Intentionally Homeless: How I Learned to Live with Less
Eight in ten Americans are living in debt. Nearly seven in ten have less than $1,000 in savings. That was me in 2015. 34-years-old, in debt, low on savings, paying $1,650 plus utilities for a tiny studio apartment in a suburb of the most expensive housing market in the United States, San Francisco. I made $96,000 working as a radio news reporter at flagship station KGO, a very comfortable salary in most parts of the country, but way less than the $216,000 one needs to make to afford a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. I wanted to pay off my debt, create an emergency fund, be financially free, but the odds were stacked against me. So, I did something drastic. I said “goodbye” to rent.
For four months in 2015, my boyfriend and I lived “intentionally homeless.” We’d met at a shared housing complex in Mill Valley, him paying $1,000 for a room in the main house, me paying $1,650 for a studio cottage on the property. He worked full-time as an electrical contractor and handyman, and first had the idea that we could save a ton of money by giving up our rent. So, we took the plunge, and moved out of our posh living situations. We showered and used the Internet at a gym in San Francisco, slept at rest stops, marinas and in campgrounds, and I paid off all my debt while also saving thousands. It seemed the only way we could get ahead in San Francisco, where rents now top over $3,300 for a one-bedroom apartment and college grads spend 79% of their income on rent.
Nationally, housing affordability is at its worst level in seven years, with the supply of homes for sale now at the lowest level since the National Association of Realtors began tracking 18 years ago. This is one reason some have become intentionally homeless, and I’ve talked to people who lived in cars or vans to get ahead. But there are many others who’ve downsized for other reasons: to gain freedom, to be minimalist, to be environmentally conscious and consume less. It seems there is a paradigm shift away from the traditional American dream, and more toward a dream of flexibility, money savings, and stewardship of the Earth.
My book will explore many facets of alternative lifestyles, including the van life, where blogger Kristen Borr lives in a converted Sprinter van and travels the United States. There’s communal living, where people live in shipping containers in an Oakland community called “Containeropia” or intentional housing in New York City. Some are going off-the-grid, like my childhood friend Morgan Hager, who built her own home from scratch, including solar panels and rain water filtration, on a plot of land in Ohio. The tiny home movement is picking up steam as well, with tiny home dwellers like Gabriella and Andrew Morrison giving up 90% of their belongings to move into one. In Minnesota, Bill and Brendy Campbell bought a plot of land and called it “The Sanctuary,” a community of tiny homes. There are so many stories and so many ways of living which will be woven throughout my narrative.
Intentionally Homeless: How I Learned to Live with Less is Hillbilly Elegy meets The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. My book explores the underground group of people who are living alternatively. Intentionally Homeless will have wide appeal across the globe where millions of people struggle to afford rent and live a more balanced life.