I was homeless but not homeless. This may sound as a strange statement, it’s really quite simple, I wasn’t living in a traditional home or apartment, instead I was living in a tent.
Without going into details, it all started out with my mismanagement of my life, causing me to lose most of what I owned and my job. After wandering around the city for days, spending a few nights in homeless shelters or sleeping on a bench or in a park field, I ran into someone who told me about the tent cities. He took me to two (2), both in the flats. I was surprised at how many people lived in tents, not just men, but women and believe it or not some families too. I decided on living at a place that had 5 other tents, and with me it made six (6). My neighbors were a married couple, 3 single men and a man and women staying together.
I had about $65.00 left, so I bought a two man tent. Small, but it was all mine. To me I felt I was in a palace. Things seemed alright at first, then one day I came back and found out I was robbed. I’m an insulin dependent diabetic. My insulin needles and other medication came up missing. Other items like the food I was able to get and clothes also was stolen. This caused me to go looking for another place to pitch my tent.
After asking around I found another place to move. I had to ask the others if it would be alright to come stay there. After being interviewed I was given the OK to be a part of their community, so I moved in with my tent. They said it was not good enough, too small, so they gave me a three man tent. My palace grew-expanded-by a whole 12” (1 foot). Still it seemed a lot bigger than my 2 man tent.
There’s rules of tent living.
Now back to my new tent city. There were 3 of us who lived there. The reason for the interview was it was a no drug use tent city. I was grateful for that. We had two grills and a solar shower. There is a Burger King, a Dollar Store, Walgreens, library and 2 or 3 gas stations nearby.
Almost every night some group would stop by and provide us with food, clothes, hygiene, blankets moral support. Some even Burger King gift cards and a little money. We also were visited by the police, asking if we were ok and yes providing us with a hot meal from Burger King, blankets, socks and gift cards.
All this sounds like paradise to some, but it was harder than you think. Its not like living in a house or apartment. I depended on others, if they could not be there due to weather or some other reason you went without. I depended on the weather for going out, cooking or a shower. If I did not get a bus pass for the day or a weekly pass. I had to walk. “(I was 4 miles from downtown where most of the resources for homeless or low income people received help).” This seems like good exercise, it could be until it’s raining, or snowing. You have to learn to be prepared. Check the area around your tent because you could be inviting unwanted guest. Fleas and ticks, flies and other bugs. With food being around, animals like rats tend to invade your tent. Again you must keep your area clean and keep your food items in secure plastic containers. Wash yourself and your clothes. At first I lived in my 2-man tent, then a 3 man and finally a large 6 man tent, (which seemed to be like living in a studio apartment), life seemed so simple. Freedom of bills, living in the open air, receiving help without needing to do anything for it, or even working to earn money. This all felt like a dream, then reality starts to set in. Mainly there’s no real security. You’re up to being robbed. Open to invasion of pest and disease, rats and other small animals. The weather, rains and winds, and snow, that can and have destroyed tents. Made it impossible to keep warm outside of covering up with a lot of blankets. This has caused some to pass away or get sick. Sometimes you go hungry, or have to go without a shower or clean clothes. If your tent was not covered with tarps, rain and snow come in, and when its cold and windy, it’s like a freezer in your tent. You can heat your tent using large candles with glass covers (glass domes with small openings in the top). You need to be careful or you can catch your tent on fire. You have to put the candle in the middle of a tin pan, with a bottle or jug of water. Yes, since you’re in a small enclosed space a candle will heat the area. You can also use the candle to heat water. Again using the candle glass dome and a tin pan. Using gloves to gold the pan or get burnt. Good to make coffee or a can of soup.
One of the main concerns when in the cold weather you need to have something between you and the ground. Blankets or have a cot like I did. Your body will freeze to death if you don’t put something between you and the cold ground.
I could go on and on about the dangers of tent living, but there is a good side to being free of traditional housing.
As I stated earlier, no rent or bills, (except a cell phone bill), like a water or electric, trash or home repairs. The best time is when it’s a cool summer day and you sit around a fire, enjoying a cold beer or soda. Watching the deer (yes there was deer in the field) passed by. Listen to the birds and look up at the stars at night. Feeling at peace with nature. Times like this you feel the weight come off your shoulders, a clear mind and a relaxed body.
This all depends on how fit you are – what you desire or want. Can you face the dangers, survive the cold, robberies, pest and other mishaps, life can be good, bad or ugly, it’s up to you to make happen what tent life will be. Most of all you must be prepared.