Friday, November 11, 2022

Not quite homeless

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By Duane L Herrmann

I was not quite homeless, but there was a time, just after high school, when I was trying to be independent when I was largely living out of my car. I did this only because it was more convenient, but I wasn’t sleeping there. I was attending the local university and did not want to live at home, on the farm in the country. Before I had a car, I had had a job with a family with two little boys. Both parents worked and they needed child care at odd times of the day. They had only one car, but their work schedules did not mesh. I ended up being their driver and child care provider in the odd hours. I slept in a bed in a corner of their basement. It was a successful arrangement for all of us.

My mother’s mother did not agree.

She would not let me explain how I was helping the family, nor would she listen to them, and insisted I move my stuff to her house. That seemed reasonable to her and other people didn’t need to take care of her boy. Twice while I was in high school, I had stayed with her while Granpa was away for medical reasons. At her house, also on a farm in the country, but not as far from town, I had no transportation. That didn’t work for me to attend class. My mother then helped me get a car for $100.00. It was a year older than I was with a push button transmission. I didn’t know such a transmission existed.

I kept my books in the car, even my portable typewriter, so I could study and type what I needed to between classes. It wasn’t long before I was invited to supper at the home of other friends. Sometimes we talked into the evening and it was more convenient to sleep on their couch that drive all the way out of town, than back in the morning for class. And, their house was just a few blocks from campus. When I learned that the wife hated to deal with left overs, I began returning to their house at lunch time to eat the left overs from supper. She was happy, I was happy and I saved on gas – which was thirty-five cents a gallon! This was 1970.

I didn’t move my clothes into their house, I kept them in the car, but I would use their bathroom to shower. I don’t remember where I did my laundry, that wasn’t a major concern. Eventually, I got a job and an apartment I shared with a friend from high school. That ended my time of being almost homeless. What stays with me is the feeling of freedom from my mother’s constant criticism, screaming, and demands that I do whatever work she didn’t want to do. I had everything I needed right there in the car with me. That I wasn’t really living in any one “place” didn’t bother me a bit. It was a time of newness, excitement, and transition in my life.

Editor’s note: This was originally published by Adirondack Center for Writing as part of ANCA’s Dreaming of Home project. The prompt: Do you have ideas about programs or practices that might work to mitigate the housing crisis in the Adirondacks? Think as big or as small as you like.

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ANCA is building prosperity across northern New York. Our programs and partnerships focus in these areas: ANCA Center for Pandemic Response, Entrepreneurial Economy, Food Systems and Energy.

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