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This section was my workspace for philosophy essays between July 2006 and April 2008. I call this "Prehistoric Kilroy" because it gave me practice for more disciplined essays in Kilroy Cafe. Also see my philophical blog and Twitter feed.

Issue #4, 8/6/2006

The Virtues of Homelessness

By Glenn Campbell
Family Court Philosopher

Another homeless dude, Pepper, who lives on the banks of the Los Angeles River. 7/9/06 more

Also see Glenn's blog on homelessness (started 2009): Homeless by Choice

For nearly three years now, I have been "homeless", sleeping in the desert or in my car somewhere in or near Las Vegas. I don't expect your pity, however. On the contrary, I pity you.

In the beginning, this lifestyle was not my choice. Technically, I had a home, but I could not linger there and did not feel safe closing my eyes. My challenge was to support a family in a house I couldn't live in, and my own homelessness was a financial necessity. Now, it is my chosen lifestyle. It permits me to do what I want to do and not serve someone else.

Of course, I am not truly "homeless" in the purest sense. I have a car (currently a rental), and I have the resources to rent some storage units in town. I have a basic medical plan. I shower at a health club, and if I am overwhelmed with hunger, I can always check into one of our fine casino buffets. I have a cell phone and wireless internet access.

I am not without resources, only without a dedicated place to spend the night. I am not an alcoholic or drug addict and have no known mental health issues. I don't stand at freeway off-ramps with a sign, "Please help." I do not believe I smell too bad, at least as far as I can smell myself.

My only luxury is a rental car, which is a relatively cheap commodity in Las Vegas. Since my own car blew up, I have seen no need to buy a new one. Now, I get a nearly new car every two weeks, use it intensely, get it quite messy, then turn it in for another. The cost compares favorably to the payments on a new car, but without any obligations. There are also no maintenance or insurances costs. (Insurance is covered by my credit card for rentals of up to 15 days, hence my two-week cycle.) Having a car for only two weeks forces me to "clean house" periodically, which I otherwise might not do.

Las Vegas has the ideal climate for homelessness. The temperature rarely falls below freezing and rain is uncommon. Contrary to what you might think, summer is the most comfortable season. Highs of 110° in the day translate into nighttime lows in the 80s, at least outside the city. I sleep out in the open in the Mojave desert. I use an air mattress but rarely a tent. In the desert, there are almost no insects except after a rain. In the summer, it is like sleeping in a nice comfortable bath, looking up at the stars.

The hazards are few. I have woken up with a tarantula in my bed, but it was a cordial encounter. I have never seen a rattlesnake while camping or anything else dangerous. I have never encountered houligan bikers or psycho killers. My rare encounters with human life have always been friendly.

One of the few annoyances in the desert are fire ants, which sting like bees if I happen to intrude into their territory. Also, the kit foxes can be annoying at times. These look like small gray dogs with big ears and bushy tails, about the size of a big housecat. They show little fear of humans and have a tendency to steal my shoes. (You don't know how weird and disturbing it is to wake up alone in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by miles of empty desert, to find your shoes have vanished.)

I can sleep anywhere there is an open patch of desert, including larger vacant lots in Las Vegas. However, I prefer places where there is little chance of human contact, which means the open desert. As the city expands, the desert is being pushed further away, but there is still plenty of it out there. The nearest virgin desert is about a half-hour drive from downtown Las Vegas, which would be a reasonable commute for any homeowner.

I am writing this while lying in the back seat of my full-size Chevy Impala in an undisclosed location south of town. I am in a patch of untouched desert with no proximate signs of human life apart from the little-used dirt road I am on. I-15 is visible in the distance. This is necessary because my internet access comes from the cell phone network (Cingular), which is active near the freeway. Although I am close to all of the conveniences of the city, this is a private location with little chance of human encounter.

BLM regulations allow me to legally camp for up to 14 days in one location on public land. Of course, if there is no human contact, then there is no one to count how many days I spend in one location.

In the winter, I am more likely to sleep in the car in the city. (It is too hot to sleep in the car in the summer.) Whether I sleep in the car or the desert depends on whether I want to make the half-hour commute to the desert, and sometimes it isn't worth it.

Sleeping in the back seat of a car takes a few nights to get used to, but it is a very useful skill. It means I can travel anywhere in the world, and as long as I can rent a car, I also have free lodging.

When sleeping in the car in the city, I avoid vacant lots and other secluded locations, as the presence of a lone car may attract the attention of police or car thieves. (I have had to tell some thieves, "No, you can't steal this car, because I am in it.") Instead, I usually choose a street or public parking lot where cars are commonly left overnight. On the rare occasions when I am interrupted by the police, it is usually no problem. They ask for my I.D., then let me be.

The main advantage of homelessness is obvious: I save money on the most significant expense that most people have. In the past, I have had apartments that I have only used for the single purpose of sleeping. It seemed a senseless waste of rent.

The secondary advantage is more intangible. By living out of a car and not a bigger patch of real estate, I am freeing myself of most of the useless "stuff" that inevitably collects in whatever space you have. That stuff includes both superfluous material goods and unproductive activities. Most people are prisoners of their own homes. Their space is used to collect possessions and avocations that they do not really need. These things then have to be maintained. Over time, you don't own a home; it owns you. You work all day to pay the rent or mortgage on this albatross, then you spend too much of your precious free time on its upkeep.

Who is really more wealthy, you or I? It depends on whether you consider wealth to be money or the freedom to do as you wish with your time.

It is now within my means to own a small R.V. — a house on wheels — but I have no interest in it. Even a van is more than I want or need. A larger vehicle gets poor gas mileage, and the extra space is just more area in which to collect useless clutter.

In my car, I have everything I need and nothing more. If there is some object that I can't part with but that I don't have an immediate use for, it goes into storage. My car is complete and self-contained, and I know that everything I need is already there. If I decide, on the spur of the moment that I want to head for the coast or the mountains, I just go. No packing or reservations required.

I have freed myself not only of physical clutter but of mental clutter. I have no television and don't miss it. I am not a member of any clubs nor a client of any recognized form of entertainment, yet I am never bored. In the desert, there are no distractions from whatever my current mission may be. No unnecessary media are competing for my attention (a phenomenon I call "the mind parasites"). My head is clear, and my thoughts are my own.

Because I deliberately restrict my own sensory input, everything I do experience is much richer. Even a visit to the DMV (or to Family Court) is a fascinating and multi-colored experience for me.

I can't cook or keep perishable food for more than a day or two, but this, too, is a relief rather than a burden. I am urban survivalist, getting by on whatever foodstuffs I can harvest from nature (i.e. Wal-Mart or Taco Bell). It makes me more conscious of what I eat. I used to exploit the fabulous buffet options in our city — $8 for all-you-can-eat at lunch — but I have recently ceased this practice as I watched my weight creep upward. Homeless does not necessarily mean malnourished.

During the day, I run a part-time internet business to try to support my extravagant lifestyle, but mostly I work on my current mission, which is my family court project. The court system is kind enough to provide me with a heated and air conditioned public space in which I can work during business hours. I also take advantage of the many libraries in the city, including those at UNLV, which are open late.

I have internet access wherever I can get cell phone coverage. It is roughly the equivalent of dial-up speed for about $50/month. I can work in the open desert, but not for long after the sun comes up. The problem is not heat as much as light. When the sun is up, it is hard to see my computer screen.

Shade is a precious commodity in the desert. I know all the sources of free shade between Las Vegas and L.A. I am very fond of a railroad underpass under I-15 near Sloan. Another shady spot is an abandoned state inspection station near Yermo, California. Once you have shade (and water), the dry desert heat is easy to take, even at 100+°.

One of the glorious advantages of homelessness is the freedom to drift at will. I bounce back and forth between Vegas and L.A., with my only expense being gas.

Of course, there may be some social consequences to my current lifestyle. I can't entertain friends or raise children, at least in any conventional sense. My romantic life may be restricted, but given my past experiences in this domain, perhaps this, too, is an advantage. I have the internet and a society there, so I am not particularly lonely.

I have travelled in the Third World, and I am familiar with how the majority of humanity lives. In comparison, my current lifestyle seems positively luxurious, and I have nothing to complain about. I have reduced my life to its basic essence, and I live more richly because of it.

Far from feeling disadvantaged, I think that I have stumbled on something big. Who needs a home anyway? It is a burden, not a luxury, and it can stand in the way of living life fully. Is this what we were meant to do: to slave all our life to support and maintain a piece of property?

Real estate can never really be ours. It is going to be sold eventually, and we will move out, and then all we will have to show for ourselves is our accomplishments elsewhere. Only our activities and relationships are important, not the place they are conducted. When a place becomes a goal in itself, then you have surrendered to selfishness. It is meaningless "stuff" without a purpose, and maybe the best thing you can do is burn it down.


Also see: Practical Tips from a Homeless Dude

Also see my blog: Homeless by Choice

Also see: Things You Don't Need: A Bed from my blog Things You Don't Need

This page is dedicated to the students of Jane Long Middle School, Bryan, Texas, who have apparently been assigned to read it. Go Lobos! Hey, Lobos (wolves) are homeless aren't they? —G.C. 1/28/09

Reader Comments

“I've been visiting your site every few months since the mid 90's when you started UFO mind. I thoroughly enjoyed The Virtues of Homelessness. I am a slave to my mortgage. It was a dream for my wife and I to own our home. That dream has turned into the biggest pain in the ass and hassle I've ever had. I commend you for your courage and insight and I'm envious of your simple lifestyle.” — 12/10/06

“ya dick and we the taxpayers pay for it” —heartless in the couv 9/15/07 (rating=3)

“Nice. It does seem as though Wal-Mart is our modern day foraging center. How sad.” —Raider 12/18/07 (rating=4)

“!!!It was awesome. My class and I are doing research and this page gives me so much info. I go to Jane Long and I give you guys a 5!!!” —Mrs. Pooh Bear 2/7/08 (rating=5)

“u dirty hobo u suck” —jane long middle school 2/12/08 (rating=0) ... Response from Webmaster: I got a huge number of responses from the Jane Long Middle School in Bryan, Texas, only two of which I retained here. Since the comments were both positive and negative and seemed to come from a variety of writers, I suspect that this page was given as an assignment.

“You say you're homeless, but your "Ex-Wife Responds" page at this site includes several messages from her that sound like they were left on a home answering machine (note the audio prompts) instead of a cell phone. (Listen to the prompts on the recorded message to see what I mean.) Are you sure this "I'm homeless" thing is legit? I smell----or, rather, hear----a rat.” —Alex Bell 2/28/08 (rating=2) ... Response from Webmaster: For what it's worth, the ex and I are settled out, legally at least, so I have no incentive to minimize my income. And the messages you mention were indeed recorded on a cell-phone, not a home answering machine.

“Great and sad i love it!” —Ms. Winnie the Pooh 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“very much, nothing should be improved.” —Joie 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“Wow! It's cool to read about this stuff! Very interesting!” —Jane Long Middle School 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“hi” — 1/27/09 (rating=3)

“I also go to Jane Long Middle School.” —Joie 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“I love your lifestyle! You don't pay taxes and you get to rent a car for free! Thanks for writing! Write another about your life!” —From Jane Long MS 1/27/09 (rating=4)

“Loved reading! He is lucky that he has WI-Fi and a cell!” —Jane Long Naruto Girl 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“wow.” —morgan 1/27/09 (rating=3)

“HI MORGAN! I am an Jane Long MS student and Morgan sits right next 2 me! Still Love it” —Jane Long Naruto Girl 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“HI!!! my name is Erin! i am a student at Jane Long Middle School!” — 1/27/09 (rating=1)

“HI!!! its Erin again! After I read this story again I decided to give it a 5!!!!” — 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“HI IM MACY! I'M A STUDENT A JANE LONG TOO! :)=):)=)” —MACY 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“awsome” —? 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“awsome” —Quaz 1/27/09 (rating=5)

“Awesome! i really enjoyed it!” —Jane Long's only Itachi 1/28/09 (rating=4)

“loved it, i might think about being homeless!!” —Baseball dude 1/28/09 (rating=5)

“Hi, my name's hunter, i go to Jane long, i loved the story, i may just be homeless some day!!” —Hunter 1/28/09 (rating=5)

“its amazing!” —JLMS 2/3/09 (rating=5)

“i go to jane long” — lexuz 2/3/09 (rating=3)

“u dum shit go jump of a bridge” —bchs 3/6/09 (rating=0)

“I was just wondering how you rent a vehicle, or even own one wthout an address? Here in SC you have to have an address to have one. I too have considered your life style, no desert, here.” —Calvin 3/10/09 (rating=5)

“You are a leech living off the hard-working people.” — 4/3/09 (rating=0)

“USA” —lehzzsh 10/25/10 (rating=EX7hyCoe)

“USA” —xnecfoyab 1/25/11 (rating=2)

“USA” —canadian online pharmacy 2/16/11 (rating=1)

Ratings so far: 5 5 4 4 3 4 4 5 0 2 4 2 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 5 3 5 1 5 5 5 5 4 5 5 5 5 3 2 0 5 0 5 5 EX7hyCoe 2 1 (Average=3.6)

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