A Weekly Cyberlog 2007



I guess, because of the stigma of the word “homeless” and the continuing image of everyone being “street people,” I am always amazed at the types of jobs that people create when faced with the serious situation of becoming/being homeless. Sometimes it’s pre-conceived due to an idea born of “something I could do, IF”…and sometimes a job needed comes from just looking around wherever you are and noticing that something is missing. This week I’ll present at least two different stories of how a person became homeless – and chose an RV as a “nest” as well as a place of business.

Desiree` (she insists that that is her given name and I should use it) is about 58 and has traveled from OR across country to summer on the East Coast where she can find new customers. She will return to the West Coast for the winter.

“…I had my own company, umm, well, a tiny printing company near Portland, for over 20 years when my husband decided that I didn’t fit his need for a slinky 22- year-old and just moved out. He left me his dog and some dirty clothes….I didn’t know that he had mortgaged the house three times so that there was no equity and that was what ended my career…and home….What I did have was a relatively new motor home that was only in my name because my husband had announced that he was gonna go into bankruptcy if I didn’t give him a quick divorce. Well, I had to let the bank have my house, and my mind was made up beforehand that I’d have to live in it. He, of course, just moved in with the redhead, so he had a home. He had planned to use the motor home to travel to Florida and play house with Miss BigBoobs. She was supposed to support them by stripping on a pole or something sleazy….

Anyways, I got myself, I mean my mind, into RV life and just plain wanted to get away from OR. I went to Vegas first, but I saw the little money I had disappearing, and there wasn’t anything I could think of as work there. Everyone was in the casinos….I kept traveling East and stopped in a few cities and didn’t like their lifestyles. At my age, it wasn’t exactly easy to get any job, and I’m not pretty or slim….I hit the East Coast corridors and noticed something that I hadn’t before on any of the major highways: RVing women with pets. Some were the poodle types that need grooming…and they weren’t getting the care they needed. I knew all about dog grooming because of my husband’s Westie. [She told me later that she gave the dog to his sister since her brother had abandoned it with his ex-wife as some kind of a revenge tactic.]

There I was, with a big motor home, and it flashed on me that I had a business right in my place. Well, mostly out of the motor home because of the mess and smells….I had cheap cards made up and put them up on bulletin boards as soon as I found a place where I’d stay for more than a day. My business is called “Travelin’ Tails,” and I’ve got a following, sort of, since I found that a lot of women just travel between the best Rest Areas along the five or so highways that are in the Northeastern states….I take requests for grooming in advance now and am making decent money with this business. I like it, too. Isn’t that the purpose of working?”

Leslie (age 61) was buying groceries when I noted the large amounts of kerosene candles in her basket. That is always a clue to me that someone is cooking out of a vehicle. I followed her to her van and when the doors opened, I saw lots of belongings crammed inside, organized to leave a big space in the middle and an aisle to it from the back door. I could see a parrot in a cage, a fish tank, and a ferret scampering to and fro on a leash. It wasn’t difficult to move my car quickly next to hers (parked away from others). Pretending to have trouble locking my car, I called to her for help. She hesitated, but did come to my car and with the door opened, she saw MY lot of clothing, cooking stove, bedroll, and all sorts of “giveaway” stuff. She asked if I was traveling, and I responded that it was most of my yearly lifestyle. We got to chatting after that admission.

“I worked for GM for a lot of years and got messed up in their decline and final closing. My IRA was just about wiped out and I was so close to retirement that I cried for days before I realized that all I was doing was creating crows feet and puffy eyes….I applied everywhere for any kind of a job I could do and pay for my apartment, utilities, food, and necessities. Everyone seemed to be out of a job, and I had less qualifications than most….I moved to PA to be near my son, but his wife doesn’t like me and makes me know it. I kept my cheap room for only about 4 months before I decided I just couldn’t stay there. I was so sad….

I moved to a nearby town and got another job in a car dealership office, and someone had left a large van there for repairs. It stayed for a month or so and no one showed up to pick it up or pay for it. Finally, the office found out that the owner had died and had no family, so the van would be auctioned-off. I asked the office manager if I could get it before the auction, and since she was really nice and knew my situation, she asked the dealership owner if I could make payments on it with my paycheck until it was ready for regular white paper payments. I scrimped and saved and practically starved, and moved to a very seedy room in a terrible part of town, but I finally had enough to make it mine….

I wanted to get to the best weather so I could live in the van all year. I traveled slowly when I got to the D.C. area and then went day by day up toward Canada. I found terrific Rest Areas all along the I-95 and other roadways up the near-coastal areas, and when I found the CT and MA Rest areas, I was thrilled…I needed to work, and I began to look carefully in all of the towns with someplace where I could keep the van for nights. Oh! I forgot the malls! The area had to have a big mall so that I could feel like a regular person! It’s a winter home, really, and the bigger the better, since I could move around, eat at the food courts cheaply, and spend all day if necessary until they closed….I found a job at another car dealership, but I wanted something as my own business. I couldn’t think of a thing….

I’m chatty Cathy, so at every Rest Area where I could barbeque and spend a nice off-day, I talked to women who were obviously traveling alone and didn’t seem to be retired and just traveling for fun. They kept mentioning their pets, like birds, cats, dogs, and even lizards – and the problems of pet-sitting and finding the proper pet products. Gee; I was watching TV commercials for all kinds of pet products, and thought I might be able to get into the game as a business….I contacted some of the companies who had the unusual items that the women mentioned, and took a chance and got a lot of special items. My first lot was for cats: special climbing poles that fit into SUVs in a corner. They were wonderful looking and kept the cats from climbing on the driver. They sold out quickly, and I reordered. Then I got creative dog bowls that didn’t tip. They sold out. I found a close-out sale on cat and dog toys and they sold out….

I now have a catalog that I pass out at Rest Areas with my cell number and email address and can stock up on particular items when I hit an area where women are going to meet me. They buy a lot at once, so I always have money to re-order and my stock keeps going up in price. I think I can do this indefinitely and not have to depend on a job somewhere that I hate….I’m the owner of “Pets On The Road.”

Maybe YOU have run across an unusual business from a “home-vehicle”? I’d like to hear more stories!