The Wheeled Vagabonds August 1, 2005
A few blocks from my residence lies a fallow stretch of street fronting a local government maintenance building. As the other side of the street is occupied by a school, there are no houses on the entire block, and as such, there are no cars parked here as on other residential streets. Into this void has flowed the Wheeled Vagabonds, those hardy souls who live in their cars, vans or converted school buses.
Though living on the street is prohibited, the local Police obviously turn a blind eye to the practise, as long as the Vagabonds don't cause any trouble. I reckon their presence actually makes the neighborhood safer, as their eyes are most certainly on the street. Despite the cramped quarters, they fashion a life not unlike the more traditional apartment or house dweller; at least one has a friendly dog, and he keeps his bicycle locked on the back bumper of his old van.
I'm not sure how the Wheeled Vagabonds take care of their bathroom needs, but I would guess a trip down to the marina or other public facilities works passably well; on such a quiet street, they don't need to worry about losing their parking space.
In my various bike rides around the city I've spotted a few other such quiet non-residential areas where the Vagabonds gather; I assume they switch locales from time to time to avoid any possible legal entanglements. Even if they aren't assets per se to the neighborhood, they are certainly benign; after all, if you lost your job, or aren't able to find work, then living out of a vehicle is pretty much the only cheap way to live in this area. It sure beats being totally on the street, i.e. homeless.
This practise is probably far more widespread than commonly recognized. On a recent visit to my Alma Mater, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I chanced upon a familiar car and its grizzled occupant. The man once ran some film festival on campus for a time, and I suppose this thin connection to the University enabled him to obtain a parking pass. Now his car, stuffed to the ceiling except for the driver's seat, has been his home for an unknown number of years. I wonder how many other campuses across the country have similar Wheeled Vagabonds residing in inobtrusive nooks and crannies.
Just after graduating from college, I briefly considered buying a small sailboat and living on it, reckoning that the dock fees would be appreciably less than rent in righteously expensive Honolulu. Alas, the dock fees were not much less than the rent on my fleabag studio apartment, so I gave the idea up. But a van has nearly the same room as a small sailboat interior; why is the former acceptable but the latter unacceptable as alternative housing?
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