Max’s Journal 10/24/2014

DONATING TO A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING THE HOMELESS!

By Max R. Weller

I saw this guy at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless just this morning — but the well-dressed young lady was nowhere to be seen:

“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

This is an athlete (and by coincidence a friend of mine):

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This guy, not so much, because his athletic skills were enhanced by banned substances:

Which one should you respect? To me, the answer is obvious . . .

Here’s an interesting piece I came across on the Internet — Homeless survival: Practical tips and advice derived from personal experience. (Of course, we can presume that the author was SOBER, physically fit, and in possession of his mental faculties at all times.) Quoting from the article below, in reference to seeking shelter:

Obviously this is the main problem faced by the homeless. Those who stay in the city are restricted by laws against putting up any kind of temporary shelter. This is why the homeless are so often seen huddling in doorways, alcoves, tunnels, etc. Many cities have outlawed sleeping outdoors, which gives police the power to harass anyone they see lying down with their eyes closed. In fact, as long as you can be seen by anyone at night, your safety is at risk.

Homeless shelters may be no better. Filled with drugs and mental illness, they can be more dangerous than the streets, and many transients know enough to avoid them. Similar problems exist in tent cities. Diseases and parasites can easily spread when many people, all with poor hygiene, live close together.

Wooded areas appear safer and can be found throughout cities in the form of ravines, forests, valleys and parks. Some homeless build shelters there using tarps, plywood, cardboard boxes, or whatever else they can find. This may work for a while. But authorities keep tabs on these encampments and sooner or later come to take them down. Also, any shelter can be a target for thieves and squatters when you’re not there. Its mere presence during the day tells everyone that homeless person is living there.

I get around these problems by using a relatively inexpensive “pop-up “camouflage dome tent found online. A pop-up tent can be set up and taken down extremely fast, with very little effort. The idea is to find a secluded area in the woods or a local park, put up the tent at sunset, and then take it down again at or before sunrise the next morning. There is no campsite for anyone to find because it does not exist during the day. This is also known as stealth camping and many long-distance cyclists use it to avoid staying in motels. They camp on public or private land and take off before anyone knows they were there.

Your safety will come from being totally hidden. For anyone to see you sleeping at night, they would have to enter the forest after dark, leave the path at the right spot, and see through your camouflage. Even in broad daylight, a camo tent amid foliage is hard to spot. I have spent several nights in city parks using this method and haven’t yet been detected. A tent is one of the best possible temporary shelters you can use and gives a sense of security, even if it is mostly psychological. It does need a relatively flat, clear area of ground to be set up, so scout locations before you need them and clear them of debris before nightfall.

An even smaller shelter that fits practically anywhere is the bivy sack– essentially a zippered bag just large enough for your body, made of waterproof, breathable material. Some fold down to the size of a water bottle. A bivy will keep you dry and sheltered but won’t have room for anything else, like changing clothes. Some come with a framework that holds the fabric away from your face for some breathing room.

Satellite images on Google Maps are great for finding dense woods in your area. You want areas that are more “wild” and overgrown, not those which are obviously mowed and well maintained by the parks department(though if you are very diligent about always taking your tent down at sunrise, you should have no problems either way). Find spots which are totally hidden from both the trail and the street. At the same time, they should not be too far from places you want to go during the day. Eventually you will have memorized a few ideal spots around the city and can rotate between them so that you never camp in the same place too long. I use a heavy camouflage tarp as a groundsheet, protecting the tent floor from sharp debris. This can double as a cover for your gear, keeping it dry and hidden in the forest while you go about your daily business.

My own approach has been to stay away from other homeless people who like to spend the overnight hours drinking and drugging, yelling and fighting, and in general drawing as much attention to their presence as possible. Inevitably, this results in EVERYONE being told to move on by the authorities, and understandably so. If you’re alone and well-behaved, both property owners and law enforcement will usually give you “a wink and a nod” and even stop by simply to check on your welfare.

Very few chronically homeless people here in Boulder, CO seem to be able to act in their own best interests, however, and this is why so many resources are devoted to keeping them from dying on the streets. Better, in my view, to build a sufficient number of Tiny Houses for everyone in need, with a community kitchen/dining area and restroom/shower facilities.

The Homeless Philosopher will be back on Monday.

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