Dealing With The Physical Challenges of Living ‘Homeless’

Need to take a dump? You run to the bathroom. Feel like taking a nap? You cozy up in your bed or on your sofa. Hungering for a sandwich? All the fixin’s are right in your fridge.

Homelessness makes the most basic things we take for granted — things like indoor plumbing, sleeping, eating, and washing — take on the weight and gravity of herculean pursuits. The execution of basic tasks calls for inventiveness, discipline, respect and timing. And trust me it gets old quick, demanding an enduring acceptance of current conditions while undergoing the trials and triumphs of redemption and restoration.

What you are able to do within the space in your home I must find a way to do over the space of an entire city. I sleep in my car and have done so mostly in Anderson about 11 miles south of Redding; shower at the gym in Redding; work to and fro within Redding; eat wherever; and get online at the library either in Redding or in Anderson or in the Walmart parking lot (wifi) in Anderson on the nights I sleep there. Lately, I’ve been sleeping on a street around the corner from the Mission where several others sleep in their cars. I’m spared the time and cost of the trip to and from Anderson and because I generally don’t eat at the Mission anymore I don’t have to concern myself with the Mission rule that forbids parking and sleeping in your car within 4 blocks of the Mission or else you receive no services of any kind.

It’s been 5 months now that I am sleeping in my car. I never imagined this happening in the first place and once it did I never imagined it going for this long. Nevertheless, to make the best of it as I work my way out of it is the only thing to do for the moment.

Showering at the new gym, opened since September 15th, has been a godsend. I work out consistently now, too, because of it. I go there to shower and get a workout in the process. There’s no way I’d go in, shower, and then just leave without waking up. That’s too ballsy! The gym is 24/5, meaning it’s open 24 hours a day Monday thru Friday and 7am to 7pm Saturday and Sunday, so I can go any time. I’ve never been into working out in gyms or working out at all, really. Except for the one year in 2002 that I joined the Y in Springfield, Missouri when I ballooned up to 302 pounds — I did it to lose weight and lost 98 pounds in that year – I never worked out in a gym and never cared to. The great thing is that my gym membership costs $20/month whereas a single shower at the truck stop is $13 and $5 at the YMCA.

When I work out now I enjoy feeling very much rooted in my body, my senses grounded in the solidity of my body. Greater awareness of each contraction and release of muscle, of the beating of my heart, my lungs panting for more air, heighten every sensation and experience. I take careful notice of the buildup of heat underneath my skin until it breaks forth as that very first bead of sweat to roll off my head. Then another bead. Then a shower of sweat until my entire body glistens with the waters of exertion. Following the workout and shower I leave feeling balanced and renewed.

I wasn’t always so present in my body. I was easily more inclined to dreamy spaces of possibilities where I could reside in the wonder of the imagined while removed from imminence and consequence. This dreamy escapism has always been a challenge for me and learning to accept it, to accept myself as I am, allows me to see how to integrate it and work with it rather than seek to resist and improve or correct it. Being in my body, being here and now, used to mean being present with my fears and haunts and the whispers of a mind buried under shadow. I’ve learned and am learning still how to sit with them and accept them, thus opening the way to understanding and a newfound compassion for that damaged persona I thought was me and for others who might be struggling similarly with a twisted notion of a damaged and inadequate self.

Work-wise, in the last few weeks I’ve shifted my focus with Business Funding Express from offering texting to now offering business loans. The reason is simply that the loans offer a bigger commission and I need a good chunk of money fast to carry out my relocation to the Oregon Coast and fund my t-shirt business. Thus far I’ve submitted 3 files for business loans and the first 2 were denied. I’m waiting on a decision on the third file submitted. I’ve chosen to bootstrap the t-shirt biz rather than seek loans or investors or partners for now. I still plan on creating a crowdfunding campaign, if needed, once I’ve filed for the trademarks.

You can support the cause by buying a Healing Voyage t-shirt. It will raise needed funds for the business and 10% of the profits goes to the Good News Mission in Redding, CA. You get a cool t-shirt for contributing to a very worthy project and cause.

Work with the surveys is steady, still part-time. It’s not easy to sit and poll people continuously for 5 to 8 hours especially when it’s politics. The surveys are wordy with clunky phrasing and discomfiting political slants. The tedium can be taxing or, when I’m feeling more rested and enthused, a worthy disciplining of the will. Still, I’m thankful for what it is in my life right now.

Sleep is still a significant challenge. It’s difficult to get comfortable in the ‘Hotel Stratus’ (2004 Dodge Stratus). I can’t stretch out like I’d like to. I sleep in the driver’s seat with the seat fully reclined. I’ve gotten more used to it but there are too many nights of constantly twisting and turning for the most comfortable position. Some mornings I wake up with lower-back pain and stiffness. I don’t complain because at least I do have a car and I don’t have to sleep on the streets….but I am tired all the time and it’s affecting my short-term memory.

Another concern with sleeping in the car is that because my legs and feet are always at a lower point then the rest of my body fluid will gather in my feet and ankles causing them to swell. One morning I awoke, this was back in early June, and my feet, ankles, and lower legs were painfully, hideously swollen. I panicked, thinking it was a sign of impending death. My feet could not fit into my shoes and I could feel the pain of my skin stretching around my swelling legs and feet. I thought my skin was going to tear. Walking in my sandals, which I could squeeze my feet into but could not fasten the straps, was very painful. I looked up my symptoms online and discovered that edema was a sign of a coming stroke or heart attack. In my case I had eaten way too much sodium during a short stretch wherein I ate a jar of sauerkraut every day for a week, not realizing how much sodium sauerkraut contains. I made immediate changes to my diet and started walking more. It’s ironic that I was eating so much sauerkraut for the life-enhancing, probiotic benefits when in fact it could have killed me! Anyway, I still get swelling though nowhere near as much as that episode in June. Activity, like walking, and low sodium meals is key. However, I eat what I can buy in stores or the occasional fast food meal and these foods tend to have lots of sodium. Now, I just eat peanut butter and sliced bananas on sourdough bread and that’s what I survive on every day. It keeps me from feeling hungry and it’s pretty damn tasty, too.

I look forward to the day when I am back on my feet, as they say. I look forward to lying down in a bed, flat and comfy; I look forward to bathing whenever I want to in private; I look forward to going to the bathroom without feeling watched suspiciously by store personnel; I look forward to having a place I can call home and to be able to spend time with Solomon and Salvador; I look forward to the day when I no longer feel conspicuously homeless, like a social misfit in the eyes of others; I look forward to not having to hide anymore in public spaces where I am at times confronted by the sneers and snickers of others who do not understand, do not care, who do not feel what I feel.

But then, if I were ‘them’ looking at me, I would do exactly the same because we all react and respond according to how things occur to us, not necessarily as they are.

Lack of shelter should not equate to lack of Humanity. Yet, if you are ‘homeless’ you are looked upon as something not quite fully Human, at least in the way that others see….and judge. I may be on the streets right now but I have more love, empathy, and understanding than I did before I was ‘homeless’ but the world does not see the heart. And if it could, would it care?

When you look upon the ‘homeless’ what do you see? Do you see bums, losers, misfits, and rejects? Do you see filth and scum and feel contempt? Do you see junkies, whores, and thieves? Do you wish ‘they’ would go away, disappear from sight, or even from the Earth?

Well, guess what, when you look upon the ‘homeless’ I’d like for you to consider that you are seeing Creator in expression as that which you judge and detest. And by the same token, when you look upon the wealthy, the privileged, and the ‘powerful’ you are seeing Creator in expression as that, too. And on some hidden, quantum level you are seeing yourself, seeing your light and your shadow being played out in the drama of life on Earth.

It’s all here and it’s all you. There is no running or hiding from it….unless, of course, you have a cozy ‘home’ to go and hide in.



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