The "Get Out Of Your Car!" Fund

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Pantry and Cooking Plans

This week I worked on the food situation.

The ice in the cooler in the trunk idea didn’t work. The ice melts and makes all my food soggy. The first week I did this, most of the ice stayed frozen all weekend. I’ll have to work on ideas to make this work so I can keep food in my car on weekends. For example, yogurt or a pint of ice cream if I can’t eat the whole thing right away.

I’m really getting tired of nonperishable foods and fast food, so I removed my toaster oven from storage and put it under my desk in a giant cardboard box. It warms food quickly, but I really want it so I can bake. I bought a baking dish to fit inside it.

I rearranged the food and dishes in my classroom cabinet so they can’t be seen as soon as I open the cabinet door. This is because the principal has a few books at the bottom of my cabinet to distribute to teachers during future teacher trainings. I don’t want him to see my stash.

I have potatoes and a packaged rice dish high on top of the cabinet. I have  in the white box on the second shelf. There are no crackers in the cracker box on the top shelf. On the second shelf there is food in the box to the left (cereal, oatmeal, sugar, popcorn, and canned food), dishes on top of that (in the plastic bins), dishwashing liquid, salt, and pepper in front. On the third shelf from the top – see the oatmeal, next to that is a container of kool-aid packets. See the boxes of books on the 2nd and 3rd shelves. There are food and more dishes stashed behind those books. The bottom shelf is all paper. Good thing there’s no food there, because the mouse has eaten through some of the paper at the bottom!

On the side of this cabinet, hanging next to the wall, is a dishrag.

For my storage unit, I bought a bin to keep my food in. It’s not as much food as I thought it was (or else I can’t find a box and it’s in there somewhere). Even though it’s not as much food as I thought, I don’t think I’ll be able to use all of it. I may have to take my sister back the big bag of sugar, rice, and popcorn she bought for me during my August visit, before I knew I’d be homeless.

I plan to go home at Thanksgiving. I found this awesome website called I can check off ingredients that I have in my limited virtual kitchen (my cabinet, storage unit, and school fridge). It will give me recipes that I can cook with the ingredients I already have. Totally. Awesome. I already want to try the mock fried rice. It only requires rice, garlic, salt, soy sauce, and an egg. I have all of those ingredients. I got excited looking at all the potato recipes, since I can easily store potatoes. I also have these eggs that I will need to use up within the next 2 weeks or so. Frugal cooking tips by other poor people can be found here:

Finally, I'm using a calendar as my food diary. I jot down what I ate each day. My 1st goal is to eat a vegetable each day. My 2nd goal is eat a fresh fruit each day. My 3rd goal is to drink 2 cups of water a day.

Security Cameras Everywhere

Everywhere I go, I’m looking for security cameras. One day, I got a handful of paper towels to wipe my car windows while at the mall. I folded them discretely because I saw the security cameras right outside the bathroom. Now, no security guard is going to pull me over and question me about having so many paper towels, but as a homeless person, I may have to go back there numerous times for paper towels, wash-ups, bathroom breaks, etc. I don’t want to draw attention to myself by walking out with an obvious half-roll of paper towels. This week, I moved a black small dresser to the bathroom so I can sit my toiletries bag there while I wash up. Just as I approached the bathroom door, I finally saw it. A security camera facing that area. I knew there had to be one somewhere over there, but I never could find it before. I paused trying to decide what to do, then I decided to go ahead and make the move. I pushed the dresser into the bathroom. What’s the worse anyone can do – remove it and post a flyer saying “Patrons: Please don’t put furniture in here?” It’s dusty so I need to wipe it off soon so it won’t look so odd in such a clean bathroom (minus the cockroaches and crickets that I see in there occasionally). Some of the security cameras in my storage building are stationed inside owls that are mounted to the ceiling. They are very discreet looking. I don’t know what made me look up and notice the owls, but they blend in with the ceiling. They are the best-looking security cameras I’ve ever seen. I notice cameras at my evening job and in every store I go to. Yesterday, I sat in a parking garage in a sunny spot so I could just bask. I decided to clip my toenails, so I looked around for the cameras, then went to the other side of my car and clipped my toenails.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Fourth Rule for Living In Your Car

I need to add a fourth rule to living in your car: NEVER BE COLD OR HOT.

The weather this week has dipped into the mid-40s twice week, the coldest so far this month. The rest of September is supposed to be back in the 50's at night, and I'm comfortable with that.

I've been researching how to use a marine battery to keep warm in a car, but I've concluded that there is no way I can run a small electric heater in the cabin of my car with a battery there. Batteries give off hydrogen and can be explosive if not properly ventilated. How do people keep warm inside tents when they camp in the winter? I don't mean at night when they're asleep inside a sleeping bag. What about when it's 6:00 pm and freezing outside and I want to sit in my car and read? Or when I first wake up in the morning and have to crawl to the front seat and the car hasn't had time to heat up, yet? I wrote to a lady who also has a livinginmycar blog. She told me Maryland is not as cold as Vermont is. My response is "cold is cold."

Anything below freezing is cold to the human body. In fact, if you get cold at 50 degrees and you’re living in your car, that’s not good and I feel for you. Everybody should be able to get warmth. I felt like she was comparing experiences in a way that didn’t make much difference.

I bought a burner and priced fire extinguishers so I can try boiling or frying my own food at the park some weekend. This might be especially good in the winter when I want some warm soup or hot water for tea. I need a fire extinguisher in case my car overheats, as well as an emergency kit. I showed you a picture of my storage unit. I want the center of it to be clear so I can buy a narrow cot and sleep on it if there’s a cold snap and I can ‘t keep my car warm. The storage building may not be much better since it's not climate-controlled. There are also cockroaches there, so I don't see myself sleeping comfortably.

My financial snapshot

In the past 24 hours, I added a thermometer and a donate button to this blog. I know that donating online and funding your projects online is increasingly popular, and I’m surprised at how many people are willing to help out a good cause online. I think I have a good cause, so I’ll put it out there.

I’m my biggest donor, though, so I expect the thermometer to move largely because of me. I hope others will appreciate my effort and motivate me with donations.

Here’s how I came up with the figures.


Traffic tickets


Past Rent Still Due

Insurance Bill Sent to Collections

Credit cards



Emergency Savings that I need to have

Student loan



This total is what I have left to pay off as of today, September 26, 2013 – not including the mortgage that I told you about a few days ago. I just took repossession of a property I used to live in. That mortgage is $107,000. I’ll take care of paying that off later. Right now, there’s a tenant in there and I’m going through a home loan modification to see what the new mortgage will be.

I feel God gave me the green light and let me know my efforts will be blessed by giving me a few windfalls of money since I’ve gone homeless.
1.       Both my day job and my evening job gave me small raises. $5000 and $100 a year
2.       I got a $150 refund from health insurance company

3.       I got an insurance payout from a car accident - $1300

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"I'm ok"

Jasmine wants to clean out a third bedroom she has in her house for me (her brother-in-law is in the second bedroom). They have one working bathroom in the house. The house is partially renovated, but they ran out of money and are doing what they can as the money comes in. I told her that I would decline even if she offered me a room, but she's thinking about the cold weather. I told her I'd just like a place to come chill out for a while. It would be different if my had burned down, or I was on welfare and had no money, or I had mounting medical bills and just couldn't support myself anymore. But this lifestyle is just a choice for me. I refuse to live in someone else's house, pulling in a paycheck and not paying them, while they are trying to pay down their own debts. Jasmine and Kim are my closest friends and they both are struggling to pay for their own housing, kids, child support, etc. All I ask of Jasmine is that she be one of my text buddies that I text each morning to say, "I'm ok," or good morning, or :-), or whatever. Asana will be the other text buddy. That way someone always knows I made it through the night. They both felt better hearing that I stay at Peace Hospital because it's safe there. We also laughed about the question, "What would have happened if my parents decided to call Jasmine to find out what time I'll be home?" What if my phone fell in the toilet or something and they couldn't reach me for a day or two? They would have called Jasmine and she would have been clueless. My mom felt so good last night when she heard Jasmine's voice in the background on the phone. I could hear the relief in her voice. Jasmine said she will understand when I call my parents while visiting at her house. When I talked to my mom tonight, she asked, "Are you in, yet?" I said, "Yes." I was parked at Peace Hospital. She said, "Good. That's what I like to here." I know. That's why I can't tell her the truth, yet.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where I iron clothes

This is where I iron  my clothes at the laundromat every Sunday. This weekend I didn't iron until Sunday night, so the place was packed. I couldn't stand back and take a better picture without being an oddball.

Of the three laundromats I checked, this is the only one that had an outlet near a folding table.

Cancel the bankruptcy - I'm a landlord

Friday, I went to talk to an attorney about filing bankruptcy because of this impending foreclosure on my old condo. They suggested I go find out who's living in the condo now, introduce myself, and tell them that they will have to move out.

Sunday, I did just that. I left a note on the person's door with my phone number on it. When the tenant called - her name is Asana - she told me that is a home loan modification specialist and advocate. She could tell that there was a problem with the apartment when she began receiving packages from the bank months ago. She talked to her mentor, Michelle Singletary, who told her that one day the real apartment owner would show up and want her apartment back (how prophetic!).

We met on Monday, Asana and I, and worked out a deal. She would help me with a home loan modification and any other financial advocacy needs I have (talking with credit card companies, MVA, etc). In exchange, I would allow her to pay $250 less on the rent than what she was paying the rental company, which is apparently a fraudulent company. While she is coordinating a home loan modification with the bank, I don't have to pay rent. In other words, I will receive rent money for the next 2-3 months instead of losing money in a foreclosure. In fact, I was supposed to meet with the attorneys today and pay a $400 retainer to get them to handle this case for me. Instead, I'm GETTING money instead of paying it.

How in the world did that happen?

Needless, to say I'm not thinking about bankruptcy anymore.

As I talked with Asana, I opened up and told her that I'm camping out in my car. When I tell my family and friends about this experience, I should use the word camping. Maybe that will help them cope better with the news – you think? Naw, I didn’t think so either.

Well, Asana, was not comfortable with that and arranged for me to stay with her godmother overnight. I did - I slept on her couch. She generously offered me drinks and showed me where the bathroom was. She told me she wanted to get to Mass at 6:30 in the morn, and I told her I'm usually up and about by 6:00. I thought that timing worked for both of us. Yet, at 5:45 AM, she flicked on the living room lights and YELLED, "Good morning!" Then she went to use the computer in the neighboring room (in the dark). So turning the lights on were to get me up. I got up and left after thanking her for her kindness.

Also, while talking to Asana, she told me that I HAVE TO let Jasmine or at least one other person know my real situation in case anything happened to me. I know she's right. I had thought about that before.

So, I called Jasmine up and we planned to meet at her place. I broke the news to her, and we had a good laugh because she had her suspicions about things all along but couldn't pinpoint what might be going on.

BTW, I called my mom on my way to Jasmine's house so that when I got inside Jasmine's house she could hear Jasmine in the background and feel safe for me. Whenever I talk to my parents, I'm always in the car or I'll say that I'm just pulling up to the house or I'm in my room, and they can never hear other people. They've asked me several times how I like it there, and I think they are getting concerned that I'm not socializing or bonding with the people in the house.

So, Jasmine pointed out to me when she figured out that I'd  arranged that call so they could hear her voice in the background.

Jasmine said she's going to talk to her husband about me staying there, but she was relieved that I had someplace to go last night (Asana's godmother's house).

However, I feel fine in my car. The godmother's couch, BTW, wasn't any bigger than the back seat of my Honda! Wow! I thought I was going to stretch out and be more comfortable, but not.

Anyway, I like being able to follow my own schedule and not feel like I'm holding anyone up from Mass, work, or wherever. I'm just glad that Asana and Jasmine know where I sleep at night.

I was researching people’s car-dwelling experiences this weekend.  Many people feel adventurous and they feel like free spirits – that’s how I feel. Some even said they never want to go back to paying a rent or mortgage.

On the other hand, some people felt despondent, tired of the experience, and lonely. They said it was rough.Some people have no friends, no family, an abusive ex, kids who don’t care. There are too many people in the world to be lonely. When I was lonely, I found the problem was with me. It’s really important if you’re going to go homeless to have support. People need to learn to make and keep friends. If you have NO ONE, act as if the problem is you, then go out of your way to find out how to be the type of friend that others want.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Eggs & Peas

September 18, 2013

This morning when I woke up (late – after 7:00), I noticed that the parking lot was beginning to fill, but all of the cars were on just one end of the parking lot. You would have thought someone was directing them to park at the next available spot and not space out. The reason they parked like this is because the parking lot is long and no one wants to park any farther away from the hospital than they need to, so they park in the next available spot. Fortunately for me, I happened to be parked farther away from the hospital and away from all of them. I will keep this parking pattern in mind. I try to vary where I park. On days when I park closer to the hospital, I need to be up and out by 6:15 sharp! Otherwise, I will have neighbors when I wake up. 

My food routine is slowly putting itself together. This summer, the school renovated so they placed the teachers’ lounge refrigerator in my classroom. It looks awkward, but it’s been a blessing while I figure out my food routine. I have two lunch boxes in there. One keeps my lunch for the day and the other keeps produce for making sandwiches and salads. I have to prepare my lunch in my room as if the room were a kitchen. I think I need just one more lunchbox in there to hold a few condiments or something. Hopefully no one will figure out that I have 3 lunchboxes in the fridge all by myself.

I’ve mastered the rules NEVER BE DIRTY and NEVER BE TIRED. I need to focus on the NEVER BE HUNGRY part. I have not been hungry these past two weeks, but I have not been eating healthfully either.

My mom asked me was I able to cook in my new place. I told her yes. She wants to send me some peas that she and my grandmother picked. Aunt Theo went to visit our hometown this week, so mom wants to send the peas with her. I haven’t figured out how I’ll cook them, yet, but I’ll come up with something. I also have some eggs in there that I brought back from Tennessee. I meant to make cornbread and other dishes before I decided to move into my car. How long do eggs keep?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Weather is Getting Colder at Night

I sent my parents a list of some of my closest friends and family – most of whom they haven’t met – because I don’t visit Uncle and Aunt Theo anymore. I used to go visit them just to talk about my day and see how they were doing. It used to be that if my phone was having trouble or I was extra busy and my parents didn’t hear from in a few days, they would call Aunt Theo and ask if she had heard from me or seen me. I can’t count on that now. I just hope that don’t call Jasmine one day and ask her what time I will be home.

Sooner than I thought, I have to start thinking about keeping warm at night. This week, it's gotten really cold at night - as low as 50 degrees F. My comforter keeps me warm, but not when I stretch my legs (to give my bent knees a break) and my feet stick out. Time to pull out Theraflu and other medicines. Also, time to consider buying a camping sleeping bag. I'm afraid that a sleeping bag will restrict my abnility to stretch out.

For the last two mornings, when I woke up, I cranked up immediately so the car could start to get warm. That has been a good idea. Foggy windows  create a curtain so that others cannot see me. I sit in the back seat and make my bed right there in the parking lot while the car heats up. By the time, I drive off, the heater is spitting out warm air.   

13 good things about being broke

September 19, 2013

This is day 17 of being homeless. I've really hit my stride now. I often don't have anything new to report about living in my car unless I risk sounding redundant. I'm excited to say that, for now, I can focus on finances. Tomorrow is payday and I have a few windfalls coming at me, too. I plan to pay off $500 in small debts tomorrow and also set aside $1000 for emergency savings, like Dave Ramsey suggests. 

Good things about being broke
1.You learn to empathize with people.
2. You learn to appreciate people like never before.
3. You may find out who your true friends are.
4. You discover new places to shop (Aldi’s, Shoppers Food Warehouse!)
5. You become humble.
6. You become creative and resourceful.
7. You develop better survival skills.
8. People don’t ask you for loans.
9. No one asks to borrow your car. Even if your car is in fair condition, there will be no gas in it.
10. Your house isn’t cluttered with useless things that you’ll only use once.
11. Your finances are simpler.
12. You appreciate the simple things in life ($5 in a birthday card, 50 cents off anything)

13. ***(My favorite) You can only get richer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jasmine's Gazelle Intensity

I haven’t found another mobile homeless blog yet, but I was reading articles by others who are homeless to get rid of debt. It seems others were homeless for 1.5-2 years. I wasn’t planning on going longer than a year, but I don’t know now that I'm reading others' experiences.

I guess it depends on how fast I run as a gazelle. Dave Ramsey talks about having "gazelle intensity" when it comes to paying off debt. God has been sending me financial windfalls and giving me financial breaks since I've been homeless. These include: 

Both teaching jobs (day and evening) have given me a raise this year. 
I got a refund from my health insurance company
I filed some amended tax returns and got back refunds. 

Jasmine told me that this summer her son needed $4000 to put a down payment on his new house for his family. jasmine helped him by sacrificing $1000 a month for four months. She was amazed that she was able to find the money, because she’s been trying to pay off her own debt for years. For the next two months, she tried to put $1000 a month on her own debts, but needs keep coming up . She has not been able to "find" $1000 again like she did this summer for her son. When the motivation is strong enough, you find the money. I hope she is able to start that up again.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Web Of Lies Grows Bigger

It’s work to keep questions at bay. Aunt Gloria and my mom both asked why I joined a gym. I couldn’t say, “So I’d have a place to shower.” I think they were wondering about how I can afford the monthly expense. I owe my dad $400 (which he doesn’t mind not getting back), but I asked him what he thought about window tints. I couldn’t say, “I don’t want anyone to see me sleeping in my car.” He simply said, “It’s not a priority. Just get yourself settled first.”

Vixen  and I left church and went downtown to invite people to our spiritual programs that are coming up next month. After being downtown,  we were going to an evening program at another church. Between downtown and the evening activity, there was a gap in the time. We needed a place to hang out and to eat. for about 2 hours. Naturally, she asked to hang out at my new place, which was on the way to the evening program, so it made perfect sense. I told Vixen that I don’t feel comfortable bringing people over yet, and Vixen continued to ask why. She’s the type who wants to get to the bottom of things. I tried to keep the conversation focused on WHY I left and not WHERE I’m living. Finally, I just told her that I would tell her in the future why I can’t have company over, yet.

I’ve been telling people that I pay Jasmine the same amount of rent that I was paying Uncle Theo. However, this time, I thought I’d try telling Vixen that I’m not paying any rent and see what her reaction would be. She thought that was great, except that I can’t have company over. Maybe if I tell people that Jasmine changed her mind and decided not to accept any rent in order to help me out, that will explain some of the new expenses I have (gym, window tint).

I probably shouldn’t say I live out of my Honda as much as I live out of my storage unit. I go there every morning to wash up or take clothes in or out. Sunday at noon is apparently an extremely busy time at the storage place. I’m glad I had not intentions of washing up there yesterday because the toilet is clogged with toilet paper and there's paper all over the floor. 

Today was my first day showering at the gym as well as ironing at the Laundromat. Those new routines worked for me.

Let me tell you about my laundering experience today. Sunday mornings are apparently the day for Latino fathers to do laundry with their children. I thought that was awesome to see. I imagined mothers rolling over in bed and getting sleep after a busy week. 

I washed my clothes, then plugged my iron into a socket next to a folding table. I started ironing my outfits for the week. I needed water for my iron and couldn’t get into the bathroom because someone was blocking it with his laundry.Well, my mom gave me a gallon of water three weeks ago, which has been in the trunk all this time.  So, I pulled out that gallon and it was leaking. It was a slow leak, but quite a bit has leaked. Fortunately, God allowed that man to block the bathroom, so I was forced to find that gallon of leaking water in my trunk. I poured the water into sports cups that I had in my trunk and drank what was left in the gallon jug (after putting some in the iron, of course). 

My storage unit has fencing going across the top of all units, I presume to keep things from being stacked too high and falling into neighboring units. I started hanging my ironed outfits on the fencing. All of my church dresses and my 7 outfits for the week are hanging now.

Because I’m going to hang my clothes in storage, I don’t need a box of clothes in my trunk, so my trunk now has more space. I like clearing out my car because having less clutter gives me less of a feeling of being and looking homeless. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Peace Hospital

September 12, 2013

I slept in the parking lot of a different hospital tonight (Peace Hospital).  I drove around during the day looking for a security booth or cameras (none that I could see). When I arrived tonight, I sat in my car for 45 minutes just looking around and learning the environment. I saw a strange sight. There was a parking garage that was reserved for hospital staff only. At the top of the garage, in the corner, there was no stairwell, but instead a dark room with a large television screen. The images on the screen were not security cameras – but cable! So, security guards were sitting at the top of the garage watching television? With their backs to me? The parking lot was quite large, so I parked opposite the guards’ room, on the edge of the lot next to the trees. My back window was wet with rain, so they couldn’t see inside my car even if they were paying attention. There were few cars and they were very spaced out.  A guard would have to deliberately walk around to individual cars, peeping in windows to notice me. As long as they didn’t do foot patrol, I was good.
I decided a cracked window draws as much attention as a misty window, so I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to take a chance on. Finally, I decided to leave the windows up unless I got hot.
Peace Hospital is within walking distance of my job. I mention that because I’ve been trying to get by on $40 of gas this week – that’s one full tank. I’m trying to not drive around out of boredom and waste gas. So today is the day to gas up, and my tank is essentially on E right now, though the gas light has not come on yet.

I realize that everything I need is within a 5-mile radius - both hospitals that I sleep at, storage, both of my banks, the post office, tons of grocery stores and department stores, the library, the gym, and - next week - my evening job are all within a 5-mile radius. The apartment complex where I sometimes sleep at night (Wild Overland Apartments) and Aunt and Uncle Theo’s house are within a 9 mile radius. My church is 18 miles away. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

3 manuscripts and 3 publishers

September 12, 2013

Today is the first day since being homeless (other than the weekends) where I haven’t come to work and immediately started blogging about my living situation. Instead, I finished the first draft of Madison Wants Her Tooth Back as well as a query letter about the book. I finished illustrating the CopyCats. All of that took a lot of work. Then my sister called. I haven’t talked to her in two weeks. We made up for it by talking for 1.5 hours!

Two days ago, I spent almost the entire day working on homesless-related stuff – organizing this blog, researching food prices, and pricing some things I’ll need eventually as a homeless person. What I really wanted to do was work on my book. When I finally had some time to stop and eat, I said, “No the library is open for only 30 more minutes and I really need to type up my query letter.” So good discipline had me go into the library and type up a query letter.

When the library closed, I came outside and ate while reading on the iPad about how to write children’s stories. At 10:00 which is my curfew to be in my sleeping spot for the night, I had an idea for a new story. Instead of driving to my sleeping spot, I drove to a nearby mall parking lot (more lights and people, the library lot was dark and empty). I wrote down the new idea for a 2nd story, then I had a 3rd idea!  I mean not just an idea – I wrote the plot in good detail. I was really surprised that in one hour I had 2 more manuscripts in my hand!

I have the addresses for 3 publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. I have 3 manuscripts. That means I can send each one a different manuscript. That’s a privilege many writers don’t have. Many only have one manuscript.  This is productivity that only God could put in me.

Two years ago, I rented an apartment that was too expensive, hoping that the expense would motivate me to really produce and make money. That didn’t happen – I had to sublet the apartment. This is a very different situation. Instead of stretching the budget and going into debt to help me be successful, I went to the bare essentials (the other extreme). But I feel God is blessing me for taking this step. I don’t know. Maybe nothing will happen with these manuscripts. One benefit of writing them: I used a technique I can now use to teach children how to write their own stories. I’ll at least be a better teacher. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Choosing to pay debts instead of filing bankruptcy

September 11

Last night I slept in the hospital garage. I left the windows cracked because it was 70 degrees out and that’s really warm in a car with the windows up. I knew it would cool off during the night, and it did.

Now I keep house shoes under the pedals,
 so I can slip into them quickly.
My alarm went off at 6:00 and as usual I snoozed 40 minutes longer. When I finally sat up, I saw a guard on foot talking to a driver in another car. They were having a lively chat and his back was to me. I searched for my house shoes, but couldn’t find them right away, so I climbed from the back seat to the front without opening the car doors. I KNOW  the other driver must have seen me. Would she say something to the guard about this unusual sight?

I felt for my tennis shoes under the driver seat and put them on. The guard starting to turn around and walk my way, but the driver kept talking to him. I cranked up just as the other driver started to pull off. I needed to get out just before her so the officer would not have time to stop me and talk to me, if that was his intention. I barely made it out. She followed right behind me, so I guess she didn’t tell him that I climbed from the back seat to the front.

New rule: Get out by 6:00 no matter where I’m sleeping. Hanging around till 6:30 puts me in too many “almost caught” situations.  

I think I’ll have to file bankruptcy eventually. I have an old condo that is now in foreclosure. I’m sure the bank will show up wanting some money back from that. I’ll never get out of debt unless I get rich. I started wondering, if I should focus on paying off student loans and let all these credit card debts be rolled into the bankruptcy. That seems logical but I don’t feel good about it. So, I’ll stick with the current plan and not hypotheticals. God is really blessing me financially (no rent, small raise, second job, small windfalls here and there). I’m not going to stir up the blessings.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


September 10, 2013

BREAKING NEWS FLASH  –  I now have a place to shower! I joined a local gym for $16 a month. When I looked at gyms in the spring, I refused to join any because of the high monthly prices and contracts involved. So, why join now?

1. the price - low price, and no contract required 
2. location - ½ a mile from storage, and quite close to my job
3. hours - 5 am to 11 pm, I plan to shower at 6:30 am or 9:30 pm. 
4. icing on the cake - screens attached to every treadmill (walking + Judge Judy!) I plan to be there 3 days a week to watch Judge Judy while I walk. Not only will I enjoy the walks, but my family thinks I’m staying with Jasmine and they will be suspicious if I tell them I haven’t watched JJ in days. “Why aren't you watching Judge Judy when there’s cable in the house and you get off work in plenty of time before the show comes on?”

I thought sponge baths would do me just fine for a whole year, or at least until I make it home to visit my family down South. I feel fresh every morning after my wash-ups. The problem is how stinky I feel when I first wake up each morning before I get to storage to wash-up. Maybe it's just the mild weather, but I don’t like that feeling and I may be stinking up my car. So, a shower at least once a week should help out A LOT!

I took a close look at my new car-living expenses to see how much do I REALLY save on rent. I have some new expenses – laundry ($32/month), gym ($16/month), more regular car vacuums ($4/month), keeping jugs of water in car for drinking ($4/month). That’s $56/month compared to $400/month rent. 

I think food will be more costly now so I tallied up how much I’ve spent on food since Sunday

= $36 for 3 days of food, maybe longer if I don’t buy any food tomorrow or Thursday.

I’ll have to keep track of that and let you know later when I have a more accurate amount.

As I walked through the store pricing food, I felt very sorry for more desperate homeless people. I imagined them having to buy individual servings of oatmeal, and other small portions of food, one meal at a time because they don’t have easy access to refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, and fresh water like I do. I may even find a way to move my toaster oven into my classroom and conceal it eventually. Other homeless people really have it rough when it comes to chow time. 

When I finish being homeless and I’ve paid down 33% of my debts ($25,000), I really need to find a way to give and pass on my blessing to other homeless people. I really think my church would make a good candidate for Safe Parking. It’s out in the country, so people would have to have rides that are able to get there, but it’s quiet and there are no neighbors right next to the church to complain about it. 

Staying Healthy in a Honda

I'm going to use this blog post to keep track of efforts I make to be healthy in my Honda while I live in it for a year. 

September 10, 2013

I really have to watch my health, especially with this breathing disorder I have. 

Some concerns I had this week have been resolved already. I told you that one day last week I woke up cold and the heat wouldn't work. Well, God fixed the heat in the car. The next day, during chilly weather, it worked fine and it's been working ever since. 

Also, I had hoped that I don’t get arthritis in my knees from sleeping curled up in the back seat all night. Since this weekend, I found two ways to stretch out a little more. 

Last spring, I was on MyFitnessPal religiously learning how to maintain my weight. I lost 15 lbs (5 inches off my waist) last spring and kept it off all summer. I stopped eating after 9 at night, ate less fried food and soda, and watched my calorie intake. One new habit I want to start is drinking 6 cups of H2O a day. Can I do that while living in a car? Buying water constantly is a new bill. Can I afford that? Can I always make it to the bathroom when I need to – especially in the middle of the night?

September 12, 2013

I didn’t realize how dirty my windows were. My paper towels were black with dirt after I wiped the windows. There was so much dirt on the rear view mirror I could feel it with my fingers. The first rule of being homeless, NEVER BE DIRTY, applies to cars as well.

September 17, 2013

The average car in the US is 11 years old, like mine. I wanted to keep my car for 20 years, but that’s not going to happen. It creaks and groans, and I have to add antifreeze more often than most people do. Maybe I can keep it four more years. No more road trips.  

I have super motivation to take care of it since it's also my home, although I’m tempted at times to try to get a new vehicle NOW to make car-living more comfortable. A newer car (a small SUV) would be more spacious and fuel-efficient. It’s currently not part of my plan, though. When I think about deviating from my plan, I look at my written plan and bring myself back. Whenever I get my next vehicle, I hope I can pay it off in a year, if not pay cash.

Lying to Rosalinda & the importance of friends

September 7, 2013

I slept at the apartments (parked on the street) and the night was again peaceful and uneventful. I washed up at storage before going to church. I washed my hair in the sink and my Afro looked shiny, curly, and shaped well. I rearranged a few things in storage. Every time I rearrange things, my unit gets more and more spacious.

I went to a churchmember’s house for dinner and explained why moved out from Uncle Theo’s house. Of course, Rosalinda, caring as she is, asked questions about where I lived (my story was that I'm living with my friend Jasmine). I hate lying to people about my situation. If she knew the truth, she would offer me her home. A week ago when she found out that Uncle Theo was going to charge me crazy dog rent, she said she would offer to keep Joey, except her daughter has allergies. 

I have to remember to always use the bathroom when I visit other people’s houses. I didn’t use the bathroom at Rosalinda’s house, but 20  minutes later, while sitting at the park, I felt the urge. I went to a 7-11 bathroom later – Ugh!

So far, I haven't missed not having a home to go to after work or on weekends. I'm sure eventually that "hanging out" everywhere will get old and I'll crave someone's couch and tv.  Though I'm a lifelong loner, and very content being one, I realize that I want to build more relationships with friends so I don't feel like I’m using the same people over and over again. I have wanted to go to Uncle Theo’s and borrow things – his hole punch, hammer and nails – but I refused to go over because I don’t want him to feel taken advantage of (which he said he felt because of the low rent he was charging me). I could offer him money to use his things, but that changes the relationship – we’re family, so I’ll keep my business relationships with businesses and family relationships with family. 

I left my phone at church today and didn't realize it until tonight. No voice calls, no text, no Internet, no alarm, no voice recorder to record my thoughts about being homeless, no radio for times when I don’t want to use the car battery to listen to the radio.

So, what did I do in this limited state? I read books, uncluttered my car, took my waist and breast measurements, planned for Sabbath school, then planned for day school. In other words, I used the time really wisely.

Should I answer the phone?

September 10, 2013

I slept on the upper deck of the hospital garage yesterday. I had to park between cars and not at the edges of the lot where the security cameras are. I really didn't want to park BETWEEN cars because I’m not sure if people would see me as they came and went during the night. 

I woke up this morning and started to sit up in the back seat when I realized that there were no cars (like 6 empty spaces) between me and the security camera. I froze. If I sat up, would someone on the camera see me? I laid back and dozed for another hour. I had time. It was a good sleep. Finally, I woke up and said, “Oh, well. Gotta take my chances.” I got out of the car from the passenger door and got into the driver’s seat. It’s not that I thought someone would come running out saying, “Hey, you! Did you sleep in that car? That’s not allowed!” I just don’t want security guards to be put on alert for a Honda with my color and tag number so they’re waiting for me the next time I come by - hopefully tomorrow night.

Yesterday, I paid off an account that had been sent to collections. Today I put my student loan on forbearance for 3 more months. I paid on an overdue credit card bill, and I called a doctor’s office to dispute charges on another bill. So when my phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number, I was tempted to let it go to voice mail since it might be a bill collector. However, I couldn't think of who it could be since I had just acted on so many accounts. I answered the phone.

I’m so glad I did. It was Steve a former neighbor from Baltimore where I used to live. His wife and my fiancée died within a year of each other. He and his wife are beautiful spirits. It was good to hear his voice again after maybe 4-5 years. I didn’t have his number anymore since I’m on my 3rd cell phone since the last time I talked to Steve. The last two crashed with my phone numbers in them.

I don’t know if he would have left a message, but a thing like debt could have kept me from answering his call. Debt can interrupt relationships.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Some good websites and quotes found in them about mobile homelessness Woman with a baby blogs about her experience.

In the hierarchy of homelessness - and sadly there is such a thing - Kevin’s situation (living in a car knowing it’s truly temporary) ranks near the top.

“The constant search for safe parking and resources, such as showers and food, requires a lot of shuffling, a lot of organization, something I don't think most people associate with homelessness,” says Dr. Wakin.

For those living in their cars invisibility is the goal.

I like the polls that this writer has on her website. My favorite was

Reader Poll:

What is the worst part of living in a car?

  • 18% Having to live in a car.
  • 0% Lack of space.
  • 18% Not enough privacy.
  • 24% My boss/family/friends finding out I'm homeless.
  • 0% Too hot/Too cold.
  • 24% Too hard to find a place to spend the night.
  • 12% No room to store food/having to buy food one meal at a time.
  • 6% Other
17 people have voted in this poll.
If you've been reading this blog, you won't be surprised at my answer. I said finding a place to sleep at night. 

Days 8 & 9 - The biggest blessing of being mobile homeless

I just completed one whole week living as a homeless person, though I admit my experience is drastically different from most homeless people's.

So, I was sitting around Sunday evening with nothing to do, and there were two hours before bedtime. I actually used the time productively. In a house, I would have watched television. In my car, I researched how to write children's books, then I washed clothes at the laundromat. On Monday I wrote an entire first draft for a children's book called The Copycats. After work, I began illustrating it. I finished half the book.

I was cleaning out my purse and looked in my Goals Notebook: a little notebook I used to write SMART goals in. I haven't used it in a while, but I did write something in it this summer. My goal was to have an organized room and get rid of enough belongings so that all of my stuff fits comfortably in my storage unit, including teaching supplies. I forgot about that goal, but God didn't.  I reached it without knowing it, all because of going homeless.

I was reading about how some people become homeless through eviction or foreclosure. They throw everything into the car at the last minute because they've been in denial that they were actually being thrown out. Everything is disorganized and in shambles, and I’m sure that what it looks like on the outside is also what they feel like on the inside.

I thank God that He saw this coming when I didn’t see it coming. Two years ago, He taught me how to organize things in my apartment into boxes and eliminate clutter. I didn’t master it, but what I learned sure helped when I moved from the apartment to the room at Uncle Theo's. I got even better at clutter-management when I lived at Uncle Theo's. When I moved into my car – that was efficiency and organization stretched to the max. I didn’t know that I would be moving into my car. I had one week to adjust to the idea while cleaning out an apartment and starting school ALL IN THE SAME WEEK. I thank God for preparing me for this moment. It feels good to know my things are organized during such an uncertain time in my life. 

Two years ago, God not only helped me organize my things, but also to organize my time and my planning processes. Those skills are coming in handy, too. I feel greater urgency to finish projects – board games and books. I can’t just sit around and be creative. I have to be PRODUCTIVE. This living situation might be the swift kick in the pants that I really need to move to the next step. I can’t share this excitement with people who know me, yet. but thanks for letting me share it with you, reader. 

More Background Story - Uncle Theo raised the rent

I was renting a room from my uncle before I became homeless. When he upped the rent with one week's notice, I decided to move out. I needed to pay down debt, and I couldn't let a rent increase slow me down.

One of his reasons was, "I weighed the costs of renting the room at such a low rate and decided it wasn't worth it." Fair enough. I don't think he told me the full story, but if my dog and I were more trouble than $450 was worth, I'll move on.

Well, yesterday while talking to Aunt Theo, she revealed that his hours at work have been cut. He's now working only part time. I wasn't glad to hear about his decrease in income. Yet, I wondered, Maybe he raised my rent to make up for the shortfall? I get the impression that he didn't expect me to turn it down. Maybe he thought I had no where else to go, and, therefore, I would have to take the deal.

I'll wait and see if he changes his mind and decides to invite me back. But I don't think I'll go back. I want to follow Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps and attack my debt with "gazelle intensity." I'm excited about the idea of paying $500 or more per month towards debt reduction, which I wouldn't be able to do if I were paying rent anywhere.

I'm not sure if Uncle Theo's intentions came from a good place (sincere reasons) or not (greed) but it really resulted in a blessing for me. His request led to me making this major decision to live like I'm living.

Life Routines Are Falling Into Place

This weekend at church I taught Sabbath School. I brought in a snow cone machine and a bag of ice and told students I need to hire a helper to help with preparing snow cones. What qualities should I look for? What questions should I ask in my hiring interview? They worked in small groups to discuss qualities and questions. Then I asked if God were looking for worshippers, what qualities would He look for? At the end of the lesson, I actually chose students to help with preparing snow cones.

Well, I had ice left over, which I put in a cooler. The next day it was still frozen, so I felt comfortable buying food that needed to be kept refrigerated (salads, frozen vegetarian meats, a small tub of Ben & Jerry's). I rearranged the trunk and actually have room for the cooler. (the more I rearrange and organize things, the more space I seem to have). This may be my weekend survival technique - filling the cooler with a $2 bag of ice to hold food over the weekend.

I also managed to make room for a box to keep my weekly clothes in. Now, I just need to iron them. I was going to use my classroom for that; however, the laundromat has an outlet next to a folding table and my storage building has outlets in the hallways (I can setup my ironing board in front of an outlet and iron for 30 minutes once a week).

My car is looking better and better. One week ago it was so cluttered I refused to park it in the school parking lot. I parked it on the street one block away. Today, the front seat and half of the back seat are clear. The other side of the back seat houses my bedding. My toiletries bag and workbag are on the floor of the back seat along with some groceries I just bought.

I make it a point to use the bathroom whenever I'm visiting someone's house. No telling when I'll come across a clean, fresh-smelling, fully stocked bathroom again. When I use public bathrooms I look at them with a different eye, now. I inspect them with the thought, "Will I need to wash-up in here one day?" Yesterday, I used the bathroom at the laundromat. The women's bathroom was out, so I used the men's. It was DEFINITELY a men's bathroom. There were no paper towels or soap. I don't mean the bathroom was out - I mean there were no dispensers! It was like men don't need or expect these things, so don't bother installing them. And, the toilet didn't half flush. Definitely not a place to get ready for my day.

When it's close to bedtime, I prepare my bedding in the back seat in one place, then I drive to where I will sleep that night and climb in the back seat and go to sleep. In the morning I do the opposite. For instance, this morning I woke up at the apartment complex and climbed into the driver's seat. Then I drove to storage and put the bedding away. I don't want anyone to see me prepare my bed and go to sleep, obviously. That's too attention-getting.

Trouble With My Sleeping Places

my bed in the back seat
I've been wondering what would happen if I started to get towed while at the condo parking lot sleeping in the backseat. If I woke up and realized I was being towed, I would start blowing the horn like crazy. Would they stop and unhook my car and let me go with a "My bad"? Well, I looked at some unofficial places online (Yahoo), and it looks like they could ask me to vacate the vehicle, which for me would be my home. So, I can't take that chance.

I left there and drove to Willow Acres Hospital parking lot. I was feeling so confident about staying there as I parked in my usual, well-lit spot. Then, before I could climb into the back seat, I looked up and there in my face was a security camera. How did I miss that the first two times? I froze. I imagined someone staring at a computer monitor in the hospital looking dead at my car. I was right in front of the camera. I cranked up and drove to a higher level and there were cameras there, too, situated in front of the best parking spots for a car-dweller.

The highest level seemed to be the darkest part of the parking garage and my best bet, but I had spent enough time driving around in front of the security cameras that I decided not to stay there at the hospital at all last night. I drove to Wild Overland Apartments and slept soundly. I don't like having only one option, though. And Wild Overland is farther away than the hospital and the condo. I'm back to square one - finding more sleeping places.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 5 - The Upperclass of the Mobile Homeless

Last night, I parked in an old neighborhood where cars can park on the street without a parking sticker or the threat of towing. I made a good judgment call. There were plenty of cars parked on the street. Mine blended right in. I climbed in the back seat and quickly laid down so no one would see me sitting there in the back seat. The sidewalk is far enough from the street that I don’t have to worry about people looking in accidentally.

One thing I didn’t anticipate – there were tons of kids walking to the bus stop when I woke up. Fortunately, they were wrapped up in their devices or talking to each other that they didn’t seem to notice me. It was a good place to park, but I need to leave out ½ hour earlier and park on the other side of the street where fewer kids passed by. 

When I woke up it was chilly, and I expected that. It's very important to check weather reports if you're going to live in your car. However, I DIDN’T EXPECT my heat to be busted, too. I busted the condensor and radiator in my car 3 weeks ago. I knew that meant no AC. I can go without AC, but not heat. I’m begging to get sick if I don’t have heat in the wintertime. I hope God fixes it without me needing to spend money.

One another note, this thought came to me today: I must be in the upper class of mobile homeless. First, I’m very blessed to have a job. Many mobile homeless are homeless because they are out of work. Second, I have a storage unit. I’m not driving around with a junked up car - looking homeless. Third, I’m a teacher. I have a whole classroom and cabinet space to keep things - not just a locker, like on a factory job. Some jobs give you no place to keep your things. In my classroom, I can keep food (perishable or refrigerated). There's a microwave, a phone, computers with Internet access, privacy (my door locks and my classroom is not in a main area of the building). The teacher bathrooms are one-unit, so if I need to wash up one day at school, it would be easy. I’m making plans now to bring my toaster oven and maybe a small burner into my classroom so I can bake, boil, sauté, etc in  my classroom when there are no students there.

I definitely don’t brag about it because it could be taken away in a minute. Every time I look around my classroom, or think about my situation, I feel appreciation. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 4 - Blowing My Own Cover

I've got to be  more careful waking up in the morning. I'm slow at waking up, even in an apartment. I need to roll over a few times, hit snooze, sit up and just look out the window for a few minutes. I can't do that now. 

Last night I slept in the hospital garage again - the exact same spot - and felt very safe. When I woke up this morning, I sat up and looked around for a few minutes, from the back seat of the car. Then a pickup truck came by and it had writing on it. The driver paused just after passing my car and looked back at me. I immediately opened the door and proceeded to put my shoes on and act like I was just at my car, I dunno, doing "something?" He drove off. I wonder if he was hospital security.

So I drove off. It was only 4:30 am. Where was I going to go? I had gone to bed early and wasn't sleepy anymore. 

So, I drove to my second "address" - the former condo building I used to live in. I parked in the parking lot and just listened to the radio until I felt sleepy again. However, I didn't want to climb back into the back seat. Remember, I don't know if they tow or not in that parking lot. I didn't want a tow truck to pull my car off not seeing me in the back seat. So I stayed in the front seat and fell asleep, occasionally opening my eyes when I heard cars passing me. Some people looked at me. 

I'm blowing my own cover. 

So, here's what I'll do: tint my windows and get a sunshield for the windshield. Until then, I'll try to stay low.

I spent my evening in the park today. The weather was pleasant, so I cleaned out my car. My car was embarrassingly junkie on Monday 3 days ago. However, by this evening the back seat and floor were clear. The only things in the back seat are my bedding, a bag of toiletries, a knife (for protection), and even houseshoes. I could fit two people in the backseat.

One piece of advice I got from a fellow homeless person online was not to wear my tennis shoes too much in the car – they will smell and so will my car. So, when I’m not driving I wear houseshoes.

Another bit of advice I read was to keep the car clean from smells. I guess since I will be breathing in the car all night and sweating and eating in the car, I have to be especially mindful of odors. 

Tomorrow is preparation day for the Sabbath. Instead of cleaning a whole apartment, I have my car (and myself) to clean. I decided to do a really thorough wash-up on Friday mornings (rather than my usual quick sponge bath), then wash my hair on Sabbath mornings before church. Also, I'll make Fridays "car cleaning day." I will gas up, vacuum (using carpet powder), and even wipe the windows and doors if necessary.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 2 - 3 Rules for Living Out of Your Car

I keep going online looking for stories and tips from other people who have had to live out of their cars for a while. The biggest question is, "Where do you park your car at night?"

Last night, my first night homeless, I parked in the parking lot of a condo building I used to live in. I happen to know that they just got rid of their nighttime security guard. I think God allowed me to find out that information just in time because he knew I would need to sleep there. I slept in the front seat, easily seen. I couldn't let the seat back or hide in the back seat because the rest of my car was cluttered and filled with stuff I haven't been able to fit into my storage unit, yet. It was an embarrassing sight to see - my stuff, I mean - not me sleeping in the car.

When I woke up, I high-tailed it out of there before lots of people could wake up and see me as they left for work. I may need that spot again, and I don't want people to start getting annoyed or suspicious.

I washed up at my storage building. They have the nicest bathroom you will ever see for a storage building - toilet seat covers, ceramic tile floors, automatic paper towel dispensers, and, most importantly, cleanliness. It's a one unit, so I can completely disrobe, take a sponge bath, and lay out my supplies without sharing the area.

I got a little sleepy at work today. That's a no-no. My 3 biggest rules for living out of my car are:
1. Never be dirty.
2. Never be hungry.
3. Never be tired.

Those 3 things will have people asking questions. Questions lead to the truth. So, I better get some sleep tonight.

My Story

Here is some of my story.

After years of trying to invest in my own businesses, and being out of work for six months, and finally finding a job that I LOVE but doesn't pay a lot, I decided I had way too much debt. To decrease my debt, I gave up my apartment and looked for a room to rent. My uncle offered me a room in his house.

Sometimes I thought to myself, "I could really save a ton of money if I didn't have to pay any rent to anybody." But living out of my car was a crazy idea. I was a professional middle class person - a teacher - and I had a dog. The whole idea was just silly.

After a year with my uncle, I leased an apartment to house some relatives who were visiting me for the summer, but I told my uncle I would be back in the fall.

1.5 weeks ago, as I was preparing to move back into my uncle's house, he texted me and said the rent was increasing. To make a long story short (I'll tell you the long version later), I decided this was the time. I would live in my car. I would follow Dave Ramsey's advice and live like no one else so that one day I can live like no one else (although he never said live in your car).

There was one glitch: I couldn't tell a soul.

My family and friends would never let me do this. I'm grateful to have people who would offer me a room, a couch, or something other than my car. However, I don't want to stay with anyone right now because I will insist on paying rent, paying the utility bills, buying the groceries, or SOMETHING, which defeats the purpose of what I'm trying to do - save money and kill the debt.

I've calculated that if I stay in my car for 10 months, and if I put my uncle's rent ($400) towards a bill each month, that $4000 will pay off one credit card and half of another. I will also be able to build up my emergency fund to $1000 without living paycheck to paycheck.

So that's my plan. September 2, 2013, Labor Day, was my first official day as a homeless person. For the first time ever in my life, I had nowhere to go that night and call home.

Day 3 - Getting Organized

my storage unit

Last night was my 2nd night sleeping in my car. I slept at the bottom level of a hospital garage, in a space against the wall. I felt safe. Though the area was well-lit, I was able to stretch out in the back seat and position my head in a spot where I could get some shadows and not have the lights directly in my face.

My alarm went off at 6 am. I was tempted to keep snoozing a little while longer, but I heard cars moving around and didn't want too many people to arrive and see me waking up. I hope to make this my go-to spot. My legs felt a little cramped when I stretched them to get out of the car. I hope I don't develop arthritis in my knees. I need to find another way to stretch out more in the back seat of that Honda.

This morning, I washed up again in the bathroom of my storage building. There are cameras in the building, but I haven't seen any near the bathroom. I wonder if anyone watching security cameras will eventually realize that I'm using their business as my main wash-up/toileting facility each morning.

I arranged my storage unit so that my clean clothes and dirty hamper are near the door. That way getting to my clothes and doing laundry should be easy. Dishes, cleaning supplies, books, games, etc are all pushed towards the back of the unit.

One task on my agenda today is to start keeping a food log and a weather log. The food log will help me ensure I'm eating properly. The weather log will help prepare for ---the weather, of course. Last night, the temperature was so comfortable - mid 60's. I will remember that. I felt very cool (a little too cool) when I opened the car door this morning with no shoes on. That was a taste of what will be coming in one more month, so I better get ready.