September 17, 2011

The Road Trip (Day 57 - September 17, 2011)

Same, same? Okay, a few changes from
"before" to "Day 57".
In some ways, this entire project is a road trip.  One long, mind altering, life changing road trip.  That said, the last few days involved an actual road trip for That Poverty Guy.

The issue of homelessness is so much deeper and varied than most people realize.  (See Really . . . What Does IT Look Like?)  That is exactly why I am experiencing self-sacrifice in this project . . . in order to bring about better understanding of poverty for myself and for others.   The last few days I experienced a couple of the lesser talked about facets of homelessness.
Before getting into the things I learned on the road trip, allow me a few words on why I had to go in the first place.  One of my other "hats" is the producer of a one-woman theatrical production called Dirty Laundry, which is a true story of one woman’s journey through mental illness and its impact on her life and the life of her family.  That woman is my mother, and she is the playwright and sole actor in the show.  Our aim is to get people talking about mental illness and to be part of the efforts to de-stigmatize mental health issues.  Of course, mental illness affects ALL segments of society regardless of sex, class, or race but it disproportionately afflicts those who are homeless on the street.  Anyway, long story short . . . Dirty Laundry had an opportunity to do a performance (unpaid) in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s national conference and so we hit the road.  My challenge was to do so in a manner that maintained the integrity of That Poverty Project, which I'm glad to say I certainly did. 

My first night travelling away from my tent found me taking refuge on the floor in the basement of a house.  This is not unlike the living situation that many an abused woman and her children find themselves after having fled their troubled home life and having accepting the protection of family or friends.   While it might have been better for them to access a woman’s shelter where they could receive counselling and be among others with similar experiences, sadly there are not enough shelters to keep up with the demand (approx. 6% of Canadian population experiences spousal violence ~ Statistics Canada; and women with kids are 5 times more likely to be in poverty on their own than in a two-parent family ~ Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).  Similarly, many street people, before landing on the streets, couch surfed or crashed in basements until they ran out of options to do so. 

While not a desirable situation, sleeping on the floor in someone's house can be a relatively good compared to the alternative.  There can be a sense of relief felt by the person in need settling onto the floor to sleep . . . either the woman who can sleep safely for the first time in a long time . . . or the person in dire straits whose only alternative is the street.  Like them, I felt some relief.  The floor was hard and the living arrangement awkward (being in someone else's living space), but I found myself giggling uncontrollably as I lied down to go to sleep, not having to cocoon for warmth or be concerned about the elements whatsoever.

My next night on the road was spent sleeping in a vehicle.  Who does this?  Well, some people do this as they travel in order to avoid having to incur the expense of lodging.  But others do it because they have a vehicle but no place to call home . . . some university students, transient workers, new arrivals in town seeking work, and the unemployed homeless (check out this article re a program for homeless sleeping in their vehicles).   It was the first time I’ve had the “pleasure”, and I sincerely hope it's the last.  Call me soft, call me spoiled, call me a princess . . . but this 6’2” body was not designed to sleep that way.  It was a balmy 10C overnight and still I was dreaming of getting home so I could cocoon in my tent.  I couldn’t move around well.  Now I’ve got aches where I didn’t know I had body.  I know, poor baby.
That Poverty Guy (Sean Krausert)
Day 57 - More Grey/Still 219 lbs

Today being Saturday, I'll conclude my blog today with a little update.  First of all, no weight loss this week.  This surprised me as I was really busy and moved around a lot.  However, I guess a lot of the stuff I ate on the road were not the healthiest for me (translation: junk such as fatty burgers, fries . . . and chocolate bars from the dollar store).  I also didn't drink enough water, which often results in water retention for me.  It will be interesting to see what will happen this coming week.

As for finances, I'm pretty much broke.  Okay, I am broke.  I received $150 for the road trip and spent $130 of that on gas.  The rest went to food, and thankfully a couple of meals were bought for me.  However, the good news is that I think I have a little fall clean-up work lined up for later this week, and so I'll have a few bucks again soon.

When it comes right down to it . . . I can't complain (. . . well, except for the sleeping in the vehicle, but a lot of that complaining is just to hear my own voice).  The reality is that I have a tent, blankets, and food provided for me . . . and so I'm better off than a couple of billion people in the world.

Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

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