Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Adventures in Homelessness, The Mobile Home

Since the New Year, I've converted my mid '90's full sized van into a mobile home (of sorts).

I've also received some interesting questions to common problems, to which I've had rather creative solutions.

"What does it look like?"
It resembles a stereotypical FBI surveillance van or a contractor van. It's all white, without side windows, without writing, all the hubcaps look new and new tires.

"Where do you park?"
I typically park in industrial parks, where there are literally 20 other identical vans used for delivery.

"Where do you keep your stuff?"
I rented a storage locker for $168 per month, which has a light socket. I've added a 'wall plug' to the light socket to siphon off electricity to charge any of my electrical toys.

"Where do you eat?"
My job has a pretty nice 'break-room', that has a refrigerator and freezer, a toaster oven, a coffee pot, a microwave and sink. I keep a few days worth of food at work, either in the fridge, freezer or my works locker.

"Where do you use the bathroom?"
While I have a 5 gallon pail fitted with trash bag liners, 2 lids, one which has an actual toilet seat fitted onto the pails lid, and standard 'kitty litter' to handle the initial smells, I have only needed to use it twice, during the weekends when I am not working, and spending time alone.

"Where do you shower?"
I paid for a gym membership. My gym has a swimming pool, a spa, a sauna, and a few dozen showers, besides lockers and a full supply of every thinkable kind of exercise equipment.

"Where do you sleep? Is it warm?"
This is the question that's asked most often...  Yes, it's VERY warm, and I don't need to run my engine to keep it warm, but it's because I've become creative. I have a queen sized air mattress and a 'bag hammock', depending on what I feel like at the time. I've also installed a 'backup battery', ran parallel to the 'main battery', and set up to connect to the 'main battery', with a electric solenoid, because the high amperage switch was more costly.  I have a simple low amp (fused) switch to control the solenoid activated 'high amp' line (also fused) to charge the 'house battery'.

The 'house battery' is a pair of 1,000 cold cranking amp, deep cycle, deep cell marine batteries ran parallel. It has a 1,500 watt power inverter connected directly to it, with bluetooth control, voltage cutout control, and also controlled 'on/off' with switch on the dash.  It controls a 40 foot, 40 watt LED rope light, zip tied to the ceiling, an 80 watt electric blanket, besides having the capacity to charge my phone, tablet, netbook, laptop, and all my peripheral external storage drives, a special router to 'bounce' (capture and rebroadcast) any unsecured wireless connections (along with a home-made directional antenna).

In general, here's how I have spent my days.

I wake up at 4 am. I get dressed from a small bag of clothes, which carry 5 pairs of each type of clothes; jeans, shirts, socks, underwear, and I pull on my boots. I turn off the switch to all the 'house items'. I start my van after checking the fluids. After starting the van, I switch the solenoid 'on' from having depleted the battery from the previous evening. I typically let my van warm up for about 5 minutes before driving it anywhere, usually enjoying a cigarette while I walk around it. Then, I drive the 10 to 15 minutes to work, getting the initial charge in the 'house batteries', and spending another cigarette after arriving, letting the van idle for a total of a half hour. I leave the solenoid connected after shutting off the engine.  Then I go into works office.  I pour myself a hot cup of coffee, and use the bathroom before my shift starts at 5 am.  Generally, I'll make a large salad, some oatmeal, or eat some yougert which I picked up from the grocery store the night before, as well as make a few cold meat sandwiches for my lunch while studying the days paperwork. Then I spend 8 to 14 hours driving a local route, delivering to businesses. When I return to work, I usually throw something in the toaster oven or microwave from the freezer, and use the bathroom again. After my meal, I visit my storage locker (if I need to), to exchange my laptops, tablets, or any of my other electronic toys, gym clothes or swimsuits, shoes, or dry goods, laundry, guitar, pool cue...  et. cetera. Then, off to the gym to the exercise equipment, swimming pool, spa, sauna and shower, generally in that order.  After that, I drive to the grocery store and pick up the next days meal before returning to one of the 7 industrial parks which I've dubbed 'safe', where I restore 'house power' and turn off 'charging system'.  I air up the 'wall powered' air mattress, the router comes up and 'borrows' some guest internet, where I enjoy watching YouTube videos and music, my thermostatically controlled electronic blanket warms me so warm that I sleep in just my underwear.

Total cost per month:
Gym Membership: $40
Storage Unit: $168
Storage Unit Insurance: $21
Van Gas: $150
Van Insurance, Full Coverage: $110
Food: $300

I have two different mailing addresses, one at a USPS, and one to receive packages. The total cost for them is less than $50 per year.

During the weekend, I spend my time at several greasy-spoon coffee shops, where I can drink my weight in coffee while flirting with the waitstaff.

I spend less than a thousand per month, I have all of my immediate needs met, I'm warm, dry, and eating the most nutritious foods possible.

I simply don't find a point in paying $1,300 per month, before utilities, on an apartment which I'll visit less than the hours I spend at work.

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