Homelessness, trip report

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Roadie

Trad climber
moab UT
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 14, 2019 - 08:02pm PT
"Cut your hair or move out!" That was the ultimatum my father gave me. It was the spring of 1975 and I had just turned fifteen. Confident, like all fifteen year olds, that I knew everything there was to know, I packed my things and left. I found an abandoned building, filthy but dry. So far so good. Food was another matter. I started cutting classes so I could work more. A few weeks later the police picked me up as a runaway and were thrilled to find a small bag of weed in my pocket. I was sent to reform school for an undetermined amount of time.

The line between discipline and torture is a fuzzy one. If the staff never quite crossed it they took an obvious sadistic delight in marching us up to its edge and keeping us there. It took me almost six months to figure out how to escape.

Life on the streets is tough, especially for a teenager in a big eastern city. While I learned fast and got hard quickly. I went hungry a lot. I had been shot three times before I turned twenty-one. What I learned is that the sad reality in many parts of America is this: Get hard or die.

In the early eighties I met John. It was just a casual hookup at first but a few months later we were practically living together. For the first time in a long time I found I was happy. I was beginning to remember how to relax. Then he started going all Freddy Mercury on me. "Dude," I told him. "If you don't just chill out you're going to get AIDS and die and I'm out of here." Maybe he just couldn't help himself but 18 months later I was holding his hand as he took his last breath. Maybe it was fear or maybe shame but his parents and siblings never showed up.

By the mid eighties I was living with Susan and again happy. We were planning to get married and talking about having kids. Until she got sick. The doctors and insurance companies dithered and made excuses and wrung their hands and basically did nothing while the cancer ate her alive.

I guess its pretty obvious by now that I don't have a lot of faith in, or trust for the police, the government or American institutions as a whole.

If you have begun to think of me as a victim I forgive you but please stop. I am not a victim but a survivor. And like many survivors, I suspect I might be just a little bit- F*#ked Up. We all have our survival strategies. For me that strategy lays in the margins of society. I couldn't care less about investment portfolios, life insurance or the endless stream of junk mainstream society wants me to think I need. I am a minimalist. I am also what you would call: Homeless.

But before you begin to make assumptions and judgments consider the following: I have had three reasonably successful careers, started two businesses and sold more essays, novellas and short stories than I can remember, to magazines on three continents. While most revolved around frivolous activities like climbing or skiing I've made a lot of people laugh. Or cry. More importantly, I've made a lot of people rethink their biases and prejudices. More important still are the endless hours I've put in building trails, volunteering at the soup kitchen and lobbying for causes I believe in. All of this while homeless. And there is absolutely nothing special about me.

Every homeless person I've ever known has a sad song to sing. And each one also has redemptive qualities, sometimes overtly displayed other times just below the surface.

Homeless people are the last group it is socially acceptable to openly revile. We are the last group it is quasi legal for municipalities to discriminate against. And we're not going away. We are a part of this society, off in the margins to be sure, but a part. And if you put your assumptions and fears aside long enough to just listen to a few of us you'll find we have observations and insights you might find useful. That's my story. I'll shut up now. Its time to give you space, to let your assumptions wrestle with your conscience.

Thank you, Steve Seats
two-shoes

Trad climber
Auberry, CA
Apr 14, 2019 - 08:28pm PT
Hi Steve,

I ran into you more than once. Once at the Tollhouse Faceoff in about 1990. I remember you stopping by my shop a couple times so that I could smell your Hanwags. Those shoes had to have been the best made klettershues ever made, huh? They just kept on keepin' on!

I remember you as a very personable fella and I don't think you're as F'ed up as you might think
people feel about you. You seemed like someone that one could put faith into. Like someone you might have know for a while, that sort of think.

You shouldn't think of yourself as "homeless", only houseless! The whole world is your home for christ sake. Hang in there buddy!

Barry Chambers
Mike.

climber
Apr 14, 2019 - 08:30pm PT
Thanks for your insights, Steve.


Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Apr 14, 2019 - 08:38pm PT
"Cut your hair or move out!"

Being kicked out, as you effectively were, isn't the only way to realize that your family is no longer your family. Many have come to that realization for a variety of reasons, but the lucky among us also came to the realization that while we might not have a place in the family or the community of our birth, we did have a place in the extended family of climbing.

Keep on trucking.
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Apr 14, 2019 - 09:10pm PT
Heavy duty . . . thank you for the reality check. So many marginalized people that were all someone's baby once. This life can be so cruel.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Apr 14, 2019 - 09:18pm PT
Well Steve, sounds like you have gotten your money’s worth so far on this trip through the material world. Keep on keepin’ on, and thanks for the light you’ve shined here with your tales.
Flip Flop

climber
Earth Planet, Universe
Apr 15, 2019 - 06:43am PT
TFPU

When someone is voluntarily living a lifestyle it's one thing.
The tragedy is when we have working, qualified, contributing members of society, unable to have dignified housing. Children and the infirm homeless. This is to our collective shame.
Heisenberg

Trad climber
RV, middle of Nowehere
Apr 15, 2019 - 08:53am PT
Thanks Steve.

When I first started living out of my van we spent a spring or 2 living on the slickrock in Indian Creek. We played chess games at night in your van when the weather was crap, and would wake up and you'd provide an education in the finer points of crack climbing and "harden up". Still to this day the one climb I want to do is "Cats Paw" at the cat wall. Every time I walk up to the base and look at it I think of you climbing that thing.

Over the years we'd keep running into each other at various climbing spots. Still to this day I hope to run into you again at IC, but as we both know it's a goddam zoo down there and you would probably be at some obscure area which no one knows about, or be down in some slot canyon.

You're a good man Steve.

p.s. I'll never forget when Jerry Garcia died. During an interview he said he just loved playing music. It was great he god paid for it, but even if he didn't he's still just play music. You are happier not buying into the society bs that most of us here do. I bought into it, not saying the grass is greener on either side, what I am saying like Jerry is being able to do what you love in life is what matters. Not what box society says is the happy box.

Keep writing, climbing and having an adventure. You're one of the few and lucky that has made a living out of it.
formerclimber

Boulder climber
CA
Apr 15, 2019 - 04:09pm PT
Last year "Leave no trace" movie came out...about father and daughter living in the woods on public land in Oregon (based on real story) - very good one.
It also shows very well why/how it's impossible to live in or adapt to this modern society.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_07ktacEGo8
wilbeer

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
Apr 15, 2019 - 05:23pm PT
What Flip has said,for sure.
formerclimber

Boulder climber
CA
Apr 15, 2019 - 07:12pm PT
The tragedy is when we have working, qualified, contributing members of society, unable to have dignified housing

So, what's a point in "qualifying" or "contributing" to such "society"? None. Society that makes one "qualify" for the right to have a roof over your head by living in slavery, whle you could get by with just a tent or old trailer on your own land - but no you can't live the way you want on own land. Society which is making you slave towards forced, unnecessary standards of living by complying with some insane totalitarian rules/demands (otherwise you're not human enough to even have something between you and the rain). "Contribute" to someone else's pockets...that's all that is there. Anyone can put up a shack and an outhouse, but none of this is legal anywhere (but Alaska) anymore. Zero point in cooperating, contributing, or qualifying for some insane overblown standards created by others.

Colorado formerly homeless man inherits money, buys property... next he's being evicted from it (for placing a shipping container and RV), likely to become homeless again and lose the investment:
https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/homeless-man-being-booted-off-his-own-newly-purchased-mountain-property
WBraun

climber
Apr 15, 2019 - 07:18pm PT
Thank god for people like Roadie to show us diversity of life .....
Roadie

Trad climber
moab UT
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 16, 2019 - 06:07pm PT
Thanks for your thoughts every one. I posted this as a kind of trial balloon for a longer piece I am working on for the paper. I am, obviously, too close to the center of it to pretend to have any objectivity. Writing it was kinda like pulling teeth, only in my soul. In short, I can't decide it is evocative and compelling or self-indulgent drivel. Thoughts? Be brutally honest. Thanks, S

PS, I am and continue to be mostly content with the path I've stumbled onto as well as reasonably happy. Cheers.
7SacredPools

Trad climber
Ontario, Canada
Apr 16, 2019 - 06:29pm PT
That was a brilliant read Mr. Seats. Single handed, you've saved ST.
zardoz

Trad climber
Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 16, 2019 - 06:43pm PT
The not being able to live in your own RV on land you own is complete horse sh#t. It's rich people imposing on poors for making their wilderness experience less upscale. I have a friend that lives in an RV and a renovated school bus, but fortunately her country grandfathered her setup in.
dgbryan

Mountain climber
Hong Kong
Apr 16, 2019 - 08:44pm PT
It was a good read. WBraun summarizes my view of it nicely.
formerclimber

Boulder climber
CA
Apr 16, 2019 - 08:58pm PT
Very well written...the only thing it seems like you sound kind of apologetic in multiple places, for example where you refer to "redemptive qualities" or it being "in the margins" or bring up your volunteering or businesses as a "flip" side (and not clear if it's about homelessness or something else, like hard drugs), but there's no reason to be apologetic.

The not being able to live in your own RV on land you own is complete horse sh#t. It's rich people imposing on poors for making their wilderness experience less upscale. I have a friend that lives in an RV and a renovated school bus, but fortunately her country grandfathered her setup in.
Got to admire "North Pond Hermit" who camped for 27 years on private land right under everyone's noses :) since simple living on own land was made illegal by a bunch of bureaucrats...he got to make do I guess.
E

Ice climber
mogollon rim
Apr 17, 2019 - 03:24am PT
Wanna get outta the bullsh#t?
Move to Washington...i do believe you can have a container and and rv
On a $16000 lot
Lots of climbing and mountaineering all around
Where I'm living there's like 6 school buses on property as well
Its like calif was when I was growing up
formerclimber

Boulder climber
CA
Apr 17, 2019 - 07:34am PT
Wanna get outta the bullsh#t?
Move to Washington...i do believe you can have a container and and rv
On a $16000 lot
Lots of climbing and mountaineering all around
Where I'm living there's like 6 school buses on property as well
Its like calif was when I was growing up

WA has very different rules in different counties, in Western WA it's mostly even worse/stricter than in CA even (I had a home in WA before/researched a few locations there). So, it's on county-by-county basis...more freedom-friendly counties being in parts like North-Eastern WA. Where is your county? But WA is for "wealthy" people now anyway, with high cost of real estate... you can't get a good-sized 16K lot now, at least not in the wooded parts of the state, accessible year-round and where there's a good chance to hit water when drilling.
E

Ice climber
mogollon rim
Apr 17, 2019 - 09:19am PT
I live in Colville
50 miles from British Columbia
Stevens county and on the rez.
No extra rules here
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