there a ways of making acorn flour, spread, and even coffee! Additionally, by boiling acorns in a particular way, one can even take bitterness out of them.

Enjoy!

Dream On

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During one of my many discussions with my family regarding my lifestyle (“Houseless? What´s that supposed to be? You are homeless, whether you´d like to admit it or not!”) I realized that really, I only have one issue: People. My tiny mobile home is comfy and very much a “home” to me. I am well-fed, warm, healthy, clean, and happy. I am employed, working on my Masters, and am self-sustaining. In short, I have everything I need and I am everything I want to be.

For many of us, the trouble starts when we are trying to find a decent place to sleep. Society decided that living on the wrong side of those four walls is utterly unacceptable. So we have to be quiet and invisible. I´d love to do a little reading before bed, but any light would give me away. How relaxing would it be to sit outside my car, or even just roll down a window, to watch as nature lays itself to rest; can´t do that either. It´d be nice to be able to open my doors in the morning to let in some much needed air, but, as you´ve probably guessed, that´s not a good idea either.

Even worse than being frowned upon, is the fact that my lifestyle can get me in trouble with the police. Society decided that living outside of a house or apartment is such a horrendous act that it should be against the law! Somehow I imagined freedom to mean something different… I´d very much appreciate being a full member of society instead of living in the shadows.

This leaves me dreaming of a society in which I can freely admit to my lifestyle without being judged and prosecuted. Oh how nice would it be wave a hello to my housed neighbors and watch the sun rise without worrying about being seen.