What is Faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Cost of Being Homeless

This journey began 82 days ago. During this short time, the two of us have actually lived like the homeless. Actually we've lived a lot better than the homeless but we've limited ourselves tremendously, being on a very tight budget. To date our expenses are as follows:

$1875 gas
$847 food
$189 laundry
$176 showers
$2275 for car repair

Weekly total not including car repair = $280

Now...if we were truly homeless, we would not have had the money for the laundry. We would have taken advantage of the few shelters that had laundry facilities. We would have only had $400 in food stamps for food, probably wouldn't have needed the gas because we wouldn't have been able to afford the insurance let alone the gas and lastly we would not have been able to repair the care we didn't have.

Now to break it down to our terms.

Gas: Why did we need this much? Well, the rest stops have been few and far between. Mostly we drive 1-2 hours just to find a safe place to sleep. yes we could have slept at the shelters, but we didn't think it would have been fair to There is a lot of backtracking involved and a lot of driving to plan out the next days route. So far we have put just a tad over 10,000 miles on the van.
Laundry: I am a homeless snob and I use sheets. Yes sheets to cover the car seat I sleep in, and although I purposely didn't bring that many clothes and sometimes find myself wearing the same thing for three or four days in a row, we still have about 3 loads of laundry to do each week, which wasn't too bad in Oregon but in California the average load of wash is about $4.25 not including drying.
Showers: trying to find a place that allows showering only is pretty tough. Again, we don't want to take anything away from the homeless, so we limit ourselves to state park campground showers. Unless you are paying for a camp site, ($35 per night, so not in the budget) then you must pay for your shower. This can range anywhere from $1.75 to $5.00 depending on where you are. Let me tell you, you never know how much you miss this luxury until you go without one for 2 weeks. Yes I said two weeks. Yuck. Oh we washed up in gas station sinks, but it's certainly not the same thing!
Food: We have been trying diligently to live on $10 per day between the two of us, but it's hard to do. We have however been sticking to the 99 cent menu on whichever fast food restaurant suits our fancy. None of them suit mine. Being a chef, having a big burger from Carl's Jr. doesn't quite get it, but it's all we have the money for so that's all we have.

We rarely have vegetable unless they are on the 99 cent menu. We rarely have healthy protein unless it's on the 99 cent menu. Vitamins are a luxury and although we started out with them, when we ran out of them about 8 weeks back, we decided the budget couldn't support the luxury of health.

Speaking of which, the cost of homelessness is much more than monetary. Our heath is not failing but waning quickly on this trip. I've blogged about the swollen feet a few times, but I'll say it again just in case you didn't read any of those past blogs. The front seat of a mini van is not conducive to sleeping and our feet cannot be raised. When we wake in the morning our feet are swollen, sometime so badly that we either cannot tie our shoelaces or cannot put the shoes on at all.

Migraines are a constant companion, and can't honestly say whether it's from lack of healthy eating, lack of sleep or a combination of both. Either way, a good nights sleep is about 5 hours, six if we're lucky.

My hair is falling out at least four times as much as what is normal. My once thick crop of hair is thin, scraggly and lacks the luster it used to have. My gums are bleeding, sometimes just because I have bitten into something such as a tuna sandwich, and for no other reason.

What should be a golden tan is actually various shades of blotched brown and so incredibly dry that the cream I use just dissolves as if my skin were a sponge that can't get enough moisture.

I have walked off my callouses and new ones are forming. With the amount of walking though you'd think I would be loosing weight like crazy. Not so much. Not only are we eating non-healthy high fat meals, but we're also nibbling almost constantly. There are rarely places to just stop and take a refreshing afternoon snooze, so snacking is compulsory to get through the day.

Having begun this trip with a bad back, knees and hip, I can say that the calves are solid muscle now; the back's aches and pains have relocated and although still primarily the lower back, my neck is so stiff I cannot seem to hold my head up for any length of time of now; the hip goes out more often than I do these days, but...the knees are taking stairs a bit better than they were 3 months ago. YEAH.

So why am I telling you all of this boring personal information. Well, going through all of this has given me first hand personal experience of homelessness. Although I know there is an end to this, depression has set in a bit and I cannot help but wonder if I am going through all of this after only 82 days, how much more are the feelings of the homeless who cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.

They spend hours and hours walking each day because they have to not because they are on a mission. Sometime they walk just because they can't find a place to sleep. Others walk to collect things they can recycle in order to earn a few dollars or two.
Finding a place to sleep is a scary thing and more often than not, unless you are one of the lucky few to procure a bed, you're a bit out of luck. Depending on what city you are homeless in, what you eat can be less healthy than our daily bean and cheese burrito. Vitamins are a luxury for them as well and sleeping comes in half hour to hour long increments not the 3-5 we get.

I see these people and being the perpetual mother of the world, I want to take care of them all. I want to nurse them back to health and love them until they can love themselves and yet I know from experience, that is not the answer.

So all I can do is to support the shelters, so when they do reach that bottom, they will have the life preserver to hang on to when they are drowning in their miseries.

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