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Homeless alone (homelessalone.blogspot.com)
254 points by wkoszek on May 6, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 270 comments

I find this pretty fascinating. Firstly because I'm overwhelmed with sympathy for this guy, and I stopped to ask why. I live in Chicago and I see the homeless every day, and I know it's a problem and I wish I could fix it but I don't know how, and giving a dollar to every person I pass would actually start to have a hefty toll ($20+/day or more, easily.) So since moving to the city I made it a blanket rule not to give hand-outs in that form.

But because this guy keeps a blog, because he is articulate and just sounds like another guy, easily could be me, because he still has his voice, I'm almost tempted to send him a couple hundred dollars over paypal. I haven't yet, but the temptation is there. Just because I can hear his story instead of just see him sitting on a sidewalk. It makes it so much harder to walk by.

I do wish I knew more about how it happened. I always wonder that. I usually think there must have been some bad choices made along the way. Not that anyone's free of bad choices. But, why did he instantly become homeless after his mother sold the house? Why didn't he have any savings at that age? Why didn't he have any old friends who would take him in to help him out? I know not everyone is so fortunate as to have those things, of course, but still I wonder how it happens.

I don't know Neil well, but he did speak twice at my conference several years ago (2010 and 2012). In 2012, he was walking with a cane, and had had a stroke between those two times I met him. Still in good spirits, but was definitely a little physically slower.

I'm pretty sure there's more to the back story that led up to this, and I've encouraged him to write more about this at some point when he's more stable. If I were to guess, based on the few points he's made in writing, there's some family rift going on, and I might also presume that he may have been paying for things for his mother that might have otherwise gone in to savings.

He's been through a divorce, which can certainly have a financial toll on anyone, and I think it was a bit later in life, which may be harder to recover from.

A late divorce, some health problems, trying to support a family member - all of that may quickly deplete someone's funds.

As to the homeless part, I think there's a certain pride involved, and asking for help may be embarrassing, especially to have to involve friends. It may be that many of his local friends would be tied to his mother/family, and may not be as supportive as one might hope.

I sent money to paypal, but it's frozen, and I'm wondering if I can reverse it and senf via GFM and he'll get access faster. Hrmmm....

I always have to wonder why people don't work at least minimum wage jobs, to solve the base problems like hunger.

I apologize if I'm missing something or if I seem really ignorant. Actually, I realize I am totally ignorant in this respect. I've never worked a job outside of programming, so I don't know—is it very difficult for some people to get 'normal' jobs? Is it mostly people with some kind of issue or disability that affects their ability to get a job who wind up like this? Are there not as many minimum-wage, or non-professional (or something) jobs out there as I think there are?

I realize once you get to a certain level it becomes really tough to recover, but when you're on your way, and savings are going, shouldn't you be looking around for any way to earn some cash?

Being homeless and getting a job makes it very difficult, almost impossible. Where are you gonna keep a nice suit? Where are you going to get shaving materials? Make-up? Do your hair? Even if you got the job, where will they send your checks? What if you don't have official documentation (birth certidicate, social security, etc) because you're homeless? How would you get around if public transport is unreliable?

And even if you could request them, where would the gov't send the documentation? Where would you do your taxes or anything?

Where are you going to get enough time on the internet to submit hundreds of applications? Or where are you going to print resumes to hand them out?

Being homeless makes the basics of getting a minimum wage job a near insurmountable task for many.

I suppose ther person at hand and many others had things happen so unexpectedly and quickly that he might not have had time to mobilize all these requirements for a job.

It bothers me that a handful of these problems seem possible to be easily solved with very little tax money. A place to send checks/ids (free PO boxes with an address for the homeless) a place to help get documentation and stuff...

Do shelters provide basic makings for a shower and shave?

Even internet access with available hardware, since it's more and more possible to do everything on the internet, would be reasonable.

Yes, some shelters will provide such, as well as an address to get mail at. They also will help you search for a job.

Getting reliable access to shelters can sometimes be more difficult than finding work.

> How would you get around if public transport is unreliable?

As an American, I always found it so ironic that public transportation is often the worst in areas where only those who truly need it use it.

People make a big deal about how better quality public transportation can be good for the environment (by getting more cars off the street), but what I think is more important is that getting more higher-income people on the bus vastly improves fare revenue and local political will for having good public transportation.

I would definitely take public transportation to work if I could, but Silicon Valley public transportation is awful. The lightrail doesn't go through too many useful stops; it's only good if you live somewhere along the line and are trying to get to downtown San Jose. My car commute to Cupertino takes half an hour or less, but if I wanted to take the bus it'd be an hour.

In Germany it is virtually impossible to become homeless, because of many, many welfare programs to keep you afloat (Guess also in most of Western Europe). Thing is, you still have homeless people here. Not just those that flock from other countries. But people you might recognize from elementary school.

A lot of welfare programs do a lot for the majority of people in need (mentally sane) but nothing for a small minority (mentally ill). Because going through all those hoops of regulation favors those with a stable mind and actually scares off those without it (the most needy). Remember the shame to make your neediness public, to strangers or your neighbors and family, the anxiety to be turned down by some bureaucrat, to feel powerless, hopeless and useless. And while having all these emotions, you're supposed to manage your appointments and paperwork for receiving help.

Being mentally stable enough to make and keep social connections surely helps in this scenario, as you could casually ask around what government programs to skim or how to fill out forms - without disclosing your uselessness. Again, schizophrenia isn't helping here.

In contrast, many in our "intelligentia" are doing rather well within the welfare system. They know which funds to access, have a network of other people doing the same, people that know what paragraphs to blast back at the unfriendly bureaucrat. People less educated, less socially connected, less mentally stable loose out in those situations.

One of my professors worked with the homeless and said living on the streets is often the symptom of a greater problem, rather than the problem itself.

I agree, though there's a worsening to your situation once you're homeless. I can't find the study right now, but it basically said homeless people have a significant higher chance of being schizophrenic. It was concluded then, that being homeless was to blame for mental illness. I think this conclusion is not just wrong, because it's the other way around (mental illness causes homelessness) but I think this faulty conclusion actually hurts progress.

(Can't remember if this conclusion came from the authors themselves or from some media outlets trying to use this headline for some other agenda or biased readership.)

Something the other replies didn't mention is that some (many?) homeless people wouldn't be hired for minimum wage jobs because they'd be considered overqualified. [0]

There's always the option to leave education and employment off of your resume, but during the interview how do you explain even a four-year gap without mentioning "I was doing a Ph.D in particle physics" or "I designed marketing materials for Goodyear"?

[0] For example, a "Emmy-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and Harvard grad cannot land a job as a greeter at The Container Store." http://www.scarymommy.com/club-mid/the-illusion-of-control-o...

To expand on this: low-end employers want people who (it appears) don't have any better options. If someone seems like they could find a better job at some point in the future, then they're less likely to put up with the kind of treatment that minimum-wage earners usually get. They might quit, or they might cause trouble and have to be fired. Better to go with someone who knows that they can't do any better.

That's been my experience. I had a white-collar job, quite well-paid, which I lost due to layoffs and the business moving to a cheaper part of the country. There's a huge industry downturn just now, which forced me to look into retail jobs. I did, and it was really, really difficult to get one because the people interviewing me knew that I'm only there until I can get back to what I was doing before.

This reply is interesting. I wonder if this doesn't apply at other levels as well. For example, a small business with a tiny engineering team not wanting to hire an engineer qualified to work for a top tier startup or tech titan.

This is a great answer, and something I'd never thought of.

Of the homeless I've gotten to know, some shared with me that they were schizophrenic and the other had family but was estranged from them. Others were just down on their luck.

If they have kids and are a single parent, it makes it much tougher to just get a job.

Others have access to the resources, but they don't feel they could do the jobs they know about.

I think the majority of truly homeless need someone to really talk with about things, and many will never on their own be able to overcome their homelessness. If those with billions wanted to help, they would provide these people with analysts, medical attention, and perhaps nursing. I doubt they would want to live in a mental institution, but some really should have that level of attention to help avoid problems with alcoholism, drugs, etc. that are a way of escaping.

Still others are privileged. They could easily go back to their family or friends to get help, but they don't. I have very little sympathy for these people when they suck resources away from the homeless that really need it and make it seem like others that really are in need are there by choice. I wish these people would go live in their parents' basements where they belong.

Others aren't really homeless. Some that hold the cardboard signs may have apartments, homes, etc. I know one person where I used to work that I was told would leave her job, go to the corner and beg, then go home. It was an extra source of income.

Even with all of the people that aren't truly homeless or may not even be poor begging, it is still the right thing to help them if you can. You can put together a care bag with snacks, bathing supplies, etc. and give it to them instead of money. You can buy them food. You might not be able to afford to help them all, but even if you just help one every once in a while, if enough people do that, things would be much better. You can't stop homelessness by ignoring it, and there is such a disparity between most of us on HN and those living on the street, that as long as you know you're not funding a drug or alcohol habit, you're helping.

I didn't mean to imply that I'm unsympathetic toward the homeless--read my question again, I tried to be as clear as I can that I just need an explanation for the job thing. It's become more clear to me with other answers.

Of course I understand how tough it is, lack of privilege, lack of reliable family and friends and resources. I don't ignore homelessness. Like the OP of this thread, I live in Chicago, downtown. My short daily walk to work (4 blocks) generally has 4 homeless people on it, one in a wheelchair missing a leg. This is why I've been thinking about their situation more these days, what we can do, and how they ended up this way.

For the Homeless... Yes. Employers, even min wage, want an address, and generally want someone that has some kind of stability.

There are very few employers that will hire homeless people. Of the ones that do some want to help, often they have been or know someone how has been homeless personally. These employers are VERY VERY VERY VERY rare... the other want to take advantage of their situation to get them to work for cash for next to nothing... the "Come work 8 hours for lunch and $20" jobs...

Further most of the legitimate min wage jobs are for entry level position and employers while never saying out out right do practice ageism... They want young workers that are less likely to understand employment law, and are easier to manipulate that older workers. This is true for older homeless and non-homeless alike so this would play a factor in your "when you're on your way shouldn't you be looking around for any way to earn some cash?"

While people may think the economy has improved and in some regions it has, for the most part is it a buyers market for labor, meaning employers can be very selective as they still have 100's or 1000's of applicant's for entry level positions... Young Adult unemployment is still very very very high.

For a lot of people in that situation they are on social security and thus if they get even a minimum wage job, they lose some of their benefits and have to completely reapply if they some how lose their unstable minimum wage or whatever kind of job.

Getting even a minimum wage job while you have a home can be difficult, even more so when you are homeless.

Having a voice is what makes the author distinct in these kinds of stories - he can speak and therefore act for himself. Thus we believe that any charity provided would have result. A good concept for this is "subaltern" which refers to being "rendered without agency by social status". The author is not subaltern and therefore we have hope for him, he is not completely outside the social system we inhabit ourselves. So you could send him $100 and realistically have the expectation that this will have value, as opposed to giving $100 to a man on the street and having the expectation that it will only be a temporary reprieve, or even worsen the situation through short-term spending choices.


Well a big part of homelessness is substance abuse and mental issues.

I know a whole bunch of people who've been homeless, sometimes for up to a year sleeping on the streets. But they'd eventually find their way and move on. In the developed world, there's so many programmes. They're not fun, don't get me wrong. For example you can get a bed, a meal and a shower, but you have curfew at 8pm to reserve a spot and you have to spend the night with a bunch of strangers, not all of whom you'd want to hang out with, and then you get thrown out at 8 in the morning. None of that is enjoyable, but you can do it. Then you can apply for a home, you can apply for a free public transport pass, and you can pretty easily get minimum wage jobs. None of those are great, but e.g. in the Netherlands minimum wage is about $1700, and you get 1 month of mandatory, by law, of holidays per year working full-time, in which you get your salary. This is liveable for a person without children, and combined with all the different programs it's impossible to not live a decent life.

But that's for an ordinary person. If you have a gambling addiction, a substance addiction or a mental issue, none of that matters. You could squander a $10k salary, or have days when you're too scared to go shopping for groceries.

Short-term homelessness is very solvable, I've got friends who've gone through it. Long-term usually is much tricker because you're not dealing with a 'normal' rational human being. These people simply need help, lots of it. It's not a matter of giving a person a job, clothing, a home, because they can't function, none of that helps. They need professional help, and the resources for that aren't being spent. Instead resources are largely spent on keeping people alive.

Of course there are tons of exceptions. I've got a family member for example who was homeless and was really stuck due to a lack of programs available to get him back on his feet. In the end he was 'saved' by the grace of a total stranger, given a place to sleep, food, shower etc and support in becoming self-sufficient. He was mentally fine, educated etc, but ran into one of those 1 in a million odds that destroy your life. And the stranger helped him out. But he's very much the exception. Most are like another family member I had who simply had substance abuse issues. We took him in over and over, got him totally setup after 1-2 years of homelessness. And he'd be right there with us looking handsome and sharp and jolly, nicely clothed and cleaned up, and he'd be sharp as a knife talking about politics. Everyday we'd give him a few bucks for some cigs and a newspaper and stuff, and have him eat all his meals with us and sleep with us. And then 3 weeks later he'd be gone, and we'd spent months on the streets just walking around asking people if they'd seen him. Finally 1-2 years later we'd find him and take him in again and it was the same story, every 1-2 years it'd repeat. But he just couldn't live that life and always fled. In the end he'd be gone again and we went looking once more, but this time he died on the streets, we don't know how. There's nothing you can do for him but get him professional help to deal with substance/mental health issues. I suspect most long-term homelessness is like that.

It's always so hard for me to decide which it is... I've experienced both, people who you simply can't help, but only professionals can, and people who you can totally lift up and get back on their feet with a little bit of trust and resources.

You said everything.

It's a bit stunning to some of the philosophical waxing in here, ruminations and curiosity about what bad choices were made. The guy had a stroke, which he states. It's so stunning that this isn't enough explanation for some, who wonder if he didn't save enough. Our culture is so far gone that a stroke isn't enough explanation for homelessness. To hell with needing reasons... he shouldn't have to provide them. I think the urge for reasons are just ways to determine in our minds we couldn't one day be in his shoes and/or remove the idea that perhaps we should help.

I think a better sign of being "so far gone" is when you find it totally blasé that a stroke can lead to homelessness.

This. Even though my employer provides descent insurance I still end up paying quite a bit more out of pocket then I did in Australia or Canada.

Having lived in many cities around the world, I can say if you're poor in the US, there aren't many options to get out of it. It could be said for many countries but US is the worlds largest economy. It's a solvable problem.

It's heart breaking to hear stories of people choosing to die than go to the hospital because the bills will kill them.

When I was homeless and living out of my old car, my biggest problem was police. Constantly hassling me. I have no idea how they would always find me, I think people were calling in me sleeping in my car (this was before smartphones).

They would always insist on searching the car for drugs and I basically had to give in. Not that I ever had any but they would make a mess since all my possessions were in the car and they could care less about tossing everything.

And yes, as many people say, getting out of the rut of being homeless is the hardest thing, it starts to completely change the way you think and everything becomes day-to-day survival.

Wikipedia says you only get unemployment benefits for 6 months in the US, is that correct? Seems quite harsh.

Its dependent on each state, but that's close enough to average, yes.

Cheers. Probably makes sense considering the "freedom" mentality in the US where everyone has to work for himself compared to the welfare state mentality in Europe.

Actually makes me feel a bit good for paying my taxes :)

Kudos. I like your style. I paid $42K in federal taxes last year, I'd pay more to get universal healthcare and real social safety nets here.

If you'd pay more taxes, would you also simply donate more toward such efforts? If not, would you donate under some Kickstarter-like scheme in which pledges of donation were only enforced in the event that some threshold were met?

Congratulations on your income!

> If you'd pay more taxes, would you also simply donate more toward such efforts?

I currently am, but to Watsi.org. It gives me a bigger bang per dollar compared to the amount of middlemen in the US healthcare model.

I've thought about several ways to drive down the healthcare in the US, and it seems the only sure fire method is for politicians to get into office who believe in single payer. To that end, I use my wealth to max out my contributions to campaigns and PACs (if applicable) of candidates who support that goal.

> Congratulations on your income!

No need for that at all. I only mention it because, so often, I hear people say, "I'm tired of taxes! Less taxes! You already tax me enough!". To which I say, "Its complicated". I mention it because there are people out there (like myself) who do not mind paying taxes.

With my tax dollars, I buy civilization. I would like to buy more civilization for my fellow humans, but I need their help as well, otherwise my efforts are wasted into the ether by themselves.

We are all in this together.

Charities and donations will not truly solve the problem.

United States needs major reforms:

1. implement what I term socio-capitalism (private property and enterpreneurship is protected, but there is a social safety net in the form of universal health care and unemployment benefits) -- U.S. already made the first step with "Obamacare", but there is a lot more to do;

2. reform the government to reflect the Swiss model 1:1, and institute direct democracy, as well as make lobbying highly illegal.

Admittedly reforming the government will be a very difficult task, for those in power will fight by every means available to preserve it. The good news is, it could be done through the current political process.

She/he could do that, but it wouldn't make a large impact. I think the OP meant that they'd rather pay more taxes with the assumption that everyone else is paying more taxes too. That would make a large impact.

It's the same reason why it's not hypocritical for the super rich to desire higher taxes on the rich, yet still pay the minimum legal requirement.

I find it shocking that anyone wants to trust the American Government with their health..

That seems to be extremely idiotic given the record the American Government has when dealing with Health Care, pick either Medicaid, Medicare or the VA system.... You want that on a National "Universal" Scale... are you a sadist or something?

Most of the current problems with Health care costs in this nation are directly attributable to government policies dating back to the 40's

That's because your information on Medicare is wrong. I and many others would be happy with Medicare for everyone. It's well run and more efficient than private insurance. Expanding Medicare to everyone would give it even more bargaining power and price controls.


Medicare also has a payout problem so bad that doctors refuse to accept. Many providers have stop taking Medicare, I know my grandmother has all kinds of problems find places outside of the Hospital to take medicare

Price Controls have never worked in the history of man kind, we have a over all provider shortage now, if you remove the incentives and make being a Doctor a low paying job no one will spend the money to become a doctor. Price control always result in any less supply or lower quality or both...

That is what Medicare will get you, EXTREME wait times, it will take you weeks or months to be able to see a doctor, but hey it will be free, who cares if you die while on a wait list.....

You get what you pay for

Your theory falls apart to the evidence of health systems in basically every other OECD country.

A theory that fails to match the data in any case doesn't seem to be much of a theory, is there something I don't know about that's happening in other counties?

My guess is that doctors in other countries have less choice. In the US a doctor can opt out of Medicare and offer concierge services instead. Which many of them have done because Medicare reimbursements are much lower than in the private market.

US doctors also can make money through self-referrals such as ordering a test be done through a clinic in which they are an owner.

This article from 2009 talks about the latter case in detail: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/06/01/the-cost-conund...

I supposed we could try to outlaw that practice, but a whole lot of doctors would lobby like hell to prevent that bill from making it through Congress.

So in France you have a similar system:

There are base prices for operations, doctor visits and the like. But doctors can choose to charge above this price (and mostly do so in places like Paris, where rent is too high to charge just base price).

Doctors have to declare whether or not they do this. So if you're a price-sensitive person you can lookup doctors "inside" or outside the system.

In my experience, there are longer waits for things like optomotrists, but that's more due to government-mandated limits on how many can graduate in a year than the price controls (that you can opt out of anyways).

General practitioners are fine though. Like "call for an appointment, show up the next day" sort of fine. And even in big cities I would always end up at a doctor charging "base" price. The visits would end up only costing something like 7 euros.

Yep, Medicare is very efficient. Medicaid, on the other hand, is state by state, and is oftentimes run very poorly. I would love to have Medicare for all.

I'm sure there's financial sense behind it too. Americans aren't just cowboys firing off their "freedom" guns at every major decision we come to.


Which works fine until you realize you don't operate in a vacuum, and your destiny is influenced by forces outside of your control.

What are you talking about? I said it probably makes financial sense too. I know the HN community abhors things like budgets getting in the way of universal healthcare & longer unemployment benefits, but there's a limit to what can be spent.

Let me just say we should be spending a lot less money on war and a lot more money on welfare. Yet let me also say that the genesis of many ghettos was in a "war on poverty" that pushed for low-income housing. You're not being immoral by trying to evaluate each side and it certainly does not make me a rugged individualist.

I wasn't referring to you in particular, but Americans as a whole. The thought that if you work hard, you will always succeed. This is not the case, of course. I agree with your post.

We have several hundred million Americans which are all willing to work very hard, but there is not enough work for them, and what work there is, is not paid sufficiently to be able to live comfortably, or even normally.

And here is where the entire concept of if you work hard, you will always succeed shatters: there are roughly 300 million Americans. The industry in which they could have (and many have) worked hard has systematically been outsourced, destroyed, under the idea that "we're going to design it, and they are going to build it, somewhere else, cheaper". Capitalism, except that most of those ~300 million people do not really have the means (intellectual, financial, you name it) to be scientists and engineers.

To make matters worse, the American culture has a strong bias towards low-brow making fun of engineering and science (a prominent case in point: "The Big Bang Theory", or shoving sports, in particular "football", down everyone's throats at the expense of more intellectual programs). For instance, "geek" and "nerd" are very American terms which I'm not aware of existing in Europe, where being an engineer or a scientist is celebrated and prestigious.

It's the perfect storm, and one which has been systematically brewed for the last 60 years of American history. Anthropologists and sociologists rejoice, for you now have a lifetime opportunity to observe what happens when you have a laissez-faire, hardcore capitalism system without checks and balances.

Spot on.

I just got done cleaning the dishes when I was like oh wait, maybe he wasn't referring to me? Sure enough. Sorry about that I understand now.

No worries at all. 'Tis the nature of text communication!

> genesis of many ghettos was in a "war on poverty"

Do you have any source on this? Because ghettos have been around a lot longer (and many formed around the 1910s): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghetto#History

Whereas the "war on poverty" started around 1964: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty

They kinda are. There are a number of things that have been done elsewhere in the world with success, but when it comes to America, we have to be unique and special.

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." -- Churchill

>financial sense behind it too

The classic counter example to that would be health care

What happens after that?

Unemployment benefits aren't the same as welfare they're paid into by your employer so when you're laid off you can maintain some kind of salary while you find work elsewhere. There are tax based welfare systems in place in the United States that provide assistance to people in poverty but it isn't the same system as "unemployment" (as it's generally referred to here)

At least in Washington State, unemployment payout is almost immediate, within two weeks of losing your job. You can use the time before it runs out to apply for other federal or state assistance programs. These may take longer and have more complex qualifications.

> You can use the time before it runs out to apply for other federal or state assistance programs.

Which if you are a non-disabled, employable (whether or not employed) adult without dependents, in most parts of the US, are extremely limited, quantitatively and, often, temporally, as well.

My only first hand experience is with Washington. When I was furloughed in 2008 it was relatively easy and pain free to receive benefits, at least by government standards. My room mate at the time was only able to find part time work in retail at the end of unemployment and was easily able to obtain supplemental food assistance from the state. I won't argue the rules and regulations are a complex mess. For example, I would think it would be easy and in the governments best interest to try and transition people from the unemployment program into school/university programs, but that is near impossible with the way the regulations are written.

Different states have different time frames and may have conditions on those.

I was laid off a while back. Because I got a severance package comparable to 1.5 months salary, I couldn't get unemployment assistance for 1.5 months plus 4 weeks - even then I had to document that I had applied to a minimum of 3 jobs a week from the day I was laid off.

Looks like there are no more state payments and you have to depend on charities, family or friends.

Correct. Or you become destitute/homeless.

What? No. You go on welfare. And get free healthcare through Medicaid.

As much as people outside the US like to think it's some sort of heartless society, the US has a substantial safety net setup.

> You go on welfare.

If you have children, you may qualify for whatever your states implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) is -- which has a work requirement.

If not, your jurisdiction may have a "General Assistance" program, but these tend to be very small benefits, and often restricted in how long someone deemed "employable", whether or not they actually can find employment, can be on them (either in total, or within a given period; e.g., some jurisdictions have something like a 3-months in any 12-month period limit.)

> As much as people outside the US like to think it's some sort of heartless society, the US has a substantial safety net setup.

The US has an extraordinarily weak social safety net compared to most other developed countries.

What about compared to Singapore or Japan?

> What about compared to Singapore or Japan?

Not deeply familiar with either, but on review of a brief overview of the Japanese system it seems substantially more robust than the US system (though it also seems to have many similar structural difficulties.)

Allow me to quote one of our Founding Fathers

"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."

-- Benjamin Franklin

If you want to argue that a very weak social Assagai net is a good thing, feel free. "Ben Franklin said so based on, at best, personal anecdotes" probably isn't the most compelling argument for that position but, in any case, e point is that the US system is weak, whether that's desirable or not, contrary to the upthread suggestion that it is substantial.

I actually argue to replace all Social Safety Nets, all Universal Healthcare, every government program with UBI...

I do not believe the government should provide Food, Home, or Healthcare assistance to any. I do however believe every person should enjoy basic income level to buy those things for themselves


Quoting an 18th century politician citing 18th century anecdotal evidence does not convince anyone who does not already occupy that viewpoint. Especially from outside of the US where the degree of unquestioning reverence, whatever their virtues, given to your founders can come across a little odd and parochial.

They were men that agreed and disagreed with each other on lots of matters, not Gods.

In California, one of the most generous states with welfare, here's what it looks like for a single person with no children:

WORK REQUIREMENT Non-assistance CalFresh recipient over age 17 and under age 50 must satisfy the ABAWD work requirement as a condition of eligibility unless they meet specified exemption criteria or live in an area where the ABAWD work requirement is waived. ABAWDs cannot receive CalFresh (food stamps) for more than three months in a 36-month period unless they meet this requirement or are excused from it. The ABAWD work requirement is met by performing one of the following:

Working at least 20 hours per week in paid or volunteer employment; Participating at least 20 hours per week in an allowable work activity such as vocational training or basic education programs; or Participating in workfare (i.e., community service). The number of hours of participation in workfare is determined by dividing the CalFresh allotment by the higher of the state or federal minimum wage.

Max benefit: $174 a month(!)

Compare Germany:

If a worker is not eligible for the full unemployment benefits or after receiving the full unemployment benefit for the maximum of 12 months, he is able to apply for benefits from the so-called Arbeitslosengeld II (Hartz IV) programme, an open-ended welfare programme which, unlike the US system, ensures people do not fall into penury. A person receiving Hartz IV benefits is paid 404 EUR (2016) a month for living expenses plus the cost of adequate housing (including heating) and health care. Couples can receive benefits for each partner. Germany does not have an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card system in place and, instead, disburses welfare in cash or via direct deposit onto the recipient's bank account.

Not only that, in Germany you have universal health care, while in California (or anywhere else in the US) you will be uninsured (you can still be treated in the ER of any hospital, but that's not going to help in preventative situations).

Uh.... no.

Read my original post. Medicaid is available to low income individuals. In fact, it was expanded (in most states) up to ~175% of the federal poverty level. You can get it even when you have a job!

Have you tried to get Medicaid in a state? Because I have for a family member (Indiana). There's a waitlist, and even on it, your monthly out of pocket costs are very high (the person in question had zero income, and was still required to cough up $400-$1000 for prescriptions and copays, with no income!).

Note that this varies from state to state considerably. So, in some states, the experience may be very different. (Especially as to the monthly out of pocket once you qualify.)

I realize that. That was my comment's point. Refurb made a broad generalization ("Medicaid is available to low income individuals.") that is factually inaccurate across most of the US states.

That's on Indiana. Coincidentally, look at the governor. It's almost like they're getting the government they deserve...

Medical works better, at least in part because Californians want it to work better.

>>Have you tried to get Medicaid in a state? Because I have for a family member (Indiana). There's a waitlist,

Wait are you not for Universal Healthcare... WTF do you think Universal Healthcare will be.... Medicaid for everyone that is what...

Hey there! Can you provide proof? Because every other first world country achieves better care at lower costs than the US with universal healthcare.

I am sure they do, I never argued that I like our Current mix of heavily government regulation, mandatory 3rd party billing, and a variety of other fucked up policies imposed by government.

It is likely that single paying would be provide lower cost then what we pay today, I think it is highly unlikely it would result in better care. For example in many places in the EU semiprivate rooms are only for those Rich people that pay for their care, the "free" sick people are put in "efficient" open-plan hospital ward with many more people

Also there would be a huge drop in medical research, in addition to government regulation driving up costs, the US Health System more or less carries the rest of the world for R&D, companies charge the US exorbitantly because in the rest of the world there are price controls, once they stop being able to exploit the US Health Consumer because we also have price controls they will simply stop or slow their R&D to safer avenues and take less risks..

There are also 1000's of other reason why a US Universal Healthcare system will be vastly different than any thing any other nation has tried.

One big one is our obesity problem, once we have Universal Healthcare, are you then going to support Universal Diets, and Universal/Mandatory Exercise??

> One big one is our obesity problem, once we have Universal Healthcare, are you then going to support Universal Diets, and Universal/Mandatory Exercise??

I would add a tax onto activities that increase healthcare costs, yes. I'm not stopping your from doing it, I'm just bringing the externality into the equation.

If you speed, we ticket you. If you speed too much, we raise the price of your insurance. And so on. This is no different. Risks have costs, and you pay for the risk you create (when a choice is provided).

Fucking authoritarians. I really do not have much else to say, I can not have a reasonable conversation with people that believe the government should control everything.. Including what the fuck I eat and tax (aka Punish me if I make the "wrong" choice by their standards

you basically want to live in a world like this


One man's authoritarianism is another man's efficient market.

Medicaid is managed by the states, Medicare is the Federal one. It would likely be Medicare for all.

> As much as people outside the US like to think it's some sort of heartless society, the US has a substantial safety net setup.

This is not true whatsoever.

Then please explain the 50% of the federal budget that goes to our social safety net. That's not substantial to you?

Medicare and Social Security, that you're only entitled to after you're above 62-67. (Depending on birth date)

Anyone not elderly is SOL.

Getting on welfare and Medicaid is not as simple as you seem to think nor is it quick. Also if you are a male without any kids in most states you are out of luck.

In states with Medicaid expansion, men with no children do qualify for Medicaid.

Also while you're receiving unemployment you have to apply to two jobs every week or two weeks.

And in the USA you might not get any benefits at all, depends how long you worked, if you previously got benefits and how you lost the job (fired vs let go vs quit, etc)

How is it that people don't starve, especially the ones with mental health problems? Or does it happen and just is so accepted it is not worth reporting?

Because food is extremely cheap. It's not good food, but it's food. You can get 2,000 calories for under $4, it doesn't take long to panhandle for $4.

On top of those half of the food available is thrown away, so those who are very motivated go and take it.

And then there are lots of organizations that help people with food, religious organizations mainly but not exclusively.

Basically if someone really needs food and is not picky about it, it's available.

Uh, some people do not want to panhandle or turn to prostitution, or religion for that matter, they try to maintain what little self-respect they have in that state of mind.

People do "starve" unless they are savvy enough.

There is often help for families but not individuals without children.

When I was homeless and living out of my car I actually had a hard time getting food stamps back then (this was a long time ago). First I had the problem I was in a southern state which are mostly Republican controlled and don't want to help people. Secondly I had an impossible time proving I didn't have income (how do you prove a negative?) Then the problem I didn't have an address. Oh there was also a problem someone had the same name as me elsewhere in the state and was already getting benefits.

I showed the case worker my car I was living out of and eventually she put in some kind of emergency request so a few days later I got something.

If it had gotten any worse I would have had to turn to a church charity for help, fortunately did not come to that. It is no accident the states set it up that way so you have to turn to religion, it is disgusting.

Largely through private charity. People with mental health problems also tend to die fairly young on the streets. I live somewhere with a friendly climate to the homeless, and the chronic homeless are mostly well under 40 or retirees who can no longer make rent.

Depends on a bunch of factors. I've seen people who have reapplied and received it for years. I think the cutoff is 2 years under any circumstances. You have to prove that you're actually looking for a job to continue extending.

Is it more generous outside of the U.S.?

Enough already. This society can provide Walden (by Henry David Thoreau) sized accommodations for all that need it. There is no reason for anyone to be homeless.

People need work and healthcare. These are rights not a privileges.

Except... some people choose to be homeless. There are two in this very thread (the first comment, and here: sandiegohomelesssurvivalguide.blogspot.com). It's unpleasant to say, but it's true.

To achieve a goal of 100% home-d, we'd need some REALLY draconian measures, e.g. forcing people into homes they don't want and forcing people to take medication against their will. I, personally, am not for measures like that, for reasons this blog post lays out well: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/27/book-review-albions-see...

However, the goal to reduce homelessness to 0% for the vast majority in the set of people who WANT a home is one I can support - even better if that desire extends beyond white countries.

We can start by providing homes and medicine to people who need and want homes. We'll work on the hard cases later.

It's great that so many people are driven to help this guy: donate money, etc. But stories like this can/should to be leveraged to raise awareness and engage the society to solve this problem. In a country that prides itself on abundance and opportunities, homelessness is a disgrace to us all.

Startup folks - looking for a real problem to solve? How about a system to help pool people like this out of misery?

This is why I unconditionally support https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income_around_the_world

I appreciate everyone taking the time to read this post.

There is a GoFundMe page set-up for this guy - no idea how legit it is. Can anyone confirm?


Edit: He's also on Twitter.


It's legit. They're working with Neil to get some GFM funds released ASAP. He had a paypal set up , and I donated, but Paypal has frozen his funds for 30 days (nice).

There a gradation between intermittent homelessness and chronic homelessness. Intermittent is not that rare - I even experienced a bit of that my self at one time. Chronic may be due to more deep seated issues and hard to get out of. It sounds like you have the drive to eventually escape it.

I recently sold everything I owned and started living out of my converted dodge caravan while I was prototyping what I wanted to build next. With an eye on my burn rate, I lived as cheaply as possible. I can tell you without a doubt that there is no natural system in place for homeless to get out of that rut, and it looks and feels dehumanizing.

I wasn't completely broke but I couldn't keep affording rent as expensive as it was. I was able to shower at a gym, and worked out of Tech Shop on what I was trying to build. But it's hard -- like super hard to just be homeless. The social stigma associated with the word alone is hard for people to get beyond. I would often hear, "But you don't seem like the type to be homeless" and then they would slowly just distance themselves from talking to me. Super weird.

I have been harassed by cops, you feel extremely transient and embarrassed just to be alive at times. Sleeping in a van sucks too. Street noises keep you up, cramped for space, etc. On the up side there is a contingent of tech people that are doing the same thing, so I had the pleasure of meeting some others like myself.

I've never taken up the opportunity of food, shelter, or clothing offered by the city, because frankly I'm doing this on my own accord, so I can't speak to how that part of the system helps people get back on their feet.

After this entire experience my heart breaks every time I see a fellow human having to resort to sleeping in the cold, wet, outdoors with no shelter and nothing but some cardboard and discarded newspapers to cover up with. I often wonder how close I could have come to being completely broken by this decision, and what coincidences led someone down this path. In the end it has helped me understand that we must all care more for one another, no matter what.

I'm not trying to be rude when asking this but why would you choose to become homeless to prototype a business/product?? I've seen this come up several times on HN over the last few years and every time it blows my mind, especially when the person then goes on to talk about how difficult life is.

I'm guessing you're in tech as you're on HN - why not keep your day job and work on your business from 7pm-3am every night. Save some money while you do this and then leave your job when you can afford to?

It seems like a lot of tech folks have adopted the whole starving artist approach to starting a business when it is entirely unnecessary. I mean, even if you don't want to be an employee and want to focus on your product, move somewhere inexpensive, work freelance a few hours a day to support yourself. It just seems insane to me that anyone in this industry would choose to be homeless when they really don't have to.

If a lot of people are making this choice voluntarily I'd say there's a major problem in the industry and how people view the path to a successful business.

Many people believe in the mistaken "no pain, no gain" philosophy. People seem to believe that somehow the universe will recognize their sacrifice and reward them accordingly. John Oliver did an excellent piece on a new crop of so-called "seed faith" televangelists that have popped up to fleece poor people that believe in this philosophy [1].

The reality, of course, is the opposite. The most successful people I have known have all started their businesses while their lives were relatively stable. That doesn't mean they started off rich, but it does mean they weren't spending all of their time trying to figure out where they were going to sleep or where their next meal was coming from. These days, it is wholly unnecessary to quit your job or move to SV to make a startup happen, and doing so is counterproductive in almost all cases.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y1xJAVZxXg&t=4m31s

> it does mean they weren't spending all of their time trying to figure out where they were going to sleep or where their next meal was coming from.

This is also a crucial concept in understanding why the poor stay poor: they simply can't afford to spend time and resources on the long term if they need to worry about meeting basic needs on a daily basis.

If you're interested in learning more about this, I would recommend to read Scarcity, a wonderful book that explores this in more detail: http://www.amazon.com/Scarcity-Science-Having-Defines-Lives/...

I wholly agree with this, often it takes some sacrifice; while others play, you're working or living frugally to fund your dreams but this isn't the same as forgoing basic amenities. Also, I don't know the backstory but anyone looking to do this by choice may want to consider the ramifications of the outside looking in if you're looking for investment. To most looking to invest, I'd imagine going to this extreme raises red flags regardless if they're warranted or not.

Change careers like tarzan:


For me I've noticed a huge difference in creativity and authenticity in my products when I've devoted 100% of myself to it.

There is a major problem in the industry. There is no one path to a successful business.

I find my time is more valuable than my comfort. To each their own.

I can understand your point but you're not just giving up comfort - you're giving up something we all consider a basic necessity: shelter. I'm willing to bet the end result of your work, whether you do it your way, or do it part time, will be the same. I don't want to come off condescending but the attitude (and it's not unique to you, I've seen many other people with a similar attitude) seems like that of someone who has been brainwashed by the SF/SV startup culture mythology.

His Dodge Caravan is shelter, which is pretty fancy shelter if you were from a poor village in Africa so I think he'll be alright. If he's not brainwashed by pain = gain, then I think what he's doing is really cool.

That's not true, because in a poor village in Africa you'd have family to look after you and keep you well. You also won't have police harassing you all the time. Lastly, it is easier to find a legal and free place to use the bathroom in a poor African village.

Why not Thailand? For $8 a night or less you get a bed, WiFi and living costs for food run in the dollars a day. $10 a day is possible, $20 a day is good living.

Even with the cost of a flight, that pays for itself in no time.

A Van just seems like so much hassle!

how can you devote 100% of yourself (or as much as is possible) to something when so much of your cognitive resources are devoted to surviving day to day?

are you sure you've thought this through?

Hacker squats are getting more popular and are extremely important. All I need is $5/month for digital ocean.

No other bills is freeing. While the Facebook slaves think their $100k salary is a lot but go into debt with $7000/month condos.

It's actually possible to run a startup entirely on 5$ droplet. I would suggest switching to Vultr (still 5$ but 0.75 GB and block storage and they accept bitcoin)

It's motivating to get that first paying clients quickly to pay for server. (ramen profitable)

I made the mistake of using a GoDaddy VPS costing around 600$ a year, recently found a VPS in my country for 60$ a year.

Yes vultr is great

This is a highly absurd comment. No one I know is paying anything more than $3000/month and they all make well over $100k as software developers.

I love how when people come up with these numbers they cite salary-only/pre-negotiation/entry-level income and then they compare this to a small-family sized rent expense to justify your "typical" SV absurdity.

The fact is, many people make well over that with stock options, raises, etc. And even while making that money, lots of my friends in their mid-20s opt to live with multiple roommates and flex their living rooms to reduce their rent cost further.

3000/month is still absurd. I think 2000 is about the most you can justify on a 100k salary without having risking emergencies bankrupting you.

The relevant point there may be the "well over 100k" part. It would not be surprising to me if we're talking 200k total liquid comp.

It depends also if the money is going towards rent or a mortgage. If it's the latter you can always sell your house to get more cash.

> It depends also if the money is going towards rent or a mortgage. If it's the latter you can always sell your house to get more cash.

Not always, only if you have positive equity. Its quite possible to have a mortgage without that.

Well it's probably foolish to go even more into debt with a mortgage if you are at risk of having a negative net worth.

> Well it's pretty foolish to go even more into debt with a mortgage if you are at risk of having a negative net worth.

Negative equity is usually something that happens after you take a mortgage. And whenever you take a mortgage, there is a risk of getting into a negative equity situation (though the degree of risk varies.)

100k at Facebook is what you get straight out of undergraduate (and that's on the low end, if you don't negotiate).

At the same time, think of all the energy lost to the stress of not knowing where those basic things are coming from. Think of what could be done with that energy.

What did you build during that time?

I built a community crowdfunding platform to help inventors, makers, developers, etc to find the community, resources, and feedback needed to build and share quality products, and transparent companies. Check it: Baqqer - (https://baqqer.com)

Our plans are to also turn this into equity crowdfunding, and eventually have a fund to contribute to and support popular/promising projects.

I'm building this to build some other projects down the line like Playa (http://getplaya.com)

Because working a day job takes approximately 100% of the work capacity (not to mention overall time) most people have available?

Most people don't function on 3 hours of sleep, for one thing. And if 5-7 PM is your between-jobs time, that's all you have to do errands and chores.

Personally, I have a little capacity (2 hours, maybe?) left over before burn-out starts to set in, and I am using it to fix up my house. I could cut that out and live in what I have, but there's no way I have 8 hours available.

>> "Because working a day job takes approximately 100% of the work capacity (not to mention overall time) most people have available?"

I'm not saying that schedule would work for everyone but I seriously doubt someone has more capacity and is less likely to burn out by voluntarily deciding to be homeless. That's going to introduce a lot of complexity into your life that will end up being very time consuming. If you don't have the physical capacity to work late at night and sleep less then move somewhere with a lower cost of living and do some freelance work part time while you work on your business. The problem here seems to be that the OP finds it necessary to be in SF. Considering great businesses are created all over the world it seems like he's buying into a myth.

Work on your business from 7pm to 3am every night? Let's say you work 9am to 6pm. Let's assume you have to get up at 8am, that gives you, very optimistically, 5 hours of sleep. Some people can survive on that. Even more people think they can survive on that and just end up becoming crazy people who nobody wants to be around. The vast majority of are simply not physically equipped to do that.

That's probably at least as true for voluntary homelessness.

My father has been homeless at times. I'm not sure why anyone would CHOOSE that path. Having a home, even if that means a bed in a shared room, or a small sublet in an apartment, is pretty crucial to one's sense of well-being and safety.

It's hard for me to understand how someone can get productive work done when they don't have a comfortable, safe place to rest their mind for a few hours.

It's hard for me to understand how someone can get productive work done when they don't have a comfortable, safe place to rest their mind for a few hours.

It's called a library.

It's difficult to sleep in a public library (especially if you look homeless).

I think you misunderstood my remark. I don't sleep in the library. I get most of my work done at a library. I am medically handicapped and this substantially interferes with my ability to be productive. But finding a place to work mostly boils down to making sure I have access to a decent public library.

I sleep in a tent. I blog about that.

I think you misunderstood the original comment, not the other way around. It's about a place to "rest your mind," not exercise it. The comment is about how it'd be hard to be productive without consistent sleep.

It is difficult to be productive when you aren't sleeping well, regardless of your socioeconomic status. There are homeless people who typically sleep well. I am far from the only one.

How are you going to sustain that schedule? I could do that perhaps for a week, not longer.

you can easily do it if you have a bullshit dayjob, perhaps through no fault of your own (i.e. you work for a dysfunctional organization with tons of money and no direction)

in fact... it's probably one of the best ways to launch a bootstrapped company. it's both the motivation and the sustenance to do something meaningful with your career.

most people just surreptitiously look for a new job while on the clock, or dick around until the gravy train stops, but you can also just do your easy-ass dayjob and work on your startup at night until it's time to switch.

This sounds good. Did you specifically look for a dysfunctional organization or were you just lucky?

Most are dysfunctional. You have to specifically look only if you want functional ones.

Look for a software company that believes heavily in Agile/Scrum and eats up half your time in Agile meetings.

> in fact... it's probably one of the best ways to launch a bootstrapped company. it's both the motivation and the sustenance to do something meaningful with your career.

It sounds extremely distracting from your career.

i don't think you're parsing my language correctly.

It is possible with good motivation and caffeine. It is not sustainable long-term but you should be able to get a good 4-8 years out of it while you are young and in good health. See: college students at high-workload universities.

Depends on how long your day job will accept you getting there in a state of stupor all morning until the caffeine catches up with you.

In my case, it wasn't very long. I had a tendency to stay up till 4-5 AM working on my side project, and would tend to get in 1-2 hours late. I was fired after two months of this.

It wasn't the only reason I was fired, of course; there were some other reasons, ultimately coming down to political-cultural clashes. But it was by far the lowest-hanging pretext. I seldom made it in before 10:30 - 11 AM.

I had a schedule like that for a few years. It helped that my manager tended to get in even after I did, most days.

I got away with it with those of my ex-employers that were technical companies or had an engineering-driven culture. The last one - from which I was fired - was more the opposite of that.

You shouldn't have a problem if you have a normal employer with a technical culture. Everywhere I've worked has had flexible working hours(within reason), so getting in between 9-10 shouldn't be a problem, and the culture in the US is such that getting a couple cups of coffee while you read email and the company IRC/Slack isn't really a problem in a decent working environment. If it takes you longer than 30-45 minutes to be productive though, or you have a long commute, maybe you should get more sleep :p

If you're dedicated and it's something you really want I don't think that's an impossible schedule to follow. 5 hours sleep, 8 hours in the office, dinner, 6 hours personal project. Do that Mon-Fri and relax on the recuperate on the weekend or do fewer hours in the evening and make up for that on the weekend.

[taps on forehead] "It's so... lifelike! At first I couldn't tell it was a robot."

For me, the heart of the comment is this

> The social stigma associated with the word alone is hard for people to get beyond [..] I have been harassed by cops, you feel extremely transient and embarrassed just to be alive at times. [..] After this entire experience my heart breaks every time I see a fellow human having to resort to sleeping in the cold, wet, outdoors with no shelter and nothing but some cardboard and discarded newspapers to cover up with. [.. ] In the end it has helped me understand that we must all care more for one another, no matter what.

which you might also call an attempt to give a small voice to the voiceless.

How many comments are essentially glossing over that, the ratio between posts responding to the gist of this comment to those that don't, is incredible, and to describe the main point you're all mostly ignoring as

> especially when the person then goes on to talk about how difficult life is.

is beyond tone deaf. The comment is not at all about life being oh so hard for OP, ultimately. It's not about "the industry" either, nor is the original article.

The things described in this comment, the article, and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11646078 ought to be enough to give a person PTSD after a while. Part of that is simply caused by social stigma, which is something everybody is complicit in and nobody can directly be blamed for. And when cops have power trips and abuse the defenseless -- not saying they do that all the time, but when they do -- any remotely decent society would come down on them like furies. Not just some of them, every last person. None such societies exist as of now, instead we numb ourselves to being numb to it, and that is the major problem I see. "The industry" is but a speck of dust in that river, and the hellish ocean it leads to.

I know of at least one person (Lenny Flank [1]) who's living in a covertly converted cargo van possibly for some financial reasons but also to be able to travel cheaply and see the USA. He's writing mostly about places he stays, but there are also some articles about how he's doing it, the van and its conversions, etc.

Lenny's been crossposting to Daily Kos as well as on his site, and "What's it All Cost?" [2] has a list of links to all the relevant articles there. This is a better place to go if you're just wanting the meat of it.

I also know of at least one other person who's more legitimately "homeless" rather than "camping," she's been posting about her experiences with PADS (homeless assistance group, runs shelters particularly during the colder months) and some job search related items, also on Daily Kos [3].

TL;DR Lenny bought a used windowless extended cargo van with a security grid across the front of the back compartment (which can be covered to block light from inside at night). He mounted a decent-sized solar panel on the roof, has a battery setup inside that he can use for lighting, a fan, and recharging his laptop and other devices. He added a small sink, etc. and sleeps in the van overnight while taking public transit to various sights in each area he stops in. He works via laptop from various public libraries, coffee shops, and restaurant wifi.

[1] https://lennyflank.wordpress.com/ [2] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/03/09/1420740/-Living-in-... [3] http://www.dailykos.com/user/sheddhead

Because it drives you. You must succeed. I'm preparing to do this myself. In Russia too. Succeed or die by ice, wild dogs and military police. This is authentic.

Homeless in San Francisco hanging by coffee shops, getting change is like a mansion. In Russia, homeless people disappear. This is why my mvp will be superb.

Dude, I'm not sure if you're trolling or serious.

If you're serious...it's not worth it. Life is long. Find other ways of motivating yourself. Commit publicly to shipping something awesome. Find a community of badasses to support you. Don't do this.

Idk. A van with a Wi-Fi antenna sounds fun. I'm excited. Getting some cases of vodka and a gun.

Please stop posting unsubstantive comments to HN.

A cautionary tale of what this can lead to:

My brother's startup wasn't bring in much money and there was always the near promise it would. He went through all his savings and retirement funds and went close to $100k into CC debt. This was a swing of +$1m to -$70k. Yes, he had a problem (unacknowledged, btw) that was more dire than yours. Just be aware that this stuff can get out of control, if you let it.

After getting to the -$70k state, he asked me and my parents for money to continue. We all refused because we knew that our money would be like the $1m+ he had already gone through. We told him to get a job. He refused. He couch surfed for a while. After 6+ months doing that he realized, because his family had abandoned him, he would have to get a job. He did ($155k/yr). He started a month ago. He's angry at the family and won't talk with us now. Ironically, he admitted that he wouldn't have the job now, which he needs, if we had given him money last year. However, that doesn't matter. He still maintains he did the right thing and we didn't support him.

It's been a sad year for my parents and me. Actually, sad few years, since we all saw this coming (and tried to prevent it, but he only got angry at us for being "negative").

It was personally hard for me to let him go right to the brink of being on the street. I did it because giving him money would have drained my resources, and for no reason. His reality distortion field was so strong, he would not listen to anyone.

> This was a swing of +$1m to -$70k.

The crazy thing is that at a 3% withdrawal rate $1m would have been $30k a year for personal expenses for the rest of your brother's life.

Don't forget the 10% penalties on the retirement part. My guess is it was more than half of the $1m.

Yikes. I hope the wounds heal over time. What you all did sounds right. It seems like your brother had a problem and giving him more money would have exacerbated it.

Hang in there, I'm sorry you all had to go through this.

The AirBnB founders also maxed out multiple credit cards.


"Joe and I both had ~$30K in credit card debt and this is what we were using to fund the company."

I always see comments like this when people bring up failure stories. I get wanting to be positive, but surely at a certain point you're deluding yourself?

There is no comprehensive stats on this, but the big question is, of the people who went in to serious CC debt, how many of them became massive unicorn companies, or at least mildly successful?

Sometimes risky behavior pays off. Good for them.

Exceptions, not the rule IMO. Also stated (maybe further down) the solution had a protracted sales cycle leading to long turnaround.

CC debt is probably a poor indicator of the quality of an idea.

Sorry to hear this. I love my Brother to death, and I can't imagine going through what you went through with yours.

I hope things will get better.

Just out of curiosity, what was the idea behind his startup? I've been avoiding getting a job along the same lines, but can never imagine going into 100k debt for a startup obsession.

I don't want to say too much, because I don't want him to find this, but it was a web service for a popular non-profit. It helped them manage costs of a certain nature. It was definitely a good idea, but the non-profit is notoriously stingy, and the sales cycle was very, very long. So far they've only sold one copy. I think the obsession he had scared off some investors, but mainly I think they didn't see a big exit. He had a partner, but the partner got a job years ago, because he had a wife and kids he needed to feed.

Why was living in San Francisco so important to getting your prototype built? Friendships, community, family?

I wonder why more people don't choose to move to places like Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo where housing is dirt cheap. There aren't many jobs there, but if you are working for yourself it shouldn't really matter.

Hm. I guess because everything I've built is out here. I know I have a TechShop membership that if my car breaks down, I have tools, I can prototype hardware there, etc. I have a good solid 6 years here in the city for friends and community that I could tap into if I needed to. It's just nice to see the people that I care and love for. Also for startups this seems to be the place to be.

I salute you and your cyberpunk lifestyle.

In terms of major cities, San Francisco is among the best choices in terms of year-round weather. Snow, subzero temperatures, and associated clothing needs would definitely be much more problematic in your suggested cities.

Yeah, even sleeping through the winter down in Palo Alto was a little tough with a sleeping bag + comforter.

Equivalently, being outside during the day in areas hotter than Palo Alto is ludicrously taxing in pretty much every way.

The Bay is very kind to Homo sapiens, in terms of climate.

[Atlanta native here] Tell me about it, and don't forget to mention the humidity--a factor 5x more important than temperature per se, in my eyes. If I had to be in the hot sun, I'd take 100F in Phoenix over even 70F in Atlanta _any_ day.

Except if you don't have 3k rents you might be able to just find a place to live.

This is not "I've lost everything and am homeless with no way out" it's "I wanna build a startup so I'm going to go live in a van".

This is a pretty important point. You can get a very small apartment in Austin, TX, for $500 (and many other non-SF cites). If you're able to, spending ~$16 a day versus living in a van makes a lot of sense. Completely different if you don't have that $16.

Except when you can't.

Landlords very often just won't take you on at all if you don't show evidence of preëxisting stability. No proof of stable income? No housing—you can even offer to pay up-front or whatever, and they just won't bother dealing with you as a special case, because why would they deal with the special case when there's a dozen other safe, predictable, normal people in line behind you?

Got an income, but can't prove it to be consistently enough? Congratulations, no housing for you. And thus begins the downward spiral.

Yep. I have bad personal credit (< 600) due to a cash-strapped entrepreneurial background and a strategic default, and it took over 10+ apartment tours before we found someone willing to rent to us--at any price, and with any amount of up-front deposit--once the credit check came back.

I doubt most of the folk we dealt with would have taken us on even if I had offered to pay a full year's rent up front. It's just not worth the bother when there's a dual-income, no-kids couple with good credit next in line.

Ah yeah, I forgot about this.

I had to get my parents to co-sign on a lease... at 27, with a PhD, proof of employment, and "excellent" credit. It's pretty insane.

Just FYI, I know some great people in Cleveland. West Cleveland is a fine place to hang out and think in reclusion. I've camped out there several times, and if you wanted to stay longer, you could find a decent house to buy for under $20k. I'm sure one could find an extended-stay situation with room and board for $1 a day, or so. The city is relatively walkable. Food is cheap enough. Lots of shit to do.

I so want to do it again, but now I have kids.

I'm from the rust belt and went to college in Cleveland, hence my comment. I think it is a great place to live because the city was built before the car was invented and has a surplus of infrastructure.

I would definitely move back there instead of living in a van in SF. It would probably even be cheaper.

Because the type of person who would move into a van because STARTUP LIFE! can't contemplate moving out of one of the most expensive cities in the country.

There's lots of tech jobs in those places, and places like those, even if it means throwing out your expectations and program in something like Java for a large corporation.

As an aside - I think we should start a ground-up movement to buy up as much of detroit as possible and create 'Silicon Detroit' as the land value is ridiculously low - and tech could move in where the biggest expense would be bringing in only strong connectivity.

Other initiatives like urban farming could be done as well. I think detroit is super fertile.

Imagine what just a billion dollar fund could do for tech in that region.

Got to be careful with urban farming in those areas - lots of lead ended up in the ground during the 20th century.

That said, I'm in on the concept. For a few months a year (at most), I just need a small, private, quiet room with net, electric, and heat. Other amenities can be shared.

With a good plan and some solid leadership, I'd put money into it. But, there'd have to be some sort of contractual way to slow gentrification, if it took off.

Good point about the lead.

Alameda naval station chose to just try to build a big metal wall in the ground to capture the leakage as opposed to spending the money to clean up the toxicity...

> Imagine what just a billion dollar fund could do for tech in that region.

Lots of good for tech.

Should we send buses or just have some people go through and chase the current residents away on foot?

Honestly, in large swaths of Detroit, there are no current residents. There are entire blocks that are vacant.

"circuit-board-green shirts"

I would suggest it's so he doesn't move out of the potential area for users/testing/investor meetings/hiring, but if he's living out of a van, that's probably adding more challenges than it's resolving.

Because intellectual community is extremely hard to get. Unless you're moving to Ithaca, it's hard to find a place that is full of interesting people and ideas. This pushes you in ways you wouldn't get in places like Buffalo and so on - the culture of a city like San Francisco or Boston is full of smart people with a certain background (i.e., people who are interested in tech) who can stimulate you. You're far more likely to overhear a conversation about Claude Shannon or minimum spanning trees in SF than you are in Buffalo.

Detroit is not lacking for interesting people and ideas. We may differ on the what the word interesting means, though.

Absolutely not, I agree; I'd just say that "interesting" varies widely with the context. If what you're interested in is running a tech startup, Detroit is less "interesting". There are many, many terms on which San Francisco is less "interesting" than the rest of the country.

Do you lump Ann Arbor in with Detroit? Just curious.

Huh. Never lived in Ann Arbor or Detroit, just visited/had friends and family who lived there. My impression of Ann Arbor is that it's a college town where the population is relatively insulated from the surrounding community, unlike Boston where the colleges are heavily connected to local industry and so on. Everyone I've known from Detroit is an activist of some kind, so I probably have a biased sample set. But based on that I'd say "no", whereas I would definitely lump Cambridge in with Boston or Berkeley/Oakland in with SF.

Ithaca is a special place, I agree.

I agree re: community

> I've never taken up the opportunity of food, shelter, or clothing offered by the city, because frankly I'm doing this on my own accord, so I can't speak to how that part of the system helps people get back on their feet.

I think you don't qualify as a homeless. You 're living in a van. There's a reason people prefer homes to a van. I can't fathom what is so pressing that makes you sleep in a van instead of moving to a much cheaper area.

I have never heard of a homeless services center that would not count sleeping in a van as homeless.

When I was homeless, I lived in my car. I lived like a king compared to those actually sleeping rough. I frequently slept near/at the Burnside Project (PDX), and saw many far worse off. I had a water tight heated home that I moved whenever I wanted.

My father and ex husband were both career military. I never slept in a tent before I went homeless, but I had heard enough stories about keeping warm, dry, or whatever while out in the wilderness.

I have never once slept on a sidewalk. I hike out to a patch of wilderness every single night. Where I currently sleep, there are deer and coyotes (a few minutes walk from a paved road).

I blog about my experiences in part because I feel strongly that homelessness does not need to be as rough as it obviously is for so many people. Humans are food and got sleep well before modern housing was invented. I feel strongly that putting out information can go a long way towards lowering artificial barriers for homeless Americans and helping them maintain ties to society in a way that can make it easier for them to get back off the street.

Missed the edit window. Obviously, that should say "Humans ate food..." not "Humans are food...


> I can tell you without a doubt that there is no natural system in place for homeless to get out of that rut

What would such a system look like?

EDIT: Totally serious question. To build something, you must first architect it.

Step 1: Give homeless people a home.

As Utah found, just giving homeless people a home, without demanding any substantial money or qualification or whatever from them for it, reduced the number of long-time homeless by a huge percentage and in the process saved net money for the state because of reduced medical and policing costs.


> Step 1: Give homeless people a home.

This is one step, but it's not a silver bullet. New York City has had a similar program for a long time, and it's actually come under fire from homeless advocacy groups for being ineffective (while simultaneously expensive).

New York City also poses a greater challenge than Salt Lake City for a number of reasons, but so does San Francisco, so solving SF's homelessness problem will require more than just building more housing and giving it to homeless people, even if that's ultimately one step of the solution.

In a very real sense it's crazy to give people free housing in the world's most expensive locations. And it's kinda unfair too – the only people that get those units are lottery winners.

From the perspective of wanting to do the most good with our limited resources, paying for housing in SF or NYC, let alone SLC, is probably pretty stupid.

There are three legs to that stool: stable living situation, stable job, stable transportation. Without all three you can't get better.

There's a guy I know who runs a business employing homeless. His rule is he never fires anyone. He understands that without a home/transportation, it can be impossible to make it to work. That gives them one stable leg to try and build the rest of their life from.

> His rule is he never fires anyone.

Just out of curiosity: what about reasons unrelated to absenteeism, like some sort of gross misconduct, drug or alcohol abuse on the job, untenable behavioural or psychiatric issues stemming from that, etc?

He requires that they go through professional treatment for whatever the issue is before they return to work. They're not fired, just required to do something before they can return.

For example, one guy had HUGE anger management issues. When it came to blows for the xth time, the manager pulled him aside, and said "I'm not going to fire you. I don't fire people. But you can only come back here when I've gotten a call from a counseling professional (he gave a number of one) and they tell me you've been through a successful treatment." It took six months, but he got the call and the guy came back to working. Apparently been one of the best employees ever since.

I'd start by legalizing every form of 'marginal' housing, e.g. boarding houses, micro-apartments.

I have no idea where to start if one accepts the current political, legal, and cultural environment as-is. Assuming you did just accept the status quo as a given, I can better appreciate why the idea of 'just giving homeless people housing' is so enticing. [And there is evidence that it works well. I'm skeptical about the long-run costs and skewed incentives, especially in places in which lots of people want to live.]

> I'd start by legalizing every form of 'marginal' housing, e.g. boarding houses, micro-apartments.

This. Outlawing "flophouses" throughout the United States exacerbated homelessness, made it much harder for people on the margins to improve their material circumstances, and grossly distorted the housing and rental market by removing the lower end: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flophouse#Cage_hotels_in_the_U...

That section, with that last sentence at the end, is a really beautiful piece of black humor.

This would be huge. When researching, I couldn't believe sleeping in a vehicle was illegal. Building reasonable living accommodations -- no matter the size -- is absolutely something we must do for people.

Housing policy, formal and informal, just drives me crazy. I despair that the future everywhere will look like third world countries, where only relatively wealthy people can afford to live in legal housing. Everyone else, maybe me too, will live in 'favelas'.

Here's a great post about this by a blogger I really like on this topic:

- [Spring In The Silicon Favela – Granola Shotgun](https://granolashotgun.com/2016/02/08/spring-in-the-silicon-...)

But on the plus side, there's a lot of cool stuff you can do once you stop playing by the rules!

We need to offer free camping in federal, state, and county parks to citizens? We have a catastrophe that's just going to get worse. It is homelessness.

We need to allow homeless to sleep in their vechicles, if said parking allows overnight parking.

We need to build Kibbutz's. (Or just give them a field to pitch a tent? A outhouse? Anything?

We need to stop making homelessness a crime. Every homeless person I know is camping illegially. They get tickets. They can't pay tickets. Tickets turn into felonies. It's just wrong.

If Jesus appeared, he would be ticketed for a multitude of municipal/criminal violations in a matter of days?

I think I mostly agree but it's hard to tell because I'm not sure what you meant by turning what seem like statements into questions.

I don't think it's necessary tho to allow free camping in government run (and government owned) parks necessarily. Maybe it would be sufficient to just allow, or not prohibit, someone from renting spots on their property for otherwise homeless people to pitch tents.

It'd also be amazing if someone could figure out how to do an end run around all the laws and regulations that make housing so expensive and time-consuming to build. Where's the 'Uber for housing'? Very likely there is none; housing is too easy to 'attack' as it's most useful when its stationary.

Or maybe that's it – maybe someone could offer 'Japanese coffin-style hotel rooms' in a bus that just slowly drives around a city.

No, because Jesus was well within social norms and was generally accomodated on his travels by wealthier fans/followers?

I'm not sure, I think about that a lot. I've noticed a lot of homeless do carry cell phones, so maybe more free chargers, free and ubiquitous wifi? But that's dumb tech me talking.

I think a lot of barriers just come from the social stigma of actually being homeless. So thinking reasonably, showers, laundry, snacks or meals? A place where one could feel human and a part of the naturally accepted society again.

I've heard of these places they have in Japan where you can pay a daily fee to get inside and use the facilities. They consist of:

hot showers

books, movies, wifi that you can use while you're there

soup on tap

vending machines with healthy options

exercise machines

Sounds like a brilliant idea that would benefit homeless people, those in marginal situations where it's not always safe to go home, and so-called "normals" all at once, thus serving everyone so as to prevent a stigma caused by their use.

Isn't one big issue for homeless people that they need an address when applying for jobs, bank accounts etc. and don't have one. Maybe a place to help them, not only find an apply to jobs, but to use as an address, shower before the interview etc.

I don't think you need an address for a bank account from what I've seen and read places. I would just ask a friend to use their address anyways.

When I try to make purchases online with debit card they often use address for verification and if it's incorrect the purchase fails. Not 100% sure it's necessary just to have a bank account though you may be right.

You would need to provide services that were as middle class as possible and help them find real solutions to their specific problems.

I do blog a bit in hopes of helping other homeless people find viable solutions and bootstrap themselves. http://sandiegohomelesssurvivalguide.blogspot.com/

I have a second blog with very little content where I try to talk about What Helps The Homeless: http://whathelpsthehomeless.blogspot.com/

A far, far better approach is to work on a) providing more senior and student housing -- aka affordable housing, but aimed at single people and childless couples and not marketed as "affordable" because that means "Built for poor people!" and that is always a terrible idea b) promoting walkable communities and c) helping people who can't fit a "regular" job to find a means to support themselves with some kind of paid work (freelance, part time, whatever).

Homeless people are just people. Once they get off the street, they are again simply referred to as people. You wind up homeless when your problems outrun your ability to cope. The difference between a homeless person and person in housing can be as little as one more problem or one less resource. Some particular thread snaps, it all comes unraveled. Trying to reverse that after the fact is a lot harder than trying to prevent it from happening to begin with (aka "A stitch in time saves nine").

But most people don't really want to hear that. Building more affordable housing (or otherwise trying to make society work better for ordinary people) doesn't feel heroic enough. It doesn't have the same rush of adrenaline of talking about getting people off the street after their lives have gone to hell.

I am on the street for health reasons, not to start a business (and getting pretty grumpy about it), but if you find it that hard cope, you might want to check out my blog: http://sandiegohomelesssurvivalguide.blogspot.com/

People do realize I am homeless if they see me often enough, but they don't realize it upon meeting me the first time. I am less open about it than I used to be, because fuck prejudice and what judgey, uncampassionate, unhelpful assholes the vast majority of people are.

Best of luck.

> I am less open about it than I used to be, because fuck prejudice and what judgey, uncampassionate, unhelpful assholes the vast majority of people are.

I grew up in a nice part of la so I didn't really have any exposure to homeless people until I moved to the bay almost a decade ago. One thing that shocked me then and still really bothers me is how many of my friends (even the ones that I know to be decent, considerate people) completely ignore the existence of anyone who looks or smells or seems "weird". This is presumably under the assumption that anyone who looks like that is probably just asking you for money.

I remember sitting at a SJ light rail station and having a guy in a parka (it was 90+ deg out) come up to us and mumble something while we were sitting at the platform. My friend pointedly refused to make eye contact and pretended he didn't exist. When I asked the guy to repeat what he said, it turns out he was asking for directions....

I'm not saying that everyone needs to empty out their wallet to every person on the sidewalk, and maybe 90% of the time this heuristic is successful (ie they are asking for money), but it seems so shitty to me to just size someone up like that and decide that whatever they're saying to you, you can ignore it. I can guarantee you that none of those friends would ignore a well dressed stranger addressing them on the street.

What you describe has struck me as far more problematic online than off. I am open about being homeless, so a lot of people act like I am "panhandling the internet" while simultaneously refusing to answer questions about "So, how can you make real money online?" or outright telling me "You can't" -- by which they mean specifically that they think I can't, because, in some cases, that is absolutely where some portion of their income comes from.

It's been pretty maddening. And I occasionally hope there is a special place in hell set aside for such people.

I don't mean to pry, but what do you mean by "on the street for health reasons"? I'm trying to think of a medical condition that could be helped by being homeless, and am drawing a blank. Maybe I'm misunderstanding?

The super short version is that I was living in a crappy apartment with mold issues, among other things. I have a serious medical condition that makes me particularly sensitive to things like that. Sleeping in a tent among greenery has helped my health enormously.

I am now well enough that getting back into housing would make sense. But it needs to be real estate I own and have control over, so I can rip out carpeting, or whatever, if necessary. It cannot be rental housing and it cannot be a trailer. So, it will be challenging to arrange.

Thanks for your link, checking it out now.

How do you get by these days? How can we help?

I do freelance work, when I am well enough. I am developing a number of web projects. I left San Diego County about a year ago and moved someplace cheaper within California and things are still hard, but it has been some months since anyone hassled me for being homeless. That is partly because this is a nicer area, partly that I look more middle class than I used to.

If you want to help, there is a tip jar on the site. (You can click on $1 and then enter any number you like.) Money is always useful. Promoting my work in some way so I get more traffic would also be appreciated.


Being homeless with a vehicle to live in is nothing like being homeless without one. I really don't even think it is the same thing. I've been homeless on a number of occasions (related to addiction, I am now in recovery), and I have done it with and without a vehicle.

There is absolutely no comparison between having to sleep on the street and having a vehicle to sleep in, especially during the fall/winter in seasonal areas. I would absolutely live in a converted van if it meant saving money. Sadly, I don't have a van to convert ;-)

I wasn't completely broke but I couldn't keep affording rent as expensive as it was. I was able to shower at a gym, and worked out of Tech Shop on what I was trying to build. But it's hard -- like super hard to just be homeless. The social stigma associated with the word alone is hard for people to get beyond. I would often hear, "But you don't seem like the type to be homeless" and then they would slowly just distance themselves from talking to me. Super weird.

I've been in such a position following an abusive employment/housing situation. What you say completely rings true. I think there's a partially neurologically wired category of "other" in our brains that is meant to make us super cautious of rootless individuals. Even in our nomadic hunter-gatherer days, we had good reason to be suspect of individuals who didn't have group membership. (Effectively a "home.")

That, and I think a lot of it is also pattern matching. When we hear that someone is homeless, we compare that person to the mental image we have of the homeless people we've encountered on the streets.

One of the great tragedies of our society is that we've allowed our mentally ill to slip through the cracks. Untreated schizophrenics and PTSD-suffering Vietnam veterans may or may not make up a significant percentage of the homeless we see -- but they're certainly the most memorable. They stand out. They ingrain, in passersby, a mental map of homeless people as "crazy," or "violent," or "dangerous." And so we start to believe that homeless people are broken somehow. Many people go a step further; they start to regard the homeless as less than human.

These pattern matches are powerful blocks on empathy for many, many people.

You won't slap me in the face because you've got something to lose. A house, family, job, ..

Someone homeless hasn't!

edit: typo corrected!

No. Please believe me, you still have something to lose. (BTW, lose != loose)

I was not clear: I wanted to say that this is how I think the "reasoning" goes. Obviously, almost everyone has got something to lose.

> The social stigma associated with the word alone is hard for people to get beyond.

That's why you call yourself a digital nomad. Instead of people distancing themselves, you get people asking "Wooow how do you do that? I would love to do that? What's it like?".

As a homeless person with a van, you probably have a more permanent base than most digital nomads. Or at least more than what I did when I was nomading more properly. (and yes, I do miss it)

>I recently sold everything I owned and started living out of my converted dodge caravan while I was prototyping what I wanted to build next. With an eye on my burn rate, I lived as cheaply as possible. I can tell you without a doubt that there is no natural system in place for homeless to get out of that rut, and it looks and feels dehumanizing.

I think it's reasonable to assume that anyone who has enough skills to "build things" has enough skills to get an average software job. So, just curious, did you choose to build things and be homeless instead of getting a mundane software job and not be homeless?

Correct. I had decided what I wanted to do with the time I have.

Aren't you hijacking the topic of homelessness here then? When people say homeless they don't mean someone who is homeless out of choice and can get out of it whenever they want to?

Probably the best thing we can do for homelessness is to not see it as a problem of "others", but as a continuum with a self-sustaining end that anyone could end up at.

Wasn't his original comment about how his (atypical) experience not living in a house gave him a bit of an insight into some of the issues that "real" homelessness creates for people? I don't see anywhere that he claimed he was just as disadvantaged as the average homeless person or anything like that.

I'm just relaying my experiences and what I've seen.

I think your comment was informative. It kind of reminds me of "There, but for Fortune", by Phil Ochs:

  Show me an alley, show me a train
  Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain
  And I'll show you a young man with many reasons why
  And there but for fortune, may go you or I
Especially in countries with (dare I say) primitive social security, going intentionally homeless could quickly become a permanent thing. A broken down car and a medical emergency, a family tragedy -- and coming back might suddenly become an insurmountable obstacle. Difficult to get a job without a place to stay, difficult to get a place to stay without money, difficult to get money without a job...

Did you want to be homeless? There are SO many people that do not have the opportunity or education or resources you do. And yet you choose their poverty. Why?

It's the quality of sleep that is the biggest concern. Sleeping poorly affects your productivity, creativity, and your health. The social isolation is also bad for all the above since it will likely lead to depression.

Seriously, once I rented someone's large closet in Phoenix for $100 a month when I needed to save money. I showered in the gym and stayed in my office all day. Even in the most expensive cities someone will take a "ghost roommate" for $500 a month; pennies compared to cost of a physical/mental health related disorder.

You seem open to questions so I'll ask :) I've always wondered -- if you're living in a van, and you don't like where you are (food is expensive, winter is coming, etc), why not just drive somewhere else?

I don't even mean across the country. I mean just 4 hours north or south or east. There are cheaper places to be in California than SF, aren't there? It seems you could spend the year driving up and down the coast as cost/weather permits. And I don't mean daily. The fuel costs would get prohibitive at some point...

I did. I worked in Redwood City, slept in Palo Alto (because it's legal to sleep in your car there). I tried to stay within the confines of the law as much as possible because I didn't need the extra hassle.

You could, at least, rent a place somewhere very cheap (Lodi?) and visit it only occasionally, while living out of your car in the Bay Area.

It might ultimately be more sustainable, especially if you're open to having a "roommate" or two (who probably wouldn't mind you being gone a lot!). I spent a year paying $233/month for an attic room in Atlanta (and I lived there), so the opportunities exist.

I've been seriously considering living out of a van with basic amenities like a propane stove and solar. I was pretty much set on doing this 100%, but one of my close friends talked me down to like 90%. Do you feel the impact to sleep/well-being is worth the freedom you get to work on your prototype?

In case you're someone who usually sleeps pretty well, I would caution against talking poor quality of sleep too lightly. Forget the impact to your health, it can fuck up pretty much everything about your life, including your productivity (partly negating one of the reasons you'd be doing it in the first place).

> I have been harassed by cops, you feel extremely transient and embarrassed just to be alive at times. Sleeping in a van sucks too. Street noises keep you up, cramped for space, etc

Would moving into the woods and "living off the land" have been an option? Is this even legally possible anymore in the United States?

* Assuming you had solar-generated electricity and internet access.

You would need to own the land, or arrange a lease with the owner. Otherwise you're trespassing and that can result in arrest or being shot. I'm not saying that you can't do this (there are people living in remote portions of national parks), but there can be severe downsides. Like ending up like Christopher McCandless.


Living in a US national park (on land you don't own) would be illegal. Rangers also seem hyper-paranoid about remote areas being used for drug cultivation.

I believe national forests have a technical time limit on how long you can stay there. Maybe BLM land?

Druggies could be a problem - there are stories of booby-traps and tripwires laid by the growers to protect their crops. So you certainly don't want to stumble across one.

The only BLM land I personally know of is in Nevada/Arizona/New Mexico, and you can't really grow anything on it (it's desert). Looks like there's also land in eastern Oregon, Idaho, Utah, etc. so if you can tolerate cold winters...


Even on BLM land, someone is eventually going to stop by and pay a visit to see what you're up to.

It's 16 days per campsite, and your sites have to be 5 miles apart. So every two weeks you pack up, move a few miles, and set camp back up again.

Yours, sir, is one of the most human statements I've read in recent years.

Thanks for sharing. Great food for thought.


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