One Woman’s Journey from Living in a Storage Unit to Living a Life of Stability

By    November 20, 2013

Becky Blanton

For Becky Blanton, the journey began when her father died of brain cancer in 2006.

Shortly after her dad’s death, Blanton quit her job as a newspaper editor in Colorado, packed up her green 1975 Chevy van, and hit the road with her cat and Rottweiler riding shotgun. As an avid camper and traveler, Blanton imagined the next year would unfold like one long road trip that would let her sort through the emotions of her father’s death while also seeing the country. All things being equal, she’d emerge with clarity and enlightenment.

Desperate Times
Within just a few months, however, Blanton—who’d been estranged from her father for 15 years before his death—began spiraling into a deep, unexpected depression. The freelance writing gig she was leaning on to sustain her travels dried up, and the money ran out. She eventually found herself living in a self-storage unit just outside Denver.

Most people think of the homeless as alcoholics and drug addicts, but that’s just 15 percent of the homeless population.
— Becky Blanton

“It was June, and living in the van was miserably hot. I needed somewhere to get away from the heat, and the storage unit was the only thing I could afford,” said Blanton, a native of Knoxville, TN. “I looked for rooms to rent, but I would have needed to get rid of almost everything I owned. Besides, most places wouldn’t let me live with my pets, and there was no way I was giving them up.”

The unit was small—10×20, or 200 square feet. Blanton already had been renting it to store her belongings while touring the country. It wasn’t climate-controlled, but it was far cooler than the green van she’d affectionately named Booger.

Meanwhile, managers at the Colorado facility (which Blanton didn’t want to name) looked the other way.

“After a few days, they knew what I was doing,” Blanton said. “But they knew me already, and they also knew that I used to be a police officer. I wasn’t doing drugs or drinking. I wasn’t causing problems. I had just fallen on hard times, and they were in a position to help.”

Becky Blanton

Survival Mode
Nonetheless, Blanton’s unique living arrangement didn’t come without challenges. For instance, she needed to camouflage her self-storage quarters from other tenants.

To accomplish this, Blanton collected cardboard boxes from nearby grocery stores and stacked them a few feet from the entrance, creating the illusion that her unit was packed floor to ceiling. Behind that secret cardboard wall, however, was a remarkable setup that included a bed, an ice chest, a small couch, a battery-powered lamp and a few posters taped to the corrugated sheet-metal walls.

“I’m a female. We nest wherever we go. So I made the place livable and even a little cozy,” Blanton said. “It wasn’t much, but it was comfortable.”

I found out a lot about what it takes to live in a storage unit. The key is remaining invisible.
— Becky Blanton

Blanton quickly found part-time employment at a nearby retail store called Camping World, where she earned $11.50 an hour as a night-shift customer service representative. Camping World also had an employee gym and showers, where Blanton washed up each day before her shift.

Whenever she could afford it, Blanton ate at local buffets, always arriving at the tail end of the lunch shift, when meals often cost about $5 less than the dinner menu.

“I found a lot of really kind people in restaurants. They would give me extra helpings of food or a to-go box without charging me for it,” Blanton said. “Cooks would also give me left over meat and bones for my dog.”

Becky Blanton and Koko

Getting Settled
During the day, Blanton scoured Craigslist for a variety of odd jobs. For instance, she reached out to a local psychiatrist who offered to pay $200 to anyone willing to be interviewed about depression. She also responded to the University of Colorado in Boulder, which was seeking someone to provide the voice for its automated phone system. She even got a part-time gig as a mystery shopper for a national chain of self-storage facilities.

“I’d call up storage facilities all over the country and ask them questions about their business, including whether or not they had homeless people living in their units,” Blanton said. “I thought that was just hysterical.”

What was perhaps most surprising to Blanton was how easy it was to settle into this new way of living.

I know what it’s like to feel invisible to the rest of the world.
— Becky Blanton

“I really didn’t expect how easy it would be to make it happen, which I definitely couldn’t have done without the support of the facility managers,” Blanton said. “And I found out a lot about what it takes to live in a storage unit. The key is remaining invisible. And you can’t tell anyone what you’re doing. Not your friends or anyone you meet. If you do, it will eventually get back to the manager.”

And while the managers at Blanton’s facility knew what she was up to, the facility’s off-site owners had no idea. Regardless, Blanton said she never really feared getting in trouble.

“The worst thing they can do is kick you out and maybe have you arrested for trespassing,” Blanton said. “But I was a cop at 21. I know how they think and how they operate, so I figured if it ever came down to it, I could talk my way out of trouble. But I’m glad I never had to test that theory.”

Becky Blanton TED

Moving On
For four months, Blanton thrived inside her tiny corrugated home, but when October rolled around, the situation became increasingly dire. Colorado’s nighttime temperatures often hovered around freezing. Without heat, her unit started feeling like a giant icebox. Blanton knew she had to move on.

So she packed up her van and hit the road once again, this time heading south to her hometown in Tennessee. For the next few months, she couch-surfed with friends and continued living out of her van. And her depression grew worse.

Eventually, it was a phone call from a friend that saved her.

Just before her father died, Blanton had written an essay about the physical and sexual abuse he’d inflicted upon her, as well as how she came to terms with the trauma while he was on his death bed. The essay was called “The Monster,” and Blanton had sent it to “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, who was looking for essays to include in his upcoming book “Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons.” Russert liked Blanton’s essay so much that he decided to feature it in the final chapter of his book. But Blanton didn’t know this until she got that fateful call.

“So there I was, paralyzed by my depression, suicidal and curled up in a fetal position in the back of my van, when a friend called and said Tim Russert was on C-SPAN talking about me and my essay,” Blanton said. “That’s when I reconnected to who I was.”

Becky Blanton TED

Bouncing Back
Since then, Blanton’s life has undergone a remarkable transformation.

After emerging from her depression, she got a job working at a newspaper in Tennessee. In 2009, she gave a TED talk about her experience with homelessness. That talk caught the attention of Kissito.org, a nonprofit that seeks solutions to problems like poverty and natural resources preservation. Kissito’s vice president of business development liked Blanton’s TED talk so much that he asked her to write a book about his organization and the global charity work it does.

(To watch Blanton’s TED talk, visit http://bit.ly/1bBJyIM.)

Blanton, 58, now lives in an apartment in Virginia and uses a nearby self-storage unit as her office—this time with the owner’s knowledge and permission. She’s currently writing her second book for Kissito; it’s about a devastating hailstorm in Africa that wiped out crops and left more than 2,000 villagers without food or water. What’s more, she’s in the midst of two celebrity-ghostwriting projects and continues to advocate for what she calls America’s “invisible homeless.”

“Most people think of the homeless as alcoholics and drug addicts, but that’s just 15 percent of the homeless population. The other 85 percent have jobs, they try to seek out normalcy, they have kids and are desperate for some sense of self-esteem,” Blanton said.

“I was one of those people, and I know what it’s like to feel invisible to the rest of the world. And that’s the horrible thing about homelessness. You’re just out there. So you want something to give you a sense of a place, somewhere you can call home. That’s what I had at that storage unit, and it really did make a difference.”

Bottom two photos courtesy of ted.com; other photos courtesy of Becky Blanton

  • SpareFootTony

    I expected a fluff piece with an anticlimactic ending, but this is a truly inspiring story. Bravo!

  • selfstoragefinders

    Agreed, Tony. Great story and truly inspirational!

  • nozona

    Nice story but as a self-storage manager I’ve had this situation and want to point out a couple things. It’s heart-wrenching and we want to help. But the manager also has to keep it invisible, we put our jobs (and sometimes that includes our own living arrangement) on the line because it’s absolutely against all policies to be a living space.

  • GADAVE

    GREAT…now you glorifiy how a onsite manager went against their owners policy and allowed someone to homestead in a storage unit. Storage units are not zoned, built or furnished to be living quarters. As a onsite manager you have to apply policy to everyone across the board and NOT pick and choose whom it will or will not apply to. Had this woman been attacked, robbed, raped or murdered during the night how could the manager have lived with themselves for “looking the other way”. Yes, this story has a happy ending but it could have been very bad. PLEASE do not encourage others to follow this unsafe decision.

  • Storage Manager

    As a manager there is no way I would let someone live on site. We have a lot of customers who are with us to begin with because they are having hard times. 2 of our favorites right now have lost their home in foreclosure and their units are going up for auction for non-payment. As much as I wish there were more I could do for them, there’s no way I would let them live onsite. I would make phone calls for them, help them find services, as I have done for other tenants and do whatever I could but if I let them live on site, I might be living in the unit next to them when it was discovered. These managers did not do themselves any favors and certainly did not do a favor for their owner! Plus when stories like these get out on the news and web, people think it’s a solution to their own problems. All that has happened here is that it has now potentially put the rest of us in a bad position with people possibly thinking they can live on property and the managers will look the other way.

  • John Egan

    We in no way intended for this story to condone living in a storage unit. We simply wanted to tell the story of this woman and her harrowing journey. We will be publishing a follow-up article about how living in a storage unit is illegal, why it’s illegal, how storage facilities can cope with homesteaders, etc.

  • StorageOwner

    This violates prudent management on so many levels. It is a clear violation of the law, and the Manager should be held accountable for his/her actions. It jeopardizes the safety of everyone else’s belongings which have been entrusted to the facility. This action constitutes gross negligence, and it is a Blessing that an insurance claim did not have to be filed. The blatant disregard for the rules of the owner is grounds for termination. Any other manager thinking this is a good idea, should be willing to give up their job for the decision they make.
    If the facility had to throw the woman out, say in 0 degree weather in January, and the press got ahold of it, the consequences would have been quite dramatic.
    I hope another owner does not have to hire this manager.

  • keisha green

    I think the policy and law law is pure bs… We all choose to do something illegal at one time or another. I feel like society has become crippled without any back bone. Running to the police or whoever is in charge any chance they get. Literally afraid probably tremballing in there presence. What happened to people today seriously… If you a manager recieving i dont know 15 dollars an hour lost your job house and had kids… had absolutley no where to stay… Youd probably want the same option … i do not think that living in a storage unit should be long term… but, if someone is trying there best with employment hygiene and trying to make it… i think that they should be allowed an opportunity… i know it is not there job to care… but shit it sure seems like they do care enough to call 50 … xp

  • Diva Dime

    I agree with you on some aspects, Keisha. It’s all grossly illegal and clear violations of prudent management until it becomes one of us. Obviously, the chances of it becoming those who OWN/MANAGE storages are les likely than those whom utilize them; because of this reason, it’s extremely hard for some people to fathom “looking the other way” in this type of situation. I whole heartedly agree with your metaphor. I am sure many of these storage managers would contemplate doing the same as the woman in this story, if faced with the same predicaments. Upon reading the entire story and every single comment, what stood out to me the most was the frightening fact that more people favor law than they favor helping a person in dire need. Sometimes, doing the right thing is doing what’s right to us; not others. Who will care for those whom cannot care for themselves?-DivaontheDime

  • beckyblanton

    I’m the woman in the story and I appreciate ALL your comments. I lived in the unit perhaps 25% of the time and tried to live in my van whenever I could so I didn’t jeopardize the owners jobs. I slept during the day, there’s no law about what you do when you’re in your unit, and I didn’t do drugs, drink or do anything to jeopardize the safety of those around me – no fires or cooking etc. Part of being human and compassionate is knowing when to bend or even break the law. There are millions of Jews alive today because a handful of people put compassion ahead of law. I don’t advocate living in a unit, but I do want to point out that a person is MUCH more likely to be raped, mugged or killed outside on the street than inside a unit. If you DO find people living in a unit, please try to connect them with other services and don’t call the police. The police, jail etc. can be so much more destructive. I understand your concern with your facilities safety, and the safety of your customers. This couple knew my story and could verify what I told them by going online. It’s up to you. Come judgment day God will look at who you helped, not how many laws you kept. I thank this couple and owe them so much – they let me use tools to get my van livable, and they didn’t judge me. They had been harassed by the police and suffered under the heavy hands of a sheriff intent on destroying their business because they kicked him out of a unit where he stored stolen property. There is no black and white in any business. If you toe every line one day you will find yourself in a situation where you need mercy and compassion and consideration yourself. I thank all of you who have written to share your story and to admit you too “look the other way”….I think that is much easier to live with than knowing people froze to death without shelter. If you do want to obey the law, then at least start learning who to contact and what social services agencies there are. Be legal, but be kind. We are all people with a story that could be your story one day.

  • Christy Schmall

    Agreed! BRAVO

  • Christy Schmall

    “Store not your treasures on earth” “hen you take care of the LEAST of mine you take care of ME” – Jesus Christ

  • Christy Schmall

    Do you REALLY think you wrote something on here we ALL didn’t already KNOW?. so She can freeze to death as long as she doesn’t do it in YOUR storage facility, RIGHT? we get it.

  • Christy Schmall

    YOU don’t have to defend or explain yourself to ANYONE. KARMA is a bitch baby and it comes swiftly and from outta NO where.

  • WGM

    Amen! Right on the Nail!

    Be.the.Change + Love.and.Peace
    http://Www.Facebook.com/WGM1234
    *Jesus DIED for YOU*…

  • Tick-Tock

    Thank you so much for caring enough about the animals you love so dearly. My situation is very similar with 3 beloved pets. I would never sacrifice them. We will make it. And to the poster who rants on storage living, Your hard times are right around the corner in the form of economic collapse. What is YOUR gameplan?

  • Tick-Tock

    If you ever read this: in my city there are hoards of people trading EBT cards for storage unit living. Also for car repairs. The black market is emerging…and a heads up to all the law callers, the corporation don’t give a rats as* about you…when it all goes south, you are on your own.

  • Tick-Tock

    Just a heads up on ‘your job as owner’. All storage facilities will shut down if the economy gets any worse. Look it up yourself. By your rant you are truly an burros butt of epic proportions….

  • OhNoesNotAgain

    Let us know where your facility is so we can boycott you.

  • Trace Wikes

    “Do not encourage this *unsafe* decision”
    How safe would her alternative have been? Also she was working to build herself a way out of her situation. Had she been attacked, robbed, raped…it’d have been far better for it to occur during a car break in or whilst she was sleeping beneath a bush? Do you not think that “could have been *very bad* ” ? I do hope that you never find yourself in this situation. May you always be safe and warm in a home somewhere ! PLEASE encourage others to follow an even worse unsafe decision…. O.o
    My mother had a saying: There, but for the grace of God, goes you or me. In other words, hard times or tragedy is no respecter of people. It befalls us all.

  • jacob v

    If I had a penny every time a homeless person tells me they are homeless due to them not wanting to give up pets. I guess feeding and caring for a pet is more important to them than caring for themselves or their own relatives or kids… selfish idiots get what they deserve

  • John Judge

    I agree….the “pets are like or kids” garbage is way over the top. I am a pet lover (german shepeard of course) but if it came down to me or Fred…well….I love ya Fred, but in the end you are an animal, NOT a child.

  • Beverly D

    I know this article is not recent and I hope my question will be seen – I’m facing homelessness myself and have been pondering the possibility of living in a storage unit since most of my stuff is going to end up there or on the street. My concerns/questions are: 1) What did/do you do with your pet when you weren’t in the storage unit? 2) How do you lock it when you are inside? (i.e. what is to stop someone from noticing it’s unlocked and open it up while you are inside? Oh – and that brings me to a third question, 3) weren’t you scared someone would lock you inside and you wouldn’t be able to get out?

  • william wallace late brother

    I hate people like you, you are the people who cause all the problems for true productive people who has worked there asses off only for It to be stolen by the great kings who still rule the world. You are the type of guy who hides under the kings table for whenever he gets a boner!

  • wallace

    A bull squat, sounds like yer already in there. But as for the pets, waiill back n the day the dogs sometimes ate the cat because the cat was noticeable. But you can’t take a pet in a unit, it’s a dead giveaway and a dumb mistake. You have to be smart/shoosy where you go. Living in a unit is a carefull procedure or they will give you the boot. I am a pro been there six years at 2 different inns. First one I was bangin the manager and made the mistake of getin the daughter. Then got setup by the jeleious attendant and got caught by the CEO! there are strict rules to follow and I broke the one that gave me a great edge. But it’s hard to get away with. But the Mexicans do it best, some are like mini condos. They get away with it pretty well theye do construction for cash and head south for the winter and squat there. They share the expences and confuse the management. They have Bands and all kinds of shit they are the best!

  • Trace Wikes

    Thank you for choosing to be an empathetic individual.

  • Thomas

    To be honest, I thought about taking on this kind of lifestyle BY CHOICE…
    It just seems like a totally cozy, humble, and simple lifestyle that offers IMPECABLE convenience. I am in school to become a Physician Assistant, so money isn’t the issue, and this would only be a temporary thing that I would do JUST to experience it for a while… but not permanent lol unless I just totally fall in love with it.
    So, my question to you, Ms. Blanton, is whether or not you enjoyed this lifestyle and whether or not your experience matches what I am seeking? Cozy, humble, simple and convenient?

  • Thomas

    To be honest, I thought about taking on this kind of lifestyle BY CHOICE…
    It just seems like a totally cozy, humble, and simple lifestyle that offers IMPECABLE convenience. I am in school to become a Physician Assistant, so money isn’t the issue, and this would only be a temporary thing that I would do JUST to experience it for a while… but not permanent lol unless I just totally fall in love with it.
    So, my question to you, Ms. Blanton, is whether or not you enjoyed this lifestyle and whether or not your experience matches what I am seeking? Cozy, humble, simple and convenient?
    I posted this elsewhere on the page, just above yours to be exact, but then I figured it would be best to simply reply to your statement instead lol.
    I look forward to hearing from you!

  • EditorJohnEgan

    Apporove

  • beckyblanton

    It’s a lot like camping, only in the city. If you like camping, like simplicity and like adventure, go for it. If you’re in school to become a PA you might want to check out whether a criminal record would impact your future career choice. Some cities consider trespassing a misdemeanor, but it could go totally south and become a felony for some reason depending on how much the jurisdiction hates the homeless. You sound like you’d fall in love with it. If you’re young, healthy, a risk taker who likes adventure, go for it. I did enjoy the lifestyle, but then, I love camping and tiny homes. I’m 59 now, almost ten years older than when I lived like this. Health is bad, and I like being warm. If you are curious by all means try it! We regret the things we DIDN’T do, not the things we did do. It’s convenient, if you have a working car, access to a shower (join a gym), and a good unit.

    Ask yourself what you’re looking for – the adrenalin rush? The thrill of not getting caught? Do you want to save money? Every person’s experience is different. If you’re going to experience it, then do so while you have the means and resources to choose differently if it’s not to your liking. HAVING to live like a refugee or homeless person is different than choosing to. If you are in school and only need a place to crash/sleep, it will work and save you money. Convenient? Not really. But it is different!
    Good luck!

  • Thomas

    What I mean by convenient is not having to drive home when you’re tired, because, well, if you’re in the car, you already are home lol. I work in Walmart right now (as a vendor, not FOR Walmart itself), so I know that they allow campers overnight. I thought “wow… how convenient it would be to not have to drive to work everyday and just be parked RIGHT THERE… I could sleep right up until the start of my shift practically lol…” but yes… criminal backgrounds will be a curveball at my future career, so its not worth the risk I suppose lol…

    Thanks!

  • beckyblanton

    That’s different! By all means try it. Walmart is very camper friendly and if you’re a vendor they definitely won’t mind if you stay. Don’t tell them you’re homeless tho. They don’t mind that, after all, they let me stay in their lot for almost four months! It is safer to sleep in your car than drive home tired. Sleeping in a storage facility is where it wouldn’t be so wise. Find a good van, check out the Youtube videos on vandwelling and think of it as being a full-time RVer. If you aren’t penniless and homeless, don’t court it.

  • Thomas

    If you die a slow and painful death, then there IS justice in the world. You’re making a huge assumption that the people who do that REALLY have a choice.
    Lets put it this way, princess: what do you think is safer? Living in a storage unit, which can ONLY be accessed by other tenants, all thanks to a fence protecting the lot’s perimeter (therefore, blocking out all of the population, except what? 100 or so people? And of those 100 or so people, how many do you really believe lack the decency to not rape or kill someone? Let’s be liberal and say 10%. Her chances of survival are STILL better living in that storage unit in a lot whose tenants are 10% rapists/murders than out in the open, open to all 50 million (random number, I know its off target, please don’t correct me) of the population… (And, mind you, these rapists/murderers most likely don’t come to their locker on a daily basis, and, in addition, probably have other targets that they have far more interest in hurting than some lady who did nothing to them whatsoever)

    And after reading your post, I’m very well convinced that had you been the manager at the storage unit in which Ms. Blanton was living in, you would have given her a hard time. To that, I can’t help but hope and pray that your spouse cheats on you. You deserve pain!

  • Jay Jay Michael

    I’m pretty scared right now that I am considering this.
    I moved to Seattle a year ago for love. Young love that can never seem to last. Now we have been broken up for a few months now and I am staying at a friend’s apartment. However I was take advantage of with any money I made. It’s difficult to save money from a job that doesn’t pay enough to live in the city it’s in.
    I havent touched my check from my new job until tonight when my friend said he wants $375 for last month and also I have to be out in 2 days. I had no choice but to agree with this from our talk not more than a week ago.
    Less than a week to leave and the only money I had was taken.
    I really have gave my all to save up and work as much and hard as I can but the more I try to make myself better the deeper my hole.
    Now I’m considering renting a unit to not only store my belongings but to also hopefully get a save sleep in.
    I don’t know what else to do. My family is back on the east coast and can’t aford to help even if I had the courage to ask. I don’t want to worry them.
    This is the worse spot I have ever got into and I hope I can handle it.
    If not for the memories of my family’s love for me I wouldn’t be alive in 2 days. My depression has obviously gotten worse the past few months but I’m glad to have the thought of meeting my newborn nephew someday, so I’m still breathing. Just barely.
    I want it to all be over so badly or to just not feel anything anymore. I can’t even cry it hurts so much.
    I will continue to fight to have something to show for my life. I have nothing else I can do.
    I do hope I can talk with someone from King County to help my situation. I heard there are ways to get help for paying for rent or with my issue, getting assistance paying for first months rent and security deposits.
    I already tried selling my clothing at a local business but they nearly didn’t take anything and from a large pile they did take, I only got $27. I almost cried because I thought I’d get maybe $90 for everything.
    So I will pray that talking to my county, someone will help me. I don’t know what else I can do.
    Live in a storage unit? I even pray that I can do that.

  • John

    I’m going to end up homeless in a couple months, and looking around the net and doing research led me to this page. I also watched your Ted Talk Miss Blanton, and I have to thank you. You’re giving me a little hope in what seems like a hopeless future.

  • beckyblanton

    John, homelessness is what is HAPPENING to you in the moment. It is NOT who you are or what you will always be. Don’t give up hope. Don’t self medicate with drugs or alcohol. Stay as positive as possible. If you’re not homeless now, work as hard as you can to buy a used van. I’ve found good ones for $400 to $1,000. You CAN learn to fix a lot of the stuff that’s wrong by yourself. Asking people to help you so you can get a job and not be living on the streets can also get you help. Put every dime towards a car of any kind. It beats storage facilities and the street. You’ll be safer, healthier, warmer and better off. Join Planet Fitness too…only $10 a month and you’ll have a place to shower, work out, hang out etc. Feel free to email me with any questions too. Praying for you! Becky dot Blanton [at] gmail dot com.

  • beckyblanton

    John, I can’t imagine being a facility manager having to make the decision whether to be compassionate or risk losing your business and livelihood and maybe becoming homeless yourself. I don’t think there is an answer that will please everyone. I respected the facility managers, did not do anything other than sleep there on the occasions I didn’t have other alternatives. I didn’t hang out there and spent as much time away from the unit as possible and didn’t do anything to endanger anyone or anything. I can’t describe how hopeless, frightened and truly terrified I was much of the time. Thank you for publishing the story. I’m off the streets and have been for seven years. I’m a full-time ghost writer, I travel and while I’m not rich, I keep a roof over my head now and I eat regularly (maybe too regularly). Last week I bought a 2000 Dodge Caravan for $900 from a friend moving to California. I need to be on the road camping for my job. What’s funny is I’m still “living in a van” part-time. The only thing that’s changed is I pay rent and have a little money. Thank you again.

  • beckyblanton

    GADAVE, you make some excellent points. I could have been attacked, robbed, raped or murdered…but it was infinitely LESS likely than if I’d been on the street. There are no broad brushes with which to paint the homeless. As with any story this one is about my story. There are many homeless people who die in fires they set in units to keep warm, and other tragedies. It’s a case-by-case thing. I know a homeless woman who got a job as a live in facility manager – lives on the property. She is pretty strict about no one living on site because she could lose her job and her housing! Until you’ve been there there’s no way to say what you would do to survive. Thank you for weighing in. It’s a tough, tough issue with no obvious answers.

  • beckyblanton

    Jay Jay, if there is ANY way to buy or borrow a car, please do. Save your money. You can find a clunker at most auto auctions. In many cities you can buy a car if you only have a job and $300. Praying for you. Never be afraid to ask family for help. They may not be able to send you money, but they can buy you a bus ticket home and you can figure it out from there. My family, except for my brother, refused to help. If your family loves you, talk to them.

  • beckyblanton

    I still travel and work out of a van. It’s by choice now I have a good van, money and a place to call home when it gets to be too much. Cozy? Humble? Simple? Convenient? No. It’s actually more work to shop, cook, do laundry, avoid the police and legal hassles. If you can afford to camp and stay at a campground, that’s great, but to be forced into it as a homeless person? That’s a whole different animal!

  • beckyblanton

    I put my animals in “doggie day care” and left them with a friend of a friend who had a fenced in back yard when I couldn’t afford that. I was working full time $11 an hour, and I could afford the unit and care for the animals. I couldn’t afford an apartment tho. As far as how I locked it up when I was inside, I can’t really post that here out of respect for the site manager and no desire to encourage illegal behavior. But it’s doable. I locked the slide in an open position so no one could lock me in. And besides, if I were locked in….making noise and hollering would bring the manager quickly!! If you can afford a storage unit you can afford a clunker car…better for getting a job and for living in.

  • Jane

    Where did you find your van, I’m close to the same situation and practically literally have nothing.

  • beckyblanton

    I found my first van on Craigslist. The last one I bought from a friend who was moving to CA and didn’t have time to sell it for more. I’ve also and then look for a public auto auction at a local car dealership. Find a friend to go with you. I’ve seen cars go for as little as $200. Have at least $500 with you. Go and just watch one time to learn how to bid. If you belong to a church, explain your situation and ask the pastor to help you find a mechanic to go with you to check out the cars before the auction starts (that’s standard. People show up an hour before to do this so it’s okay!) If you don’t have money, see if there’s something the person will barter with you for the car. Maybe they need their garage or attic cleaned out, house painted etc. I missed getting a good used RV by about 30 minutes. The kid before me traded his services for painting the guy’s house (A $3,000 value) vs my offer of $1,000. Get creative!

    When you look at cars look for something you can sleep in, and that looks like a “good” car – not a rust bucket. If you can afford a crappy car buy it and then save for another one down the road. I was able to paint mine with a gallon of white oil paint and it looked almost new…cost? $50 for roller, paint, paint thinner and brushes, etc.

    First thing you want is a dependable car, then something you can sleep in, then mileage, then looks…If you can’t afford a car, get a bike at Goodwill. You need transportation and a way to get out of a bad area or away from someone or to a job. A bike rack can also hold a pack.

  • Dave Algonquin

    Why didn’t she just live in her van, down by the river?

  • Dave Algonquin

    Get on a bus and go home. You need a support system, even if it isn’t perfect.

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