THE UNDETECTABLE HOMELESS

computer"
A Weekly Cyberlog


An interesting week with a new problem/topic encountered, and a disturbing discussion which,
in this decade of informed people, absolutely “threw me.”  The new topic is one of Native
American intra-tribal (and perhaps inter-tribal) affairs.  Nayah’s problem is one that I have no
ability to tackle since, while I know individual tribe members in several nations, I know no one
in “leadership,” and that is where her problem has to be resolved.  Her story is included in this
week’s Cyberlog....

The disturbing discussion took place on Sunday, when I happened to attend a Unitarian
Universalist Fellowship event.  I have always considered such members intelligent, educated,
and up-to-date regarding national, social, ecological, political, and economic concerns.  We
were asked to bring up any topic in which the community might be interested.  Being new to the
area, I brought up the subject of this Cyberlog: the undetectable homeless...and the fact that I
was finding same within their own small but contiguous communities, hiding not only in the
forested areas, but in local libraries, Rest Areas, and abandoned or closed (mostly) seasonal
buildings.  A woman approached me after the service and said that she didn’t believe that such
a population exists at all, for there are “lots of homeless shelters and programs for functional
people which provide jobs and money” all over the country.  Now, I expect that kind of reaction
from people who do not read or watch/hear news programs, but not from a woman who, oddly
enough, said that she also had been at UCLA in the 1980s (while I was there), and is very
articulate and a staunch supporter of Howard Dean.  She expressed in no uncertain terms that
there could not possibly be any homeless women (or men) who could not find an appropriate
solution if they wanted to.  I tried to “discuss” this with her, but found that all I was doing was
“arguing.”  I don’t do that anymore; if someone thinks that all homeless people are not trying to
find jobs or housing, then I just change the subject or walk away.  She walked away first, so I
didn’t have to.  I was at the point of telling her to go to a nearby town and talk to the librarian
who had told me about a woman who daily lived in that library for a long time last year–until the
local authorities apparently became involved.  That woman, said the librarian, was lovely, well-
spoken, dressed appropriately, and bothered no one.  I have doubts now about returning next
Sunday for what sounds like an interesting program.  I just don’t want to become involved in
attempting to argue what is rather obvious in this decade: middle and upper management jobs
being eliminated and that workforce encountering the same conditions that the minimum-wage
crowd has faced for years.

Another situation-story in this week’s Cyberlog is one that I know a lot about.  I was involved with
the status of renters in 2000, and found that I could not win over Maine’s lack of local and state
interest in renters’ rights.  The role of some Code Enforcement Officers has been under scrutiny
for years.  Connie’s story is indicative of a typical path from injury to unemployment and home-
lessness when elected and appointed officials do not do their jobs as defined.

But back to our first story concerning Nayah’s life experiences.  I was just wandering around some
small towns near a major highway when I met Nayah (I forgot to ask how to spell her name, so this
is phonetic) at a beautiful Rest Area.
dd

dd
I was in a hurry to meet someone, and probably wouldn’t have stopped, but my eye caught a
glimpse of a back window sticker which depicted the Indian trickster, Kokopelli.   Intrigued, since I
don’t usually see such a Southwestern figure displayed in this area, I parked next to her station
wagon and made some “cute” remark about Kokopelli and the possibility of his doing something
about the traffic.  She actually studied me for a minute before she spoke.  We did begin a conver-
sation about Native American folklore, and finally, she introduced her life situation.  This is part of
her story:
 

“I’m an intertribal misfit.  See, this is my family tree. [She pulled out a bunch of papers from the back
seat area.]  It’s all here, you see, from my great-grandparents on both sides down to the present generation....[She did a lot of explaining which only confused me, but she certainly knew each re-
lative’s history.]  I’m part Hopi, part Navajo, and then closer to my generation, there’s Cherokee
and Caucasian....I want desperately to be with my own people–any tribe--but no one wants me!....I
used to work in Vegas--a card dealer and then waitress and even cleaning hotel rooms while I went
to college, but I’m not really interested in anything that isn’t centered around a reservation or any
place where I can help making Indian lives better....So, I first tried to establish my heritage with the
Hopis and Navajos, but I could only trace the male side so far and then there was little mention on
tribal rolls of the female side.  I had family and clan names but somehow my family got so mixed up
from moving around that I found I was being judged by percentages.  You know, like what per-
centage of Hopi am I, or what percentage of Navajo am I....Apparently, all of the tribes are now very
clear on how much of a direct bloodline you must have to be accepted as part of a community....I
was in Oklahoma last month to see about the Cherokee heritage, but no dice.  Oh!  That wasn’t
meant to be a joke!  You know, all of the casinos that are Indian-owned....I’m here now to see if I
can find a job or place to live with the Passamaquoddies or Abenakis.  I don’t have any affiliation
with either, but maybe these are nicer people and they’ll let me work with them.  If not, my last hope
is in CT with the Pequots who have a gorgeous casino and hotel.  Have you heard of it?  Fox-
woods....I doubt if they will want me around since I’ve heard that they are now in the money and are
carefully checking everyone who says they are Pequots.  They must have people coming out of
nowhere to try to join in on their success....I don’t know why it makes any difference what per-
centage I am of any of my ancestors’ bloodlines.  I just want to live and work with and for them....I
was very good in school and I could teach and help the kids...and I’d go back to college and get
a degree in education....If I could get a job at one of the Indian-run casinos, then I could do the
degree bit part-time until I can be a certified teacher....I just don’t understand why I’m not accepted
as a Native American who wants to be affiliated with a community or reservation when other
Indians try to pass themselves off as non-Indians....”
(Nayah, age 44, 2003 in Maine)

Even if I had the gall to try to assist her, I would undoubtedly be considered an intruder and make the
matter worse.

Although I’ve mentioned this before, I think I need to reiterate the fact that all homeless women are
not traveling!  While in the L.A. area from 1980 to 1995, I only found and met with women who were
living in the same neighborhoods in which they had once had homes and/or careers.  They were able
to fib their way around why they were “not at home” (being painted, new roof, mold remediation, etc.).
They knew how to survive in their own natural habitats, and their stories reveal innovative strategies
for so doing. That is the reason the “60 Minutes” segment was titled “Lost in Bel Air.”  My usual haunts
were from the mid-Wilshire area through Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills (and UCLA), Westwood, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica to Malibu.  Occasionally, I would wander around the Hollywood Hills and Topanga Canyon all the way to the beach, and I was finding women living in such
cars as Porsche, Ferrari, Mercedes, Cadillac, and even a Bentley.  Our first agreement was that they
should be traded-in for a “regular” vehicle in order to get some money, and then retrofit for privacy
(tinted windows) and for space: a futon, hanging clothing, and storage.  If anyone doubts this, there
were about 40 undetectable, protecting-their-anonymity homeless women who appeared in Santa
Monica for interviews with the producers of that show, and those women were not nearly the number
with whom I was working.  And the ONLY reason they were willing to relinquish their anonymity was
because “60 Minutes” promised homes and jobs in exchange for my cooperation and their stories...
.I have already commented on the status of the women who did appear on that show.  When Jackie
King, a beautiful ex L.A. TV anchor went public (on TV, radio, and in the newspapers) with her
homelessness situation, she was not admired nor had much sympathy.  The last I heard about her,
she had moved in with her father in the marina area, and her future was undetermined.  That was
in the 1980s.  So, relating personal stories of homelessness is not necessarily a step forward.
It is only because I am now on the road and traveling every day that I find so many at the Rest Areas,
in malls with their vehicles waiting for nap-time in the parking lots, moving from town library to
another town library for a day of reading/resting, or eating their way through unfamiliar grocery stores.
 

Connie’s experience was simple and I can’t even imagine how many people are in the same
situation: she worked a blue-collar job, barely making her payments, and was renting an apartment
over the garage of a homeowner.  The homeowner did not keep the apartment in proper condition--
sanitary and safe.  Connie fell when part of the roof did and she broke her leg among other injuries.
She was in the hospital and had no insurance.  With bills mounting beyond what she could ever
repay, she quietly left the hospital to remain in the unsafe apartment.  But on the door was a Notice
to Quit, and immediately, that eviction notice was provided in person by the homeowner as Connie
stood there not knowing what to do next.  I’m telling the beginning of the story because ordinarily I
and others would not believe all of the facts presented.  Somehow, these events do not sound true
because we still hope to believe in “our systems.”  However, in 2000, I pre-paid (from my home
state) a cottage rental in Belfast, Maine–obtained from the Camden/Lincolnville/Belfast Chamber
of Commerce website–in which the advertiser/homeowner just plain lied about the position (placed
under “oceanfront” listings) of a “cozy cottage with porch bench to view the ocean.” There wasn’t
one line of truth in her wording...and I spoke to her twice on the telephone about it just to make sure
before I sent a check.  That “cozy cottage” turned out to be a rotting little place that had been used
for storage, in back of her house.  I arrived to find no hot water and a metal shower that was
covered in slime–after I had put a foot on the first step and it went right through the rotted wood.
The owner took her time in finding a handyman to patch the hot water heater and all he did was nail
a plank over the big hole in the step.  My view of the ocean was a view of the back of her mansion
and garage.  The porch bench was broken, shaky, and of completely rotted wood.  I had only one
reason for being in Belfast, and that was to complete a documentary film about three towns in that
general area.  I was “trapped” with the status quo situation.  The first time I went up the steps of
the side porch (the front porch had to be approached from a muddy hill without steps and it was
raining), the railing separated from all of the unsafe steps and collapsed, taking me with it.  I broke
my wrist and had splinters wherever my body hit the steps (among other injuries to my face, knees,
and back).  After I returned from the hospital (elbow-to-hand “cast,” tetanus shot, and antibiotics),
I was presented with a Notice to Quit by the lady of the manor–and there was a contractor working
quickly and professionally as he tore down the old front and side steps/porches and built new ones.
The fact that she never even said she was sorry or asked if she could help me sounds like I’m a
crybaby, but this is part of how homeowners use a rental scam to rip-off out of state tourists.  I had
no other place to go in the middle of the summer, and while I awaited the Sheriff’s service so that
I could go to court and at least get my money back, I sat in a steaming room (she wouldn’t allow
shades since “they would make marks on the walls”) with ice packs, heating pads, and wondered
what to do.  My entire working summer of 4 months was gone.  The Sheriff wouldn’t serve me, and
I kept calling to ask why.  Neither the police nor the Sheriff’s office nor anyone in City Hall would
provide an answer.  Of course they were protecting a wealthy stockbroker/homeowner from a court appearance, but there was something I didn’t know at the time.  Every town is supposed to have a
Code Enforcement Officer, and the one appointed in Belfast did nothing but send a nurse assistant
to check out the required HUD buildings.  I discovered that no one cared about unsafe rentals in
Belfast–or in many towns in Maine.  I could not remain in that cottage after three weeks had gone
by, for every night my car was vandalized in another manner.  This cottage was a mile down a
forested dirt track from a rather rural main street and if one didn’t look very carefully, the narrow
opening of that dirt track wouldn’t even have been noticed from the main street.  In other words,
there was no “stranger” finding my car at night to rip off the gas tank door or the radio antenna or
make deep scratches along the sides.  I left, driving with one hand and ice packs all over me to the
only place I could find–for several thousand dollars more.  The millionaire homeowner wouldn’t even
return my money.  The bottom line/point is that I became an advocate for renters’ rights, learning
from all of the state literature that in Maine, renters don’t really have any.  I am concerned not just for
tourists, but for the many hard-working renting poor in Maine who are an accident away from un-
employment, perhaps a family split, and homelessness.  I wrote a long Letter to the Editor of the
weekly newspaper (The Republican Journal, Courier Publications) which was printed with the facts
and is in front of me as I write today.  The major front page story of that newspaper for a week or
more had been about the plight of a woman with a young child who had moved into a trailer park
approved by Belfast, but her end trailer had become the toilet of all of the other trailers, and she, of
course, had to leave.  It had been raining daily, and the woman and child were living in a tent in mud
in the area.  Not one city official cared!  She couldn’t be expected to have the knowledge and “big
mouth” that I have.  I called Senator Susan Collins, and after she heard about a felony (internet fraud
is a felony, and the homeowner from whom I rented committed that crime by false advertising on the
Chamber of Commerce website) and my being forced into homelessness by the eviction/vandalism,
her reply was that she wasn’t interested.  I called the Governor, the BBB, Office of Consumer
Protection, the Office of Tourism, and every official in Augusta.  It wasn’t of interest to ANYONE in
authority.  To make the matter worse, not even one official--local, county, state, or federal--followed
through with my many complaints about the felony of internet fraud.  She should have been arrested
and given a fine and jail sentence.  I survived that terrible summer, but I have permanent injuries,
and the two lawyers who took my case must have been last in their class.  Actually, the insurance
company investigator initially offered a few thousand dollars to me for injuries and loss of income
(hoping to get rid of me), but I went the route of hiring lawyers.  They did such an embarrassingly
bad job of representing me that they told me to accept less.  I didn’t even receive what the insurance
company had offered.  Moral?  Don’t always believe that a lawyer who says you should receive a
lot more from an insurance company with their assistance for a settlement or a lawsuit which you
should win is going to work if the lawyers are not diligent and competent.  However, more important
to the protection of Maine renters, to this day I wonder what happened to the woman and child who
were living in mud in a tent in Belfast as the Code Enforcement officer and his nurse turned the other
way.  I have a burning desire to appear on a expose TV show and reveal all of this!  Consequently,
I DO believe what happened to Connie, whom I met in a pharmacy as we awaited prescriptions:

“It wasn’t the greatest job, but I was recovering from a nasty divorce without any alimony, and I
accepted that....I lived over the garage in a house on the edge of town, and it wasn’t in very good
shape.  The roof leaked when it rained and it was always damp.  I asked for the owner to fix the roof,
but he was cheap and didn’t.  There were always wet places in the ceiling, and I moved my bed
away from the really peeling and dripping parts....In the winter, it got a lot of snow piled up and I
guess that made the roof just give in.  I sort of saw it coming down and toward me, but I couldn’t get
out of the way as wood and stuff came at me....I ended up in the hospital with a broken leg and a lot
of slipped discs in my back....The worst of it was that the owner wouldn’t fix the roof and sent me an
eviction notice.  He put up the Notice on the garage and then got me as I hopped around the door.
 He said I couldn’t move back in and told me to find another place.  Well, I couldn’t.  I lost my job
since I couldn’t do it anymore.  It took so long for my leg to heal–and all kinds of physical therapy
that didn’t help--and I couldn’t even balance properly to do the loading anyway.  I tried to find work
that I could do, but there wasn’t anything that was more than minimum wage with no benefits, so I
went on Welfare for awhile, but I couldn’t pay rent for anything on that....Have you ever been in a
homeless shelter?  I stayed for two days and was never so nervous in my life....I had got my be-
longings out of the garage and sold them cheap at a neighbor’s yard sale....I put a few things that
I needed into my car and just lived in it for about six months....I tried to get a lawyer, but they all
wanted money up front and I didn’t have any.  Not one even said he’d take the case on that one-
third sharing thing....I was told that the owner wasn’t even supposed to be renting that garage
place since he’d done it before and someone else got hurt, but I didn’t know that....I went to the
town offices and complained to everyone, but no one seemed to be in charge.  I was told that
there was a Code Enforcement Officer, but he was never around to listen to me.  Maybe I sound
paranoid, but I know he was avoiding me on purpose....I was told later that he was a drunk and
didn’t do anything at all.  Maybe that’s true.  It didn’t matter since I got information from the Capitol
and found that I don’t have any rights as a renter.  It’s like you just are on your own, renting without
any way to protect yourself if you get hurt....No one tells you this before you rent....I know now that
if the owner rents directly to you, he is responsible for any injuries to a tenant, but if you go through
a real estate agency, there isn’t any protection at all.  It’s all so complicated....I didn’t see anything
good in my future and took too many pills, and I got arrested in the hospital.  They fined me and
put me on probation with community service, but if I couldn’t work, how could I do the service?....
I left the state.  Ran out on the probation and just hid in my car in big parking lots for a couple of
months.  I ate from the back of the grocery stores where they put the rotting fruits and things past
the sell-by date.  I think I just cried all night and slept all day....I went into a church one Sunday
and told the priest about what I had done and he said I should go back to Maine and just do some
jail time and at least I’d get food and a place to sleep....One of the guards had a sister who’d
had a rough patch and he said if I’d live with her and watch her–she stole things–I could have a
place to live and he’d buy the food....After a year or so, I got close to one of his buddies, and I’m
living with him now.  Maybe he’ll marry me and I’ll be safe for life....”
(Connie, age 43, 2003 in Maine)

I was horrified at that last comment and tried to discuss it with her, but it isn’t my life and I hope
it works out well for her.  I doubt it, though.

I will write other Letters to Editors about the lack of renters’ rights in Maine, but no one in authority
is going to change positions on this issue.  My voice is no stronger than the poor and uneducated
victims.  If Senator Susan Collins isn’t concerned about her own county, then who would be?  And,
if no one prosecutes those who commit internet fraud in such an open manner, why will it ever
stop?  The Chamber of Commerce didn’t even care that it had been “used.”  Probably one of the
most prevalent reasons for unemployment and homelessness in Maine is renting and becoming
injured because of the owner’s lack of concern for safety.  This is not a state with a lot of industry,
so jobs are scarce, especially for the unskilled or those without a needed college degree.  Once
injured and out on the street, unemployed, what choice is there except for Welfare?  I have spoken
to several people at co-op health food stores, and they tell me about poor people moving way
inland into the real boonies where some land is cheap (or so isolated that they are just squatters)
and they build shacks and grow their own food–which often is brought into a town for sale to
health food stores.  Self-sufficiency is the mode that many are choosing, and while it isn’t easy, it
does work if one focuses on the tactics that others have used successfully.  In addition, I have
many examples of interesting ways to grow what are usually enjoyed as garden plants but are
delicious (organic) foods.  That and other methods of self-sufficient living are in another book
I have ready to be published.  It will probably be on the internet.  I don’t seem to find any agents
who consider my material suitable for submitting to publishers, but I do receive the nicest
personal rejection letters.

CLICK ON THIS CYBERLOG NEXT WEEK AND DISCOVER WHAT A “COMPLEX”
IS AND HOW ONE CAN LIVE “COMFORTABLY” IN ONE!


Click to next Cyberlog

© 2003 Marjorie Bard.  All Rights Reserved.
This can in no way be copied or distributed.

Back to Cyberlog Start

dd

Music
Movies
Fashion
Travel
Events
Vegas
Books

Image by FlamingText.com