I am a transient. For all that means, as much as it pains me to admit, I AM a transient.
I became homeless, officially, only weeks before the election. While the church members who attended the Branch where I am a member cast votes overwhelmingly and loudly for now President Trump, I was living in a camper shell on a friend’s land. My husband moved in with another woman and got a restraining order prohibiting me from returning to the fifth wheel “home” he had given to me for my 49th birthday. On my 50th birthday, I became a transient once again.
The first time had been partially by choice: Having left my first husband after all of my disability settlement was spent, I had a choice (due to my small disability pension) to rent a small room from a friend or not to. When I contemplated the reality of my seasonal depression and a small space shared with a near-stranger, I thought it best to find my way on my own…homeless.
Invited by social media friends across the country to visit, I employed trains, buses, planes, then my own car to visit them. Some for an afternoon, others for a night, some longer. Friends would share their homes and meals and much more with me, but it was always time to leave before too long, leaving me searching for another place to keep dry and warm, or cool. Never a place to call my own. With my mental illness getting worse with my circumstances, I wore out my welcome faster than my friends could anticipate.
When I met my second ex-husband, Keith, he was living in a friends’ RV on the same friend’s property…but he was also officially homeless. I spent 3 years travelling with him, both of our mother’s providing additional assistance when we needed it even though we were both adults ourselves and our mothers were both in their seventies. It didn’t seem to matter to him that we were taking advantage of them, but it hurt my heart. I love my Mom and knew she didn’t have much to give, but I appreciated the support.
When our mental and physical disabilities overcame the lusts that led to our marriage, it was time for another divorce. Once again, I was left with nothing to call my own. In spite of his claims at the time, Keith had put the 5th wheel that he said was my birthday present into his mother’s name and I was left with a broken-down 1983 Volvo as my only claim from the community property. All of what I had been told was community actually belonged to his mother. Another betrayal. I was alone again.
I DID have my freedom. As frightening as it may seem to some, for me the freedom of being able to travel from place to place means much more than “having a place to call my own.” Don’t get me wrong, I DESPERATELY want something to call my own as well, but I can not depend on someone else to provide it. That is on me.
Back in 2010, when I became homeless the first time, I didn’t understand the reality of my mental illness. This time as I sought therapy and cognitive behavioral training via Recovery International groups, I have been able to keep my head a bit more about me and use the skills I have learned over the past 7 years. I attend church where ever I am led to and I have visited several Temples across the country since my baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2013. I also have a service animal who understands living on the road. She protects me as well as assisting me with my physical and emotional challenges.
What is it like to be a “Transient In Trump’s America?” I was pondering that question as I was listening to a local radio show inform me that the new President was spending yet another weekend not too far from where my travels had led me. The expenses of the local law enforcement were going up astronomically to accommodate for President Trump’s “Southern White House,” a mansion in Florida previously owned by the Post family. I contemplated my own humble circumstance as I looked in my change purse on the way to use the bathroom in the local grocery store: No milk for us today, only 24 cents.
To be honest, I don’t blame anyone for the situation I find myself in. I am currently on the way to bettering myself: I started back to school via an online program over a year ago and I will graduate with my Bachelor’s in General Studies with a concentration in creative nonfiction writing in July 2017. It is my goal to “work my way out of retirement” in a profession that I can continue in spite of the mental and physical disabilities that prevent me from holding down a day-to-day 9 to 5 job. In the meantime, I have resources such as a small disability pension I payed money into while I was able to hold down traditional jobs. That helps me to buy gas and essentials like dog food for my service dog as well as groceries.
I freely admit there are days, weeks and even months where I would not have made it without the help of friends. If a dear friend and her mother had not taken me in this last summer, providing food, shelter and medicine with the value of thousands of dollars, I would not have made it out alive when a jaw infection completely overwhelmed me. Another friend allowed me to stay on her property until the weather turned dangerous. Then again in December when I needed to be in the northwest, my friend and her mom allowed me to stay once again. My friends have been angels.
I couldn’t continue to live off of my friends. It hurt my heart when I couldn’t give back for all they had given. I started traveling again, hoping to find a place where it was warm so I didn’t have to spend the few dollars I had on shelter. Florida had been an area where I visited back in 2010-2011 and I had loved the sunrises at the Atlantic Ocean. I used the cash I had for gas and headed to see friends and to live where it wasn’t too cold to live in my car.
I spend my days alternating in libraries working on my school work and blogs and books with time spent at dog parks and other areas where my canine partners and I can get physical exercise. At night I usually tend to park in lots that DO have surveillance as that tends to keep the trouble-makers away from us. I don’t care if I am watched, just safe.
Over the years, I have incurred vicious attacks from others including the words “homeless (insert expletive here)” directed at me. I feel the shame when I admit I have no home. Even some who have called me their friend have stated that I couldn’t be homeless because, “homeless people don’t dress that way” or because I keep myself clean. I spend a lot of time crying in my car/home wishing people would understand the utter and complete humiliation it is to be unhoused in America.
The public knows “homeless” as those people living in the streets. They are only the VERY FEW of us who have stopped trying to hide. The rest of us cower in our vehicles or corners and try to pretend we have a home waiting for us when we get out of church or when the library closes. We don’t.
While staying in Key West, Florida recently, where I observed a homeless population bursting at the seams, I happened to notice a young father changing the diaper on what looked to be a newborn baby. When he finished, he handed the babe to his partner and closed up the doors on the red minivan that was in the grocery store parking lot for the night. Their license plates were from Michigan. My first thoughts were that baby didn’t choose to be homeless!!! But those thoughts rapidly turned to the nasty weather I saw my Michigan friends complaining about on social media. My prayers then went towards the little family’s safety and security while they stayed in their van. The parking lot where we all spent the night was full of signs telling us we couldn’t be there. There were no cops that night called to sweep. It was a relief.
Throughout southern Florida the “bursting at the seams” hospital emergency rooms to the constant, “NO TRESPASSING” and “NO LOITERING” signs directed to those who need desperately to just find a place to lay down for an hour or two are indicative of the increase in population when the rest of the United States of America is covered in snow and frost. Even the President wants to come where it’s warm, and he has SEVERAL homes!
I don’t have the answers. I want to be out of this particular population as much as the next transient. That word HURTS. When I first had to seek the assistance from a “Transient Bishop,” just the realization that label fit who I was, made me turn and start crying. I had to wash up before I could face the Bishop.
I prefer the word “un-housed” while my home is currently a car that runs on prayers. I continue to try to hide my life circumstance from those who would judge, or worse yet, attack me. That is what I fear most. My faith is still in God and it is stronger than ever as I do what I can as I can to leave the transient life behind. But my thoughts are back with that baby in that red minivan; what is to become of her?