THE UNDETECTABLE HOMELESS

 Weekly Cyberlog


It’s September now, and I’m only two months from home base.  Time goes by too quickly;
I had much more planned....

To clarify the error I made by identifying Doug and Pam twice in Cyberlogs #s 1 and 2, the
stories are correct, according to my tape recorder and transference to notepad, but the names
are Dan and Clare in #2.  I could use different photos of Brimfield, and I will later on in yet
another success story with a different twist.  From years of experience, I’m sure there are many
people who are using similar self-reliance strategies regarding flea markets, antiques shows, and
outdoor stands. In fact, I have so many stories of women who pair up – some with men – that in
2004, it is the “norm.”  It was NOT in past years.  Our poor economic situation, partly from out-
sourcing and mostly from downsizing and ageism, is responsible for the increase in longtime un-
employment and the necessary search for alternative money-making schemes.  Men who never
would have deemed it reasonable to team up with a women in an unusual self-employment plan
are now finding out that we have just as good business sense as they do....Maybe better, for
women have had “jobs” taking care of homes, children, home repairs as well as planning and
pursuing community affairs/ programs since time began without any salaries.  And probably 98%
succeeded with no accolades or Gold Watches at a retirement dinner.  Certainly no homemaker
received or will receive a benefits package...unless one calls taking full care of a retired, bored
“house male” a benefit....

 
I’m always wondering why very functional people (not young mothers with children) turn to
Welfare and food stamps.  The systems are so screwed-up that stupid is being kind to those
who create the “rules.”  If you own anything worthwhile, like a cello – necessary for your em-
ployment – it will be required that it be sold without $ given to the owner, as well as your
vehicle if it is valued over $1500 (states may have differing amounts).  Consequently, one is
faced with giving up dignity and ownership or finding self-sufficiency.  Which makes sense?
It is obvious that no person with a grain of intelligence, mentally competent, and without ad-
dictions is going to head for the slums and living on the streets.  I know there are a few ex-
ceptions, and I am aware of at least two, but mitigating circumstances do occur...and these
individuals do not intend to remain in such dire circumstances; they have a plan to be self-
sufficient.  To stress how stupid the lawmakers are, one can buy cold food but not cooked/
warm food.  So, you can buy raw chicken and shrimp (and do what with it if no stove?) but
not the BBQed chickens or steamed shrimp at a grocery store.  Stupid.  And the laws in some
states only allow for motel vouchers for 20 days a month, so where are you supposed to go
for the next 10 days?  I think homeless shelters for those who need them are wonderful, but
they are described in the most disgusting and frightening manner by people who use the ones
in the slums of any city...and in other areas in which robbery, rape, and lice are all too frequent
bed-time problems.  When interviewed, “normal” people insist they would rather sleep on the
sidewalk in a cardboard box, abandoned store, or vehicle.  You can hear them on any news
program; this is not something that is a revelation.

Therefore, when I relate the stories of women (and now men as well) who will try any self-
sufficiency plan, they should be applauded.  I make suggestions, but I would never tell anyone
to change their vision of a future.  I have recently put to paper two interesting schemes, and
just in time, for my recorder died a few days ago.  I am angry, because, even with static, I
relied on that recorder.  I must get to a Wal*Mart ASAP to buy another...but there isn’t one
anywhere near where I am staying as a “home base” for the last two months.  By the way,
WARNING: don’t rent a Maine cottage on CyberRentals or a Chamber of Commerce web
site.  The properties are not checked to see if the landlord is telling the truth, and my trusty
recorder is the victim of my fall on a rented property.  It is somewhere in a thick, tall, tangled
mass of weeds on a mountain-goat hill that is the only way to get from a parking place (mud
and stones) to the cottage.  Not even a path to and from the house...or an outside light if you
return after dark.  Further, if you like snakes, I can recommend a cottage (with uncaring land-
lords) that has them all along the unkempt, long climb to your car.  I spooked when I stepped
on one which curled over my open-toed shoe and down the hill I went.  I suppose if the Three
Stooges staged the tumble-bit I did, it would be funny.  Not to this old(er) lady who values her
health.  To add to this wonderful rental and the promise from the landlady that this would be
perfect for me, there is no kitchen sink to use; the pipes underneath it do not connect, so I’ve
had to try (and then gave up) to cook and clean using a tiny bathroom sink.  Soooo, it would
have been cheaper and probably more “fun” to be a camper.  At least I would know what to
expect!

Now, on to a real camper and then a couple of stories that reveal interesting problems that might
become yours.  Please do remember that I have removed the numerous ahhs and ums and “for
sure”s that make reading unpleasant.  If this were being written for academe, I would have to
include them.  And note that the three ellipses (dots) mean just a pause and four of them mean
that material immediately following has been left out.

 
Bill is a retired career Army captain.  He says he has a “winning way” with the ladies, and I admit
that the only reason he turned to me for chat is that I had my sterno stove in use and he wanted to
warm his food.  He pointed to his rig – a relatively new pickup truck which pulled a small trailer.
It was spotless.  A bicycle was attached to the rear bumper, and on top of the trailer was a kayak.
 He appeared to be as affluent as any traveler who stops at a Rest Area which offers all accom-
modations.  But as we ate and talked, it became apparent that he was more self-sufficient than the
typical traveler...as well as extremely self-assured.

“...and I have a decent check every month if I don’t expect to cover a nice apartment with rent
increases each year, and groceries that I would choose instead of what I buy now to make things
myself.  I had a great house when I was married, but my wife has it now – with our kids.  They’re
grown, of course, but they still use the place and I didn’t make a fuss about it; she doesn’t have
much of a life on her own anyway, what with working in a job behind bars at a bank and gaining
weight so that her chances of getting married again are [blanked-up]....(I’m not happy with that
comment, but that’s what he said, so that’s what I’m relating!)  I guess I could share a small place
with another old Army man, but listening to someone else’s war stories are worse than hearing my
own over and over again....I love the outdoor life and as long as I can, I’ll travel and find free or
cheap ways to be with nature.  I found all of the Golden Passports through my AAA, and right now
I have one for $10 that covers a lot of entrances to fed forest, fish and wildlife and park services.
Oh, yeah; there is one for the BLM, but I’m not sure what they cover that I don’t already have.
There are some different names, like Golden Eagle, Golden Age and Golden Access, and since I’m
over 62, I seem to be covered so that I don’t have to pay for what I’m using.  I think that all of the
national parks are open to me for free now, but their rules change occasionally, so if I’m told I owe
something, I just call the AAA and ask what the senior and disabled fees are.  Anyway, I can travel
and not have to pay much now for my way of life....I have all that I need in the trailer, and there’s
room for me to sleep or watch my batteried TV if it’s raining and I don’t have any other place to go.
The truck is good for hauling things that I can make money on as I go.  Sometimes it’s for some guy’s
personal use –maybe furniture –  and sometimes a company pays for my hauling lumber or trash. I
hosethe back down afterward so that it’s always clean and I don’t come to places like this with any-
thing ugly in the back....I’m heading for NH and VT and mountain fishing and kayaking, and I’m sure
I’ll get some good-lookin’ gal to fix meals for me and maybe more.  For me, this is a good way to live –
now, of course – but I’ve decided that when I get older, I’ll just let some little “lovely” marry me and
take care of me for my eventual survivor’s check.”  (Bill, 2004, in Maine)

 
I include Bill’s story because many other people are using the AAA Golden Passports–or should--
and become very fond of our federal and national parks systems as a wonderful way to spend days
with a variety of opportunities for visits and camping.  There are also camp hosting and guide jobs
available, found on the internet if not by chance.  I’m sure there are books about park hosts as well.

I spent a couple of days without my digital camera since the rechargeable battery pack fell into a

space in my car that I couldn’t reach.  Consequently, no photos of a park which I did visit just to

check them out....There was a long line at the one I tried to enter, so I parked and just talked to

others waiting.  Trudy had an unfortunate personal life:

 
“My husband shot and killed his brother-in-law and is in prison for another 20 years at least.  We
figure he’ll die in prison since he’s 68 now, so I’m on my own.  Have been for going onto 10 years
now.  It ain’t easy, being alone and none of the relatives talking to me let alone helping me out.
But that guy did something so morally wrong that someone had to stop him when the law didn’t.
(The brother-in-law raped and nearly killed a child and only served 15 years and didn’t pretend
that he wouldn’t do it again.)  I stuck around the prison for a few years to visit him, but he finally
got me to see that I have to move on in life.  I guess we’re almost OK about it all now.  I mean not
having a normal life together.  The sadness is still there, but we’ve accepted the punishment....I sold
our house and bought this motor home and really had to travel since when people found out about
my background, friends disappeared.  It was something that hit the news too much and I seem to
be recognizable....I’ve been all over the U.S. and spend the summers either in the northwest or
northeast.  I like historical places, and I visit as many as possible.  And when I hear of a camping
place near the ocean or in the mountains, I just find a mobile home or RV park and hook-up.
Everyone is friendly ‘cuz they’re having a good time, and while they aren’t longtime friends, they are
friends for awhile....I have just gotten my second Social Security check from my old job of nursing –
ER – and I suppose that the money will allow me to continue to travel.  I don’t even want to go back
into the ER and I don’t have any other skills.  I only had a couple of thousand in the bank when I
took off in the motor home, so I’ll be living on a fixed income from now on....I been thinking about
being a personal nurse to some other older lady in a good city, but I kind of like being on wheels
and not being responsible to anyone.  It’s not a feeling I like; it’s because I’m sad and have no
desire to be with anyone anymore....This is a good, healthy-wooded park with all amenities, and
I’ll stay for awhile.  I can just park and read or play solitaire and watch TV, and they have a swim-
ming hole nearby....I’ll be OK, I guess, and I’ll probably have to get some nursing job in the future.
Age won’t make a difference since other old ladies like to have someone who knows about what
was popular during their growing up time, and hopefully it will be someone who becomes a friend....
I’ve become a really good gourmet cook while traveling and started a cookbook for full-time
travelers.  Maybe that will be published and make life easier.  I know I will need the money.”
(Trudy, age 65, 2004 in Maine)

I met Bailey when I got lost for a change but knew I was heading into the NH border area.
I was on a narrow country road and saw her van at the side, looking like it had broken down.
Bailey looked like she was picking berries on the other side of the road and I stopped to see
what she was collecting.  I thought she might need a ride for assistance.  My photo didn’t quite
catch her van, but the lovely country road is the sort on which I often find myself with absolutely
no idea of where I am....

 
“...it’s been just a mind-boggling experience!  No one would believe such a thing could happen in
America.  I was doing pretty well.  I had a steady job with enough to pay my bills and suddenly
I’m penniless and homeless.  And all because I didn’t know about catalog billings.  See, I bought
some clothing, not much, mind you, but about $!80 worth from a woman’s clothing catalog.  I set
off on a trip about two weeks later and thought I had paid all of my bills....I thought I had put this
catalog charge on my MasterCard, but I put it on the catalog credit card.  I always call in on the
800 numbers for any outstanding bills that I’ve forgotten, including the MasterCard just to make
sure I don’t get stuck with finance or late charges.  I got home weeks later to find lots of letters from
the catalog company saying I owed them almost $300 more!  I called and they said I had a zero
balance with them.  I didn’t need to pay them anything....I just forgot about it then.  But I began
getting  letters from a collection agency saying I owed almost $500 to some bank.  I didn’t have any
business with that bank, so I ignored it. Thought it was an error....Finally, after the collection agency
turned my billing over to some company which telephoned and wrote frequently about my outstanding
debt and how it would ruin my credit, I called and was told that I owed the amount of then nearly
$700 for the catalog merchandise!  I told them that I had checked with the company and was told
that I had a zero balance.  The agency said I owed the bank.  I called the catalog company again
and they said they had been paid; I had NO balance....It took a long time, but I discovered that
when you pay a catalog bill, you aren’t actually paying them.  They get paid by a bank and you don’t
owe the catalog company, but you do owe the bank.  Well, no one ever tells you that!  The bill
comes from the catalog company and you send a check to them.  So who knows that they now have
been paid but the bank hasn’t?  Anyway, I got it straight and found I owed the bank so much in
interest and finance charges that I couldn’t get my finances back in shape...and they had ruined my
credit with the three credit companies....I had to buy four new tires and have some expensive work
done on my car and was turned down because my credit score was too low.  And then everything
went wrong at once.  I was working a second job at night just to try to come out even again and got
sick from overworking – and in a very cold office where I guess people had the flu.  I was at home so
much after that with a terrible cough that I got fired from the steady job and the second one didn’t give
me enough to pay rent and all the rest of living stuff....I lost my apartment lease and had no place to go
that was cheaper.  With no credit, no one wanted to lease to me.  I ended up moving a few of my best
belongings into the van and parking at night in a well-lit parking lot....When I couldn’t find another job,
I got really panicky and couldn’t even give a decent interview.  I was having a nervous breakdown and
didn’t know it....I’ve been living in the van for about 8 months now, and I’m on my way, well, was on
my way, to see if I could get a job in a college area near Plymouth....(That’s where I wanted to be
during the summer but never made it!)  Can you believe that I’m broke and homeless because I didn’t
know about catalog sales and billings?  Life is a bitch.  And so are the catalog companies which keep
sending their statements that say you don’t owe them anything when you do owe their bank lots of
money....I tried to fight this out with the FTC and the BBB and found out that they have no ability to do
anything but take the complaint and have nothing more than that to help you....I have become a transient
and almost lost my driver’s license last week when I got a ticket and the cop saw that my license plate
sticker was out of date.  I had to go to the courthouse and pay for the ticket – my last food money – and
beg my way into paying Massachusetts for an outdated license tag....I’m down to picking berries and wild
flowers to eat and actually stealing buns from a grocery store just for something solid....I need gas for the
van; it isn’t broken....Have you ever heard about this problem before?”
(Trudy, age 54, in New Hampshire)

Unfortunately, this is a common problem but no catalog company is willing to send a bill from the bank.
They still send one with their name on it and we need to understand yet another system that can ruin our
credit rating as well as commit the ultimate: render one homeless!  Just imagine that this minor bill was a
very large one, say for several thousand dollars for an item purchased from a luxury catalog company.
Could ANYONE (minus the very rich) pay the severe daily late and finance charges and avoid ruining
their credit?  There are a lot of luxury catalogs on the way for holiday purchases.  Watch out!!!!

COMING NEXT...

CYBERLOG FOR MORE WAYS TO BECOME HOMELESS!
IDENTITY THEFT IS ONE MAJOR WAY TO LOSE ENOUGH TO MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.
IRENE WILL TELL HER STORY FIRST.  AND THEN WE’LL HEAR ABOUT MOBILE HOME
PARKS AND HOW TO LOSE YOUR HOME AND BELONGINGS IN ONE DAY.

 

  islandr@goeaston.net

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