A Weekly Cyberlog

It’s time for me to get on the road again–for five consecutive months of roaming, searching,
interviewing, writing, and filming.  I have only missed one “summer” in the last nine years, and
that was due to bad weather.  I am looking forward to discovering the up-to-date survival tactics
of undetectable homeless people.  In other words, this is REALITY-BASED as-of-today material.
I have discussed the reasons for my main focus: women.  The bottom line is that men easily
reveal their attempts at anonymity while women are more capable of maintaining proper appear-
ance, composure, and mobility (or lack of it!) in polite society.

In my last Cyberlog, I explained that I have “been there, done that,” so that I notice the clues which
lead me to meet a woman living out of the vehicle which she calls “home.”  Women may also find
alternative housing in places one does not attach to the word “dwelling”: an empty store in an
almost abandoned strip mall (or even one in an enclosed mall); a side-tracked railroad car;
garages of seasonally-vacant homes (and occasionally within, as in a guest house); or even an
accessible cemetery crypt.

I won’t disclose exactly where in the United States I’ll be traveling now, but will do so when I return.
 I don’t want to take the chance that someone will be following me.  I stop often to wander around,
and any person with nothing else to do but pursue curiosity–or has read this column–could ruin
my strategies.  I will be providing photos of  places where I find such functional and self-reliant
people, but I will not reveal exactly where they are.  You’ll just have to wait for my return to “home

There are several areas which become a focus for attention: highway rest areas; main libraries;
enclosed and strip malls; expensive department stores; large upscale hotels; towns and rural
areas with mainly seasonal homes; and obvious boondocking locations.  (Boondocking means
free parking with little chance of being noticeable.) I fully expect to meet some of the invisible
homeless in such places, for they have been staples of reliability in the past.  As we go from
week to week, you will gain knowledge of what you or someone you know can do if the bottom
drops out of your (or another’s) world.

I think we need to discuss statistics about homeless people–and what that word has done to rattle
a lot of cages.  In the first place, the Census Bureau readily admits that they can’t even provide
accurate statistics in high-rise buildings (where many can live in one apartment without ever re-
vealing themselves as tenants) or in neighborhoods that have transient populations.  In particular,
Los Angeles has NO accurate statistics for the area around downtown which includes Skid Row.
People move around, come and go in shelters, and are lucky when they obtain a housing voucher
which enables the use of a motel room for a few days a month.  The problem that makes even
guessing about numbers an impossibility is that our hierarchy of government units doesn’t even
agree about the definition of “homeless”!  And they don’t agree with organizations which specialize
in helping the visible homeless.  For instance, if a person is able to live in a Skid Row-type motel
for a certain number of days a month, s/he isn’t considered to be “homeless.” Advocates and
activists argue this issue; it certainly knocks out any city’s ability to determine how many visible
homeless people they have!  This is fact, so how can anyone determine how many people are the
hidden homeless, living in anonymity: out of vehicles or hidden in buildings or even staying for a
time as someone’s guest?  In 2003, mobility is more important than ever.  If one has access to a
vehicle and can search for employment (or any kind of a “better life”) in an expanded area, there is
much more of an opportunity to find same...and with internet job searching, the functional seekers
can live out of a vehicle while pursuing what appears to be a mainstream “normal” life.  As I said,
it is women who survive anonymously better than men, for appearance is the operative word,
especially with an ever-increasing number of older (I use that term for anyone over 50) Americans
losing everything and taking to the road (after trying to live with friend and relatives).

I have been arguing with newspaper reporters and editors for years about “poverty.”  I can’t immed-
iately find the original article (I DO have it!), but I found the copy of my rebuttal to an editorial which
appeared about 2 years ago which (I found out later) is the opinion of not just the anonymous editor
who wrote the piece, but of the owner and editorial staff of a string of newspapers.  I wrote that I
“refute the editorial of January 22,” though....  This major editorial was about “Evaluating Poverty in
America,” and the op-ed piece had an particularly stinging affect on me–and maybe it will on you
as well.  To begin with, the editor says that he is “taking an objective look at poverty and arrives at
noteworthy conclusions.”  He insists that if one follows his “objectivism,” then there will be a
continuous major decrease in poor people in America!   Here is where it becomes not only
fascinating, but makes one’s skin crawl.  The long article begins by basing “objectivism” on two
sources: a Census Bureau report and a Treasury Department report which tracked “poverty in
America.”  I’m going to quote:

“Since only 13.3% of all Americans were poor in 1997, that is an  exaggerated figure
because tax benefits received by the poor were not taken into account, and therefore the
number of people living under the poverty line is reduced to a mere 26.9 million...and that
85% of tax filers (using income mobility for 10 years of only 14,000 filers) who were ranked
in the lowest fifth of households by yearly earnings had a RISE to a higher income bracket,
meaning that 22.8 million of the 26.9 million will have risen above poverty by 2007.”
That extrapolation is an interesting conclusion since a rise from perhaps $9,000 a year to $12,000
is indeed a RISE, but it is by no means a rise from POVERTY.  The editor then decides that “the
vast majority will escape poverty, [leaving] 15%–roughly 4.1 million of the present poor population–
who can expect to remain in poverty.”

HERE COMES THE TOPPER: Those 4.1 million poor are now defined by the editor as ONLY
“the long-term, hard-core poor: a few people who do not want to work, and the rest, pathological
individuals who are addicts, criminals, and the mentally ill, all incapable of doing for themselves.”
The most egregious comment in the editorial is that “chronic poverty has little to do with money.
It has to do with behavior...and THE GOVERNMENT [SHOULD] IDENTIFY AND COMPEL [THE
TREAT THEIR PATHOLOGIES].”  (I am not even going to tackle the legalities involved in that
statement!)  As an ending to the editorial, it is determined by the editor that “the number of
Americans who remain poor over time [will be] so low as to be negligible.”

WELL!  I have to wonder upon which planet the editor is living!  Have none of that staff never
known or even heard of any of the following people who are unhappily ensconced in chronic
poverty: 1) longtime workers who, for reasons of downsizing/factory moves to foreign countries/
mergers/layoffs, are now unemployed, long past unemployment benefits, and desperately
seeking any type of employment; 2) former middle-management businesspeople who are now
over 50 and constantly filing applications for jobs they will not obtain due to undue competition
of peers as well as company plans to hire workers under 30, at half the salary; 3) widows who
have lived for 10 years on life insurance policies and are now broke–and also may be 4) Social
Security beneficiaries who cannot live on $8000 a year (and are forced to live with their children);
5) SSI recipients whose income is even less than Social Security benefits and permanent
injuries suggest discrimination (illegal but accomplished) against competitive employment; 6)
those whose 401(k) futures have been wiped out by corrupt corporate executives who are still
receiving huge sums every year and are not forced to return the stolen money to the workers;
and 7) let’s not forget the uprise in scams which decimate seniors’ life savings.  I’m SURE the
reader can add more to this list!

Let’s face reality.  The poor in America will INCREASE each year as more scandals are exposed,
more “older folk” outlive their worth in dollars, more children are born into poverty and remain there,
more highly skilled workers are affected by a narrowing job market, more property taxes are put on
the shoulders of seniors who live on a fixed income, more full-time homemakers–all unsalaried–
are at the mercy of a husband’s security, more battered/psychologically abused women will have to
decide whether to take the torture and have a roof over their heads or leave–with no money or place
to go, and more Americans are faced with long-term health care which is just about impossible if
one can’t even afford to pay the yearly rise in co-insurance policies....The downward-spiraling life-
styles of millions of Americans promise not the decrease of poverty-level individuals, but just the

And so, I leave here to find more of the “invisible” homeless who are discovering the way to self-
sufficiency.  I said “bye-bye” today to two women who are now safely hidden in vehicles not too far
from where I live.  Attached are two photos.  One is a huge parking lot with a mixture of vehicles,
many of which have darkened windows, and one belongs to a homeless woman who at the time
was napping.  The other is a rural area in which many trails go off of the road into dense forest and
the vehicle occupants are virtually unseen at any time.


Click to Cyberlog

Image by