This morning was a little chilly- 40ish degrees out. I woke up early, before the sun was up. The sky was still dark, but there was just enough light to show morning was coming. Next thing I knew, the sun was up and so was I. 0730 is really early for me to be up, but that's not a bad thing. That's about the time people coming to work start pulling into the parking structure I've called home for the past month.
I'm a little worried that I'm going to be found out, and one morning I'll wake up to the sound of a cop tapping on my car window. I'll have to explain that I'm homeless, and then they'll want me to go to a shelter downtown.
Over the past week I've inquired about available shelters. There is one main shelter in town that has several satellite/overflow locations. I'm told the main one is bunk beds and is usually crowded, the others floor mats and less crowded. I was also told that people tend to sleep using their duffle or backpack as a pillow to make sure their stuff doesn't grow feet at night.
I normally sleep like a rock thanks to the trazodone I take before bed every night, but if I'm anxious about something I'm up all night. Maybe I'd be able to sleep in the shelter, but my money is on me being awake all night. Probably triggered all night, too. Doesn't sound like much fun.
InsteadI find a ramp or a lot to park in for the night, and sleep in the car. It's not as comfortable as a bed, but it works. It's quiet, no one bothers me. If I'm having nightmares no one hears me talking in my sleep. The doors are locked and the windows are up, so I'm more or less secure.
Most important, I sleep pretty well. I'm comfortable with this arrangement, at least for now. There are worse places to sleep than a car.
I suspect that some of you reading this are wondering "why doesn't he just go to the damn shelter?" You could ask that question about a lot of vets that are homeless. I can't speak for anyone but myself-- but for me it's a matter if strength and self-reliance. Too many times in my life I've let someone else make the decisions, and I'm done with that. Every morning when I wake up, no matter how rough I look, I made it through another night on my own. I'm clean and sober and have never been arrested. I can feel good about those things.
True, I have it better than many others. I at least have some resources to work with.
I still don't let many people know that I'm homeless, at least not in person. I don't go looking for handouts. VA services, I at least feel I've earned those. How are people going to help? Let me crash for a few nights? No one has offered that, even when I've asked.
I acknowledge that I'm putting a brave front on, doing my best not to let people know what's really going on. It's that self-reliance thing, also known as being just plain stubborn. I'm here to earn a degree and graduate. If sleeping in the car and being stubborn about it is what it takes, then so be it.