Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Homelessness and paperwork


I don't have pictures right now due to difficulties uploading, so I figure it's a good time for the most boring post of all! One thing that's been interesting leaving my apartment is all the various paperwork and laws relating to being homeless.

Beware, below is boring banal bullshit about funny legal stuff. If you're not curious about the weird details of being semi-homeless don't bother reading :).

The paperwork I just resolved recently is car registration and license. It turns out that you can register your car and have a license, without having a California address. They want to know what county you'll be spending time in, but that's it. So, it turns out that one was super easy. You just tell them you're home is wherever your home is and they're happy. Cool!

More interesting has been health insurance, something I haven't finished dealing with. I'm using my parents in Massachusetts as my address. MA has special health insurance law (the thing called Romneycare during the last election). Because this set of laws include socialized support for people with super low incomes, it also requires proving you live in MA. This seems pretty reasonable to me, but it means that that when I checked the standards I don't qualify. That's also fine, since I don't live there right now that seems pretty fair.

Okay, so how about CA insurance, since I'm living in CA? Well, due to the special MA law it's somewhere between hard and impossible to get non-MA insurance with an MA address... Interesting!

Alright, next I started looking at address services. This gets pretty interesting. To use an address service you have to have an address to redirect from. This relates to the law that says it's illegal to open someone else's mail. As a result to use an address service you need to tell them where it *would* have gone had it not gone to you, and sign some forms, to prove to the U.S. Postal service that no really, it's okay for them to open your mail. This sounds at first like a problem.

BUT, they apparently accept an address like "make, model, license-number" for things like mobile homes and boats. So there's the workaround to using one of these services. I still haven't gone through the rigmarole of getting this set up, but it's certainly possible, and probably what I'll do eventually.

Unfortunately, the above problems (combined with some odd email issue I don't quite understand), cost me a class that I really wanted to take :(. Oh well, I'm stuck in town tomorrow so maybe I can get get some of this done then.

Oh, for those who don't know. Unless there are specific rules to the contrary in some area you can camp in national forest for 14 consecutive days in "dispersed camping". Dispersed camping is where you're just camping in random unofficial locations. On the first night that your gear is there you must be too, and your gear being present counts as camping there. This is mostly what I've been doing, though mostly I've failed to stay in a single place for even *close* to that long. One thing I've been finding though is that a surprising number of offroad parks don't change the normal dispersed camping laws, this is great since they are (for example) all over Oregon, and often just a little ways away from various cool national forests... woot!

Another interesting issue. In relation to urban car living, most towns in California have laws about sleeping in your car. This is due in large part to the dust bowl and all of the migrants that stormed over California at that time. Basically every municipality passed it's own NIMB (Not In My Backyard) laws trying to force the new homeless to other towns. At the same time, in most places they don't care if you don't look "weird" and you make yourself easy to ignore. The weirder you are and the less the cops can typecast you and your vehicle the more likely they are to get nervous and check it out "just to be sure". Once they do that they'll have to tell you to move on, even if they didn't actually care. As an example, a large black SUV parked near a freeway sets off their "what the heck?" detectors (as Jess and I found out with a rental). Whereas an old beatup pickup, or even better a white ford-ranger with a metal cap and a magnet on the side that looks like it's a utility company, is not likely to raise any eyebrows.

Towards being more subtle I just completed a full set of curtains for the truck. My cap's windows are slightly blacked out, so black curtains aren't even visible, you just see nothing. The curtains are just appropriately shaped pieces of cloth with velcro on them. The inside of my cap is carpeted (I have no idea why), so the velcro sticks there and holds the curtain in place. During the night I use the age-old mountaineering technique of peeing in a gatorade bottles (I've no idea what they peed in before gatorade :P). This also reduces the number of times getting into and out of the vehicle, the time when you look the weirdest.

In most places no-one *really* cares that I'm sleeping in the back in the first place as long as I park near train-tracks or similar. The best method for this is to look for other campers and RVs and park near them. The locals will already know where no-one cares. The curtains just help make me easier to ignore.

For all the above IANAL bla bla bla :D. I'm just explaining my understanding. If I'm wrong please do let me know in the comments or something since I'm quite curious, but obviously I'm not giving legal advice. If you have any other interesting issues, questions, or solutions! Please do post below!