Living Off The Grid – Van Dwellers
While most people in life-changing legal and/or financial trouble struggle to return to their previous way of life, some have taken the opportunity to actually “opt-out” of the system altogether. They choose to become Van Dwellers. If you think this sounds a bit drastic, you should know that the vagabond way of life is becoming increasingly popular – sometimes out of financial necessity and sometimes out by choice.
Van dwelling is not for everyone, but for an increasing number of people, it’s become a “rent-free” way of life and an opportunity to leave behind what is perceived to be a world plagued by economic and social injustice. And of course, there are those who choose van dwelling life for its freedom, adventure and fun.
The man you’re about to read about is a divorcee named Josh. He did not become a van dweller out of choice, but out of economic necessity. In fact, at the time, he was quite desperate and was faced with very few alternatives. Josh is someone who had suffered major financial and emotional harm over the past fifteen years. Yet when you hear his story, you can’t help but conclude that van dwelling turned out to be a very positive force in his life. It had not only brought him economic freedom, it offered him emotional freedom and solitude.
Legal And Financial Trouble – Josh The Van Dweller
Josh is fifty-one years old. He used to live in a rural part of Los Angeles until about three years ago when he lost his job hauling furniture because it was just too painful to do heavy lifting. A car accident resulting in a neck and back injury put an abrupt end to his thirty years of hauling furniture. Unfortunately, the injury didn’t happen on the job, so Josh wasn’t eligible for Workers Compensation. His Social Security Disability claim had been denied twice, and even when he finally was approved to receive disability, the monthly amount was just a few hundred dollars a month.
Savings Lost To 2008 Market Crash
Josh and his wife Linda lost most of their savings in the stock market crash of 2008 when the Dow lost over $1.2 trillion in market value. Josh, and Linda, were among the countless investors who lost most of their savings by selling at the bottom of the market in fear they would lose it all.
About eight months after the market crash, the economy was so bad, Linda lost her job and six months after that, Josh and Linda found themselves facing home foreclosure by the same bank that approved their home loan. Ironically, this same bank turned out to be one of the major lenders that were responsible for the great “real-estate derivative” scheme that brought down the economy which led to the nations worst recession.
It Got Worse?
The losses didn’t stop there; Josh’s wife petitioned for divorce, which Josh blames on their financial meltdown. Like many couples in that time period, their marriage could not survive the pressure and pain of falling into the despair of poverty. There was one bright spot – by this time their two children they raised were already living independent lives and doing well.
By 2015, Josh was living in a small one-bedroom apartment and was close to broke and was still unable to find steady work. Josh was facing the prospect of homelessness. Fortunately, Josh was able throughout the years to build a little savings – he called it his “doomsday money” but he wasn’t about to spend this money on paying his landlord six-months more of rent which would have left him penniless.
Too Young To Collect Social Security
He was still more then ten-years off from receiving social security, so he had to make some tough choices and quickly. For Josh, one of his biggest fears was being homeless. He was also too proud to ask his adult children for money.
So after surfing the Internet, he learned that there was a whole community out there called van dwellers. He wasn’t excited about the prospect of living out of his white Astro Van, but to him, it was better then living out of a shelter. The real question was whether Josh had enough money left to make the transition and sustain him until he could find some part-time work. He knew he wouldn’t starve because there were food banks that would sustain him and he could apply for food stamps and financial assistance that could be electronically deposited into his checking account. All together, it would be enough to survive. For the rest he would have to leave to fate.
The first step was to convert his van into livable space….