As the number of homeless people living out of their vehicles grows across the US, one man shows what it's really like to live involuntarily out of a van for 2 years
Jeff Slocum in front of his car. Courtesy Jeff Slocum
Jeff Slocum has lived in his van for two years after struggling to find accommodation.
Although he loves freedom, Slocum has no bathroom and cannot eat healthily.
As homelessness continues to rise in the US, many are turning to vehicles for shelter.
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For some it may be a dreamy lifestyle to live in an RV and touring the US on the open road, for others it is an undesirable reality.
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هل لديك الجرأة على مقارنة مزايا فول الصويا الأمريك
يؤكد استعراض شامل حديث نشره طرف خارجي أن فول الصويا الأمريكي يتفوق على غيره من الأنواع ال رىب من حيثب صير حيثب من ر.
The van life movement has gained momentum in recent years, leading more and more people to abandon their traditional lifestyles, convert vans into livable little homes, and travel endlessly. These people usually fill their new homes on wheels with luxurious amenities like a full bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, and projection screens to watch TV.
However, for a growing number of Americans, living off a vehicle is not an option - and far less glamorous. Like vanlifers, these homeless Americans live in their vehicles and drive on the open road, but they do so involuntarily and face the dangers of lifestyle devoid of any luxury.
Jeff Slocum knows the reality of life in his vehicle all too well. He has called his 2005 Chrysler Town and Country Van home since April 2019. According to Slocum, a neighborly dispute forced him out of his living situation and he got into his car indefinitely. Since he is disabled, he said he had struggled to find another apartment that would meet his needs. With no other options, Slocum made a home for himself in the back of his car.
Slocum made his car as livable as possible
When Slocum first lived in his vehicle, he said he considered it an "adventure". He quickly got to work and turned it into a livable home by insulating the walls to regulate the temperature for himself and his Chihuahua.
Slocum in his van. Courtesy Jeff Slocum
He put a mattress in the back of the car so that he had a bed and a place to lie. Slocum then built shelves to store most of his belongings and created a makeshift kitchen with an oven. He even installed solar panels on top of the vehicle to power some of his electronics, including a small TV and a laptop.
"If you take a deep breath, slow down, think creatively, and do one task at a time, you can survive," Slocum told Insider. "Anyone can learn this stuff. Libraries are full of survival books like this, and you can tweak things like this to make it warm and comfortable."
When the temperature drops, he doesn't have a battery-powered heater like some vanlifers. He bundles up and hopes the insulation and the little space heater will keep him warm. When it's time to eat, he boils a pot of water on his space heater.
Slocum said his lifestyle was a great way to stay in New York state so he could be close to his doctors without paying rent. To do this, he spends a few nights in various parking lots in the Batavia area and then moves to another parking lot. For him, this freedom of movement is the best part of his life situation.
"I love being able to just stand up and go," said Slocum. "It's the freedom to go and not worry about your home."
Although he was able to make the space comfortable, Slocum faces significant difficulties living in his van
He doesn't have a bathroom and said he hasn't shaved since 2019. He uses a plastic bag when he needs to go to the bathroom, and he uses body towels to clean himself because there is no shower.
"I do my best to keep myself as clean as possible," said Slocum. "If I go shopping and think someone could smell me, I don't like it."
Plus, Slocum can't get up or really move in the van, so he spends most of his time lying down or crawling. The fact that he can't get a lot of exercise is also a problem, and he says his life situation forces him to eat unhealthily as vegetables and other healthy foods rot quickly in his van. He suffered a heart attack in early 2020 and is now struggling to maintain a healthy diet while living this lifestyle.
Despite the rigors of life in a vehicle, Slocum often repeats his mantra: "Life is an adventure."
Slocum goes into his van. Courtesy Jeff Slocum
The number of people living in their vehicles is increasing
Nan Roman, the president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, said Slocum is not alone. In fact, the number of homeless people in the US rose 2.7% from 2018 to 2019, bringing the total to 567,715 people, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While there isn't a lot of data from 2020, Roman said the number has generally increased since 2016.
"We hear, especially on the west coast, but also in other parts of the country, that the number of people in their vehicles is increasing," said Roman.
During the pandemic, at a time when many Americans were facing more financial burdens than ever before, Roman said many accommodations would need to reduce the number of beds in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. This resulted in some homeless people seeking shelter in vehicles when they got the chance.
Over the past few years, Roman has seen firsthand how life in such conditions can affect every aspect of one's life.
"[Living in a car] certainly offers protection for people who have no place to live," said Roman, "but it is not a home. It has negative consequences for people in terms of work, health and health." Development of children. "
Although street life was never part of the plan, Slocum learned to survive
On paper, the Vanlifers and Slocum seem to lead parallel lives. Both live in vehicles and enjoy the freedom not to be tied to one place, but by contrast, Slocum's life is about survival.
"You have to be able to adapt to your situation," said Slocum. "I'm a survivor. There are some people who would rather give up than keep fighting, but I survive."
Slocum remains hopeful. Courtesy Jeff Slocum
He recently discovered the Van Life movement and said he was surprised to find people who voluntarily lead similar lifestyles. But he is not surprised that people find street life and life in a vehicle easy because they can afford luxury that makes it bearable.
"I wish I could afford a small used camper to get up in, a table to sit and eat, a counter with a sink for cooking and dishes, a shower and a proper bathroom ... but I'll go along with it what I have] "Slocum said in an email to Insider.
Although Slocum lives on the darker side of the same coin, he assessed his life situation largely positively and simply said: "There are people who are worse off than me."
Like the thousands of others around the country, he hopes to eventually find an apartment that meets his needs, and he even dreams of one day volunteering to join the Van Life movement.
"It's a nice way of life and less stressful as far as I can see," Slocum said.
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