Tuesday, December 4, 2012

She's Sleeping in Her Car

... and her car is parked in front of my house.

Granted, it's on the other side of the street, but considering the fact that this is a residential neighborhood, with no commercial or long term parking spaces, it's an oddity at best.  The house across the way, the one in front of which she is parked, is set in the middle of 25 acres of undeveloped land. Until the road construction began last year, we never saw any activity in or out of the gate.  Once it became impossible to enter the property from the main road, service vehicles began using the gate.  Gardeners, electricians, pick-ups of all shapes and sizes were going in an out.  We never saw anyone who looked like a resident.

Turns out, JannyLou and Fast Eddie have been watching that driveway, too.  They haven't seen anyone who looks like they might live there, either.  Not until the white pick-up with the 40-something driver arrived the week before Halloween. 

It was scary at first. None of us slowed down to see who was behind the wheel, and none of us were brave enough to knock on the window in the dark.... and she always arrived after dark.  Was there a baby in the car?  Sometimes it looked like the woman behind the wheel was caring for someone or something on the passenger seat.  But, since none of us spent too much time staring through her window, we couldn't tell for sure.

Then, one Thursday afternoon, she arrived at 4.  I walked out to retrieve the garbage cans, and, disregarding my family's pleas to take care and not put myself in danger from which I would be unable to outrun a pursuer, I rolled the can over to her vehicle and knocked on the window.  I figured I could hunker down behind the trash can if she came at me with force.  

Instead, she smiled and apologized for taking up space on the street.  

I've got to do something about this fear of "the other" that is running through my psyche.  The sense of relief I felt was immediately followed by shame and remorse.  She wasn't scary at all.  She was stuck.

She's a bridge inspector.  She lives outside of Phoenix.  She was called down to Tucson by her employer specifically; she has a skill set he needed and there was no one else to call.  It was work, and she heeded the call.  The owners of the property in front of which she has been parking are casual acquaintances.  They had offered her a place to stay if she were ever in the neighborhood.  Rumor has it that the owners rent the house to UofA grad students; offering it to our transient bridge inspector seems to fit nicely with that narrative. 

The problem seems to be that the owners are divorcing, are arguing, are living there or arguing over who is to live there, and "we don't want you to be in the middle of it" has been their answer when she rings the bell.  

She wishes she had gotten that information before she accepted the work.  Without their hospitality, she's sleeping in her car.  She can't afford to maintain her home and rent down here, too.  She's sorry that she's worried us, sorry that she's causing problems, sorry that her friends are so ditzy, sorry, sorry, sorry.

So am I.

Fast Eddie and JannyLou offered to let her sleep in their home.  TBG and I are not that generous.  I'm not comfortable inviting a stranger to sleep in Little Cuter's bed, even if she looks as nonthreatening as our bridge inspector.  Then, again, I'm not giving my house up to the wedding party, as JannyLou and Fast Eddie did for Little Cuter in September. They have more of that midwestern if my neighbor needs help I'll do what I can gene than we do. 

Instead, I went to Interfaith Community Services this afternoon.  I shared her story with the receptionist, and wondered if there were services they could offer.  Rental assistance, perhaps?  A senior with an empty bedroom who's looking for company?  Something? Anything?  It was getting harder and harder to drive past her and pull into my driveway; my heartstrings were tugged tight.

I left with the phone number of a women's shelter. She was in her truck when I came home, and we smiled at one another as I drove by.  She was surprised and grateful when I handed her the paper with the shelter's information.  Once again, she was embarrassed by her friends' locking her out, she was grateful but not willing to accept my neighbors' offer of shelter, she was touched by my generosity in seeking help for her situation, she laughed when I said that I would go with her to ICS or the shelter if she needed company, and then I went inside and she stayed in her truck... parked across the street from my house... where she sits, hours later, waiting for who knows what.

With a tent and a sleeping bag, she could camp on parkland fifteen minutes from here.  She'd be just as homeless, but she'd look less out of place.  I type this knowing that it's written from a selfish perspective - I don't like being reminded of the have-nots.

Do any of us?


  1. Whoa...that must be awkward for everyone involved. Although she seems honest about her situation, I can understand why it still seems odd. I guess it could always be worse, no!? Keep us posted...hopefully it's not a long term arrangement. Good luck with that. :s

  2. Awkward, indeed, Liz. I feel like I'm living "no room at the inn"....

  3. She didn't accept your neighbor's goodwill, she seems reluctant to accept your help to go to a shelter. I would leave her alone. She's not hurting anything by living in her truck, across the street, and if she's ok with it, you should be too.

  4. So why isn't an employer who calls someone out of town footing the motel AND food bill for the employee? She should not have to be in homeless circumstances when the employer needs her in a different location.

  5. Living as we do in the country, we see a lot more of that probably than people in developments. There is a park across the highway from here and vehicles park there now and again. I've seen couples living in other parks with just their vehicle. It seems strange and yet it's the reality of today and from what my mother told me it was not unusual when she was young, after WWII. She might be leery of getting her name connected to social services. It does seem she's not hurting anyone. As for the company not covering her expenses, that's the way of the world today also. I'm glad you found the answer to why she was there. Once we had a vehicle roll into our driveway (before the gate) and we saw the main seemingly sleeping there. Not sure if it was a physical problem or what, we called 911. Turned out to be a drunk who was taken in for overnight by the police. He came back the next day to get his vehicle and was glad we'd been concerned for him. That though was probably nearly 20 years ago.

  6. @ RainTrueax. Interesting perspective. So sad to think about how many desperate people exist all around us...in this day & age & in AMERICA!!! Who would've thought there could be those among us who face daily challenges (we sometimes take for granted) as struggling to have their basic human needs met. Easy to ignore, but a reality nonetheless. Sad. <3

  7. Gosh, this is so unsettling. I can see where you would be concerned. She was offered hospitality and she has decided to not accept it. I agree with ForestGirl though. Why isn't her employer footing the bill for her to stay some place and for food? She's obviously doing the work for them and it's completely wrong of them to not help her out. She does sound like someone that doesn't like confrontation and isn't willing to stand up for herself. She needs to confront her employer and tell them they either help out with her living expenses while she is working for them away from her home or she needs to go back to her home. This is no way for someone to chose to live.

    Uggghhh. This really bothers me on so many levels. Living in one's car is horrible. And even though she seems harmless, it can still be disconcerting to have someone just loitering near your home. :(

    I hope she will do what's best for herself and either ask her employer to help out with her expenses or go home.

    Megan xxx

  8. In reply to those who question the employer, I gather she is a contract employee. That means she gets paid a fee to do the job. Period. My husband did this for a local company for an entire year. He banked every penny because he knew he would have to pay the taxes on all the wages. It's a different world from what we used to know, and it will become more and more like this.

  9. Please excuse my grammar above. I meant to say choose; instead of chose. :(


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