Intentionally Houseless

The response to my article about living in a car and a tent to pay off debt in the crazy expensive San Francisco has been huge, and I want to thank everyone for reading and offering kind advice and reflections. The article was since picked up by the Huffington Post and Business Insider, which has led to all sorts of comments, some ruthlessly negative, others delightfully positive. Read my initial post..

The decision to publish an article about this lifestyle choice was very difficult for me, which is why I waited a over a year to do so. I was afraid of opening myself up to the masses, for ridicule, commentary and judgement. Living in a car and a tent isn’t exactly something many people like to admit they are doing, for in many cities it’s illegal, and in many social circles, looked down upon. I didn’t do it for publicity or to further my career, as some have insinuated, I did it to simply pay off debt and become financially ahead. Most people at my day job had no idea I had given up my home. It was a deeply personal choice, and wasn’t the easiest choice, but I have absolutely no regrets and would do it again.

I’ve since realized that using the word “homeless” wasn’t the right call. While technically I was homeless, I wasn’t socially homeless, or homeless in a dire and desperate sense. I thought calling it “intentional” would differentiate my situation, but I’ve realized the word is too riddled with pain and anguish. It’s not a word to toy with or use to describe a situation like my own. This is a point many people have sent my way, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The term “intentionally homeless” has distracted many from the true point of my story, which is that sometimes it takes living uncomfortably to become financially ahead. So from now on, maybe we should call it “intentionally houseless”, as one reader suggested, or “living without a home.”

I was by no means comparing myself to people living on the streets. There are so many people who are evicted in San Francisco and have nowhere to turn. Many lose their jobs as well, and when hit with this doubly whammy, end up on the streets. To walk through San Francisco is heart-breaking, as more and more tents gather beneath freeways. The true homeless situation is growing and needs to be resolved. I am lucky that I had a choice. My situation is and was worlds different.

But now, honestly, I don’t have a choice. I don’t live on a sailboat to pay off debt and become financially ahead. I live on a sailboat without a kitchen or a bathroom because it’s my only option now that I don’t have a well-paying full-time job. It doesn’t make financial sense for me to rent in the Bay area even with regular voiceover work hours, not even a room in the East Bay. I can’t justify spending over half my income on rent.

As a result, I am expanding my job search to other cities, somewhere I can work full-time and rent a room without breaking the bank. Shelter is one of the top needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, and each and every city should have options for all income levels. This is San Francisco’s biggest issue.

Even though I’ve received my fair share of vitriol and anger for using the word “homeless”, I am hoping my story casts even more light on the dire housing situation in the Bay area. Luckily, not every comment has been angry. It’s amazing how many people are coming out of the woodwork, sharing their stories, saying they lived the same way I did. Some people lived in their office, others in a van, all to save money and pay off debt.

Living “houseless” the way I have hasn’t been easy, especially these last few months living on the boat. As my Mom said recently, “Many people aren’t willing to be uncomfortable even for a short amount of time to save money.” I guess I am willing to be uncomfortable, because I know at some point, things will change, and I’ll have money in the back to pay a deposit somewhere that’s probably not in San Francisco.