Day in the life of a #homeless family:
We woke up at the rest stop we drove over an hour & a half to get to last night. There were very few rest stops in Louisiana, and it was becoming expensive gas-wise to try to function there, so we headed west.
The first rest stop in Texas was creepy & scary, so we kept driving until we came upon another one.
We slept about 3 hours before The Boy woke up. Because he has #autism, he doesn’t sleep for very long periods at a time.
He woke up, we played the game of Tetris we usually play to rearrange everyone in the car so they could get comfortable.
I slept halfway between the backseat and the floorboard; the baby slept on the backseat (he gets the most room ’cause he’s the cutest), & Mom took the driver’s seat this time (we trade off because it’s the least comfortable). Dogs in the passenger’s seat.
We woke up at about 3am. Melatonin for The Boy so he could go back to sleep. Up again at 7am. He’s hungry. Time to go.
Mom had time to use the restroom; I didn’t. Pull-up change, more car Tetris, then on the road to find breakfast.
Located a rare find — McDonald’s with a Playplace (which makes our lives so much easier).
Brushed my teeth in the McDonald’s bathroom.
Got the baby 2 hashbrowns & a milk — $5.
He played while we charged our devices and got caught up on emails, etc. (usually, during these times, Mom looks for potential houses, jobs, or places to go, while I work. I’ve been getting a lot of notifs here on LI, so I’ve been trying to catch up on that).
The Boy fell while playing. Busted his nose up. I worried that if I had to take him to the hospital, they might ask questions. (Thankfully, he’s fine, and didn’t need the hospital. But every scrape and nick he gets is like a dagger for us — he could be in danger of being taken.)
Argued with Paypal about releasing my funds. Got some funds released thanks to really generous LI people I will certainly post about in the future. Wasn’t gonna get myself or Mom breakfast until we got access to more money. Mom found $5 on the ground outside & surprised me with a caramel Frappe. It was heaven.
Boy got sleepy — had to leave so he could nap. He can only sleep in the moving car. So we started driving west again.
Had to stop for gas — $30 to fill up in Texas, thank God. (God bless Texas lol).
Started driving but The Boy wouldn’t sleep — he’s hungry again. Stopped to get him lunch & cold drinks for us — $10. Used the wifi at *that* McDonald’s while he ate.
He’s grumpy & sleepy & throwing things out the window again. Gotta keep moving. More car Tetris — I’m driving now.
Drove west. Baby finally fell asleep — after attacking the dogs, screaming, throwing toys out the window, etc.
Had to find a bathroom. Found one. Now to find wifi.
Starbucks parking lot. Typing this post.
So far, today has been an *easy* day. We’ve had money to buy things, we’ve had fairly easy access to what we needed.
Most days are not like this.
Usually we begin our day anywhere between 5am or 9am (sometimes, on rare occasion, if we’re all sleeping pretty decent, we start at 10am).
First step is bathroom functions. The Boy can’t be alone, obvi, so one of us goes at a time. Some mornings we have snacks available in the car and can take longer, sometimes we have to rush to find somewhere for The Boy to eat. The Boy gets a pull-up change frequently. (He’s not potty trained yet).
If we have time, Mom usually rearranges the car. This means cleaning out last night/yesterday’s trash and moving stuff around so we’ll have more room. Walking dogs, giving them water, etc. We also usually carry a water jug with us and refill the water jug and our water bottles if we feel the water is clean enough.
Second step is breakfast and finding wifi. Checking for nearest rest stops and other things we might need. Usually this is a McDonald’s or a Burger King. (Burger King is great for cheap food — wifi, not so much.)
Once the boy is full & happy, we usually find him a playground to play at so he can burn off energy. After the playground, we go through the transitional tantrum &get him ready to nap.
Napping means driving. We drive until he falls asleep. Then we find wifi (which can take hours) so I can work.
The driving everywhere without GPS means getting lost a lot. Which means wasted resources.
I work for 1-3 hours while he sleeps. When he wakes up, then it’s time for lunch. Usually this means nuggets lol.
Back to driving. Probably a stop so the dogs can be watered & walked. Maybe stop at another park or beach and let The Boy play again. He may nap again. More wifi, more work.
About 6-9pm we start hauling it in, making night-time plans. Rest stops with wifi are ideal because I can work while he sleeps. Dinner is usually a Little Caesars Pizza (bc they’re only $5). The Boy eats 5 pieces lol. We sneak what we can.
Drive to the nearest rest stop (sometimes takes hours). Stop on the way to get the boy milk.
Nighttime car Tetris; getting everyone ready for bed. Usually, this process happens from 10pm-ish — some days, it’s more like 1 or 2am — takes a few hours.
Sleep. Then repeat the next day.
This post is only a brief overview. It doesn’t account for all the times we get lost, frustration, soothing his meltdowns & trying to meet his needs, the dogs’ needs, bathroom breaks, finding water breaks, asking for directions, stopping to find new directions because those directions were incorrect (like the one time we drove all night to find a Walmart so we could get him pull-ups…literally two or three hours of driving…).
We can’t stay in one place too long because that’s loitering & the fuzz would get involved. And also, the baby is happier when we’re moving. Any time we stop, we have to do war with him over throwing toys out the window, him trying to get out of the car, the dogs trying to get out of the car, etc. It’s chaos.
And if we have no money, it means becoming creative about getting the resources we need. We spent 3 days stranded at a LA rest stop because we had no gas money. Spent the last bit of gas we had to go find a pawn shop and sell my momma’s Tiffany jewelry. Put that money into gas & getting The Boy dinner. My grandfather gave her those earrings. I bought her that ring three Christmases ago. We got $25 for them.
It all sounds so ridiculous now that I type it lol.
The thing about being homeless is you have nowhere to go. For homeless people who have a car, you hang out in your car if you can because going into places means the expectation of spending money. If you don’t have a car, the same fear applies. You can’t stay anywhere for a super long time (maybe 4-5 hours max, if it’s like a restaurant or something); you have to keep walking, or find somewhere that allows you to loiter. Many homeless people spend the day trying to find or collect enough money for a meal and/or hotel for the night. I’ll post more about the homeless people I’ve encountered soon.
Note: This is the 5th post in a series I’ve been writing on LinkedIn about our family’s homelessness. I started writing because I felt like God was directing me to share the reality of what many people are facing in the U.S., and put a new face to homelessness. I’m a young professional with a disabled child, with a mom whose health has seen better days, and two obnoxious dogs. But homelessness doesn’t care who you are, and it affects thousands of people every day. I hope that by reading our stories from the road, your beliefs about homeless people will be challenged, and you’ll be spurred to cause change. Nobody should ever be homeless. Nobody.
It occurred to me that I should probably start posting outside of LinkedIn, just in case others would be interested in our story. I hope that documenting this experience will open people’s eyes to the homelessness problem in the United States (and around the world, even). I never posted to get a handout or a hand-up. I only wanted people to be as upset as I was that ANYONE has to live this way. So I’m posting these things in the hopes that doing so will light a fire under people to make a difference. To treat each other better. To look out for each other. To stop judging and start helping. Thank you for reading & God bless you.
Update 8/19/2022: I’ve changed some of the language in this post regarding The Boy’s upsetness. I learned after writing this that there’s a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. I used the word “tantrum” throughout this post, which isn’t correct. Much of what he was experiencing were meltdowns due to the difficulty of our situation and all those circumstances.