Being homeless and itinerant, I’m seeing for the first time how prominent of a role one’s residency plays in various aspects of our lives, and how rigid its definition is. My car insurance company wants to know where I live; my health care options vary depending on where I live; Illinois wants me to get a new Illinois driver’s license within 90 days of “moving” there; Illinois and Chicago gun laws have different requirements depending on whether or not I am an Illinois or Chicago resident vs a visitor… It’s assumed that one’s residency, where one lives, is clearly defined with no room for ambiguity. And I suspect that’s true for most people; I mean, it’s where you go home to, duh. But for me, it makes no sense. Most of my stuff is in storage in Mountain View, CA. My mail goes to a friend’s apartment in San Francisco, my ammo component shipments to another friend’s place in San Jose. I am currently in St. Louis, will be in Japan next week, but we’ll be subletting an apartment in Chicago for the summer. Oh, but the sublet agreement doesn’t have my name on it. So, somebody tell me; where do I live? And why does it matter? Even if I “lived” in California, in the traditional sense of the word, I could still drive across the country and require medical care in another state. So why should my health insurance or auto insurance company care? And if I want to possess a firearm literally 4 blocks from Obama’s house, why does it matter whether I “live” there or am merely a visitor from out of state (residents must register their firearms, while visitors don’t)?
There’s definitely a stigma against homelessness in our society, which is ironic when you consider that we’re in this economic recession because we tried to give houses to people who couldn’t afford them. But if you want to lower your living costs, going without a home is a logical choice. People often pay 30% or more of their income on rent (probably more for the working poor), and forego health insurance, or skimp on food. That doesn’t make sense. You can live a healthy life without a big static home, but you can’t live a healthy life without good food or health care. Of course, there are some practical issues with true homelessness (as opposed to the bourgeois version Nikki and I have been enjoying). For instance, it’s hard to find showers that are open to the public. Having occasional privacy is probably good for one’s mental health, and a clean bed is necessary for sanitary reasons. But I feel like these basic amenities can be provided, separately from the traditional notion of a home (or the nearest alternative, the motel) if only we, as a society, were willing to accept the possibility of a respectable, healthy, productive life without a stationary home.
Not to mention how residency gets all screwy for tax reasons. Doran lived in DC for 9 months after U of C, before moving to CA, which meant that in 2008, he had to pay taxes to his legal place of residence for the first six months (IL), where he was earning money during that time (MD), and his place of residence for the second six months (CA), all while we physically lived in DC! WTF!
The whole health care and car company thing though is all about metrics — both industries want to evaluate precisely how much risk you pose to them (and therefore how much they’re going to charge you), and one of the variables in that equation is location. A total proxy for well-being or safety, and one that assumes a hellova lot. But so when you can’t give them a location, their risk matrix doesn’t know what to do with you and flips out and dies a twitchy death.
Which is why you lie — or at least go with whatever truth is the most convenient.
Last thought – for many homeless, “residency” is not an issue in the same way as it is for you, because many homeless aren’t changing states but rather shelter bed-hopping within the same city. Still — did you know (and this is SO stupid!) that you run into serious issues getting Welfare or Food stamps if you can’t put an address on the forms where you can get mail? So a shelter address doesn’t count? Dumb system.
I moved into a Sprinter last August and can certainly attest to the ‘homeless’ treatment. I’m able to compare living before and after in the same ‘hood, shopping in the same stores, coffee in same shops, et cetera AND I also added new routines (24 Hour Fitness, eating VERY cheaply, spending hours, days really, searching for work at a new library. I noticed when the very same clerks realized I was there EVERY morning, buying the cheapest of what I used to (the bestest), using the restroom, every visit, they treated me . . . less courteously, shall we say. It doesn’t matter how friendly I am either. I liken it to the difference btwn business casual and wearing a tie and suit. Dramatic. It’s not unbearable being viewed as one of the ‘unfortunates’ especially when I think of the monthly thousands of $$$ I’ll be investing soon, but I do look forward to the day I can roam as a fulltimer.
Thanks for writing. I enjoy your blog and hope to buy a pistol soon and join the ranks!