Someone said to me today, “You’re in a motel, you have a roof over your head and a bed,” as if to say “what’s the problem? Why are you complaining? Why are you unhappy?“. I thought I’d be okay too given these two things. I was horribly wrong. I have learned that’s not enough. For anybody. And how little people truly understand displacement, myself included.
Author Ruby K. Payne wrote a book called “Framework for Understanding Poverty” that was recommended to me by then-Hattie Cotton principal Karen Hamilton. It’s hands-down a must-read for anyone in the helping professions. In the text, Ms. Payne cites the non financial resources that people in poverty lack. Among the resources she lists: emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, and support systems. I didn’t realize just how many of these resources would be thrown out of balance for me during this time period. It’s not simply about a bed and a roof. Not anymore.
A few semesters ago I took a class on financial math. One of the concepts taught was ‘the effective interest rate‘. It’s a term used for a calculation to compare the annual interest between loans with different compounding periods like a week, month, year, etc. So in effect, all things being equal, it gives a way to make different situations into a single situation people can understand.
I chose to consider my condition being ‘effectively homeless‘. I chose this because I am not on the streets but I am without the safety, comfort, and familiarity of a regular home. My surroundings change every few days, when I’m in a motel I have no privacy, and at the end of the day, like a touring artist towards the end of the tour, I yearn to come home, only there is no home for me. It began June 29, 2018 as I was to move into my new home and was unable to. I was given two days notice my home would not be ready. I was being pushed out of my rental by what was deemed illegal tactics. Sadly after a year of fighting was no time left. The clock had just run out. My new home wasn’t ready yet but I had to be out of my old home immediately. So I became ‘effectively homeless’.
I’ve spent the last 13 years or so doing what I believed was serving the greater good, trying to help many in need, and doing what I could to try to make the world a better place through having my home open to inner city kids, going on the mission / ministry field overseas, serving the homeless, and rescuing abandoned / sick animals. I state this not to blow my own trumpet but to frame my life’s mission since arriving here as a war orphan in the mid 1970’s. A lot of sacrifices were made during the war that resulted in my evacuation to this country and arrival as a refugee.
First, I want to thank all those who have donated [at the time of the original post a donation campaign for rooms at the Motel 6 was open] and prayed for me. God is good and he is sovereign. This isn’t a complaint list. But I do think I need to take the time to discuss this for anyone who is interested. I want to express my sincere thanks to Sam at the Motel 6 White House as well as the the staff at Quality Inn White House for housing me as well as clients who have let me use their offices, WiFi, etc. I also wanted to thank Dr. Andy Roberts at Nashville Neck & Back as well as Dr. Eric Potter at Sanctuary Functional Medicine for taking excellent physical care of me during this time as I’ve endured multiple strains and physical injuries trying to take get through all this without help on the new property / work site. I also need to thank Bob Cook and Matt Ohara at Bargain Bob’s for helping replace many of my packed up business-critical assets as well as Billy at Dirt Cheap for helping provide many plastic bins for moving at a very nominal cost and at a moment’s notice and finally Simply Storage in White House for making the storage units an amazingly easy process to set up and use.
There have been a few observations I wanted to make. My degree is in the social sciences, so in that sense I tend to observe, collect data, and analyze, usually with human behavior as it pertains to crafting and measuring marketing campaigns as well as social service opportunities. Here is what I have learned so far through this experience from analyzing my own behavior, reactions, and the observations / feedback of others:
Psychologically I am a bit off-kilter most of the time. This did not happen overnight. A little over a year ago I was slated to buy the rental home I had rented for 5 years. I had an email agreement but it was broken by the owner / seller. The house got sold to an out-of-state investor without notice where it went from a ‘rental property’ to a ‘portfolio asset being managed’. I got 3 notices to vacate over the course of a year and with good legal advisement, handled 2 out of 3. But it also restricted me from travel. I was only able to leave my home for more than 24 hours once over the course of that year. Anytime it looked good to leave, I got another ‘vacate the premises’ notice based largely on false premise.
- Living under those conditions for an entire year was not helpful – in fact it was a trauma. I never felt ‘safe‘ in my own home. Many of the moves were not ‘legal’ which led me to believe among other things, a landlord lockout, through illegal, could happen. The Tennessean’s Getahn Ward, one of the few to listen and respond to my plight, passed away last year but not before being so kind as to call me at 10pm on a Saturday night to express his concerns for me. His passing was both tragic for Nashville and in a way, a setback for me as he was very kind and understanding.
- My homes in various locations had been a mission field / base for over 8 years. I adopted my daughter over the course of two of them and helped many in the inner city with them. It was sad to see it go. But leaving home each day for work and wondering if I would be locked out when I returned and my possessions gone was a constant concern each and every day of this. It wouldn’t have been legal but neither was the rest of what was happening so it was reasonable and plausible to speculate this could happen as well. Thankfully it never did. But living under this threat for a year was hard. I think I became unhinged in more ways than one. I think the closest association is how an undocumented immigrant lives never knowing if deportation is right around the corner.
- A lot has happened at once. Someone else had to point this out. I was slated to move from my rental into a new property with a smooth transition, but ‘moving’ into a new community in-and-of itself is a stressful experience, but I was notified two days before my move that this would not happen and the property would not be ready yet. I secured a camper for my pets and had it wired to an electrical breaker, I put all my belongings in storage, and was checked in by a friend to a motel. All of this happened over a 36 hour time period.
- I went from taking care of one rental property to overseeing the vacating of my old premises, managing the motel situation, taking care of and renovating a camper in short-order, keeping an eye on the new property, and assessing the overall safety of the building where the breaker was located that was powering the camper, all while overseeing 2 storage units that housed my business gear and home gear. One of these things could be a life change but having to deal with all of this at once had turned nerve wracking as many days I simply did triangles in my car all day long and worked all night long, sleeping about 1-2 hours.
- It’s only me. I don’t have a wife, girlfriend, administrator, personal assistant or even best-friend in town to help with any of this as far as labor goes. I did try paying someone to take care of somethings but in the end my money was taken from me with work left undone. I STILL have a pile of debris in my front yard as of writing this and I’m out several hundred dollars as it was supposed to have been hauled off. So in that sense it’s just me and a few very very helpful people who have been able to come in every so often and help with moving tasks. People I am appreciative for. But 99.9% of the time, sun up to sun down it’s me planning, administrating, executing, and concluding the day’s tasks regarding all this. I do talk to myself a lot but the voices in my head that usually keep me company have been unusually silent lately. Probably “on strike”. I heard they unionized last week.
- It’s also been hard going from a Dave Ramsey FPU coordinator with an emergency fund to this state of affairs. Though the least of my concerns right now, it is another shift in my mental state. I found I felt so mentally screwed up I would re-arrange the same 3 plastic tubs in my motel room for hours, or go walk through WalMart over and over again multiple times a day. Tonight I went and walked through many aisles just to walk off stress.
Often in times of moves, people’s jobs serve as a rock-of-stability in an ever-changing reality of a move. In my case however I ‘work from home’ full time, so I lost my job site and my home. It sent me into a tailspin as I suddenly didn’t have a regular place to work, all of my gear set up in it’s arrangement, and the comfort of something as simple as my chair. I kept having to run to storage to get things I needed for computer repairs, marketing, etc as well as had to re-buy some things buried too deep in storage to be productive to find. Some critical items were also packed pre-move with the intention of unpacking 5 days later. So changing my work place on a regular basis, sometimes almost daily, along with where I was staying, from motel-room to motel-room was difficult psychologically. There’s literally no anchor. A job change and a home change, while not usual especially for corporate relocations, is a bit difficult when it changes every few days for weeks.
- This happened in the middle of a health-crisis as well. My body is going through a lot of stressful adjustments on the way to a healthier more abundant life. So in that, it would have been more helpful for this to happen after I’d reached some health goals and my body stabilized, not smack in the middle of it. I am continuing my regimen from the ever-changing motel rooms. I’ve injured myself quite a few times at the new property doing things I probably should have help doing such as physically moving debris with only a pair of work gloves and the headlights of car as a guide in the middle of the night, or moving an HVAC unit from one side of the yard to a scrap pile by myself. Hugging an armload of boards with rusty nails is not advisable but I am vaccinated for tetnus and had a booster in the least few years due to the animal rescue work. Why all the risk? All necessary to avoid any codes issues or work stoppages – but definitely has required chiropractic correction and other health intervention / treatment.
- Speaking of anchors, save for God, I see, on average, 2-3 people a week regularly in my line of work. I work from home doing ‘production’ most of the week, save for business and networking meetings as well as church. I used to have my cats to keep me company. But now they are in a camper and I can only see them in the evenings for a short time. I cannot go during the day due to the work crews being present and restrictions placed upon me due to that factor. So in that sense those I would come home to, love, and love me back are now gone. I see them for a few minutes each day for feedings. But their purring used to relieve my stress, their antics would amuse me, and their familiarity was comforting. Now it’s more a task to go feed them, do head count, and leave because they are extremely agitated. I would be too. Emotionally I’ve lost something I had every day. It’s gone now. It’s not the same but I wonder if that’s how families separated at the border with mexico feel.
- I am still able to fulfill my weekly volunteer duties at my church. Sitting in service on Sundays however is a different story. It’s a psychological juxtapositioning nightmare to be a member of a fairly affluent church and be effectively homeless. It can drive me bonkers if I sit in my seat and think about it long enough. My mind actually snapped after service last Sunday when there was a call to hold each other’s hands. No one reached for mine and it was too much for me as a whole so I just went out the back very quietly and went to my ‘happy place’ instead.
- Lastly, the fundraising and moving-target move dates have been psychologically confusing. I have already begun making housing payments. So this is all double of what I would normally be responsible for. I was only to be in a motel 4-5 days at maximum while waiting for floors to be done. It’s now been over three weeks, each week looking like the next week. I’ve spent nearly $5000 when it’s all said and done between the motel, storage space, replacing items needed immediately that are in storage, some paid labor I had to secure due to lack of volunteer help, as well as the camper’s renovation (that was roughly $300 total counting moving it to more level ground since the first drop-off truck got stuck and had to be pulled out! – by renovation we mean plywood, oak, hook & eye locks, tarps and bungees to seal leaks, seal internal exits, and mitigate further water damage). But $5000 total has been spent over the last month. I’ve only fundraised for a portion and I’ve kept the Motel goal a moving target until I have some form of certainty of my exit.
Questions I’ve gotten recently are:
Why not couch surf? Put simply, it’s not cost effective or relationally effective. I could couch-surf but I work until 2-3am in the morning, I go out on ‘service calls’ to odd places during odd hours, and especially for a married couple, it’s a lot of disturbance for me to come and go 6-7 times a day sometimes. In addition, the motel I was put-up in and the one I am in presently are 2-3 minutes from my storage unit and 13 minutes from the property, making it easy to get what I need to keep the business going, take care of my animals, and handle things that need handled at the new property to facilitate a move-in. Gas to make all these runs daily would exceed the cost of the Motel 6 and the time would be a near immeasurable business loss given Nashville highway traffic. As much as I’ve been appreciative of people’s offers of hospitality, I’d lose their patience and spend more money couch surfing than staying at this particular location. Would your husband or wife like having a houseguest who works 24/7, is in and out at all hours, sometimes arming / disarming your alarm multiple times a day? I do not have family nearby. Being close to my storage unit has been a Godsend. Hands down. I am there all the time swapping out what I need to keep the business afloat. I barely keep anything in the motel except for my work stations.
- Why didn’t you wait to move? I was pushed out. After 2 or 3 attempts to get me out, I’d reached the end of the line. Even with legal help there’s only so much you can do in fighting gentrification or out-of-state investors buying your rental and it’s happening all over Nashville. I had good attorneys review my situation and play ‘devil’s advocate’ but when presented with facts and evidence, everyone was in agreement and we were ready to go to court in one particular instance. In Nashville we have a stronger-than-usual number of first-time homeless who are facing lease renewal increases they cannot afford (in attempts to remove them and double or in some documented cases triple the rent and find new tenants to pay that tripled rent) and homeowners facing ‘suspicious’ codes violations they cannot afford to correct (so older houses can be demolished and replaced with several tall-skinnies). Gentrification and out-of-state investors have changed the rental property business from servicing a paying tenant to protecting an asset in an asset-managed portfolio.
Why not go on welfare / food stamps instead of fundraising? This is a really good question. This is a temporary emergency situation. I’d budgeted for a move, I had an emergency fund, and in the end I do believe this was both unexpected and has an end date. In addition, I’m self employed which makes the numbers for state / federal assistance a slightly different ball-game than a regularly employed person. In addition, I felt strongly by asking both friends and clients, I was reaching to people who both cared about me and would benefit greately from me being in a stable location to do my work, among other things, which is also their work. It’s hard to put myself out there, my entire business, and the transparency needed to fundraise for a personal need. Most GoFundMes are successful because it’s OTHER PEOPLE advocating for someone’s needs. People are more likely to give if spa 3rd party is doing the asking. In this case I am my own cheerleader, accountant, promoter, poster, and advocate. It’s truly up to God and how he speaks to people whether giving happens or not. It’s not in my hands. I do everything I can do to promote it and then believe on God to show up. I book my prepaid rooms in advance, a major step of faith to secure pricing and availability for a place with a $199/night rack rare and no vacancy on the “day of”.
- Why the moving target? Why is the goal always changing? I have begun to see the continued delays in this property being completed so I have kept the goal a moving target. When the end is in sight I’ll end the campaign. People giving is completely voluntary. I have gone to the well many times though over the course of the last few years with various needs. That I can admit readily. I am sure I am blocked on MANY Facebook feeds.
- Do you have any other needs? Cat food is one. Any kind. Cat litter is another. Any kind. Gas and food cards are helpful but at the end of the day I still have a job and workable budget. None the less I’ve spent a fortune at Walmart. No joke. It’s right across the motel and is very helpful for those things that are buried in storage. I’ve been through storage 3x, over 100 bins, searching for things I cannot afford to simply ‘buy again’. Help when the move-out finall happens is yet another issue. I have exhausted any goodwill people had towards me the last few weeks.
Why don’t you work for the money you need? I work nearly 80 hours a week as it is, quite more than that over this episode. It’s a bit more complicated than that, some people have provided me with extra work but out of that comes taxes, overhead, etc so in a sense, 30 cents on every dollar probably goes to me. I can cash-flow a dozen different ways with and had to the day I had to pay to help move the cats but to keep my books clean and everything coposethetic, a donation is a donation and work is work. I enjoy and need to work which is why the Motel 6 currently is an excellent option for me as my company continues to serve it’s clients, but in the end, while well intentioned, I file personalty / privilege taxes, personal property taxes, state taxes, business license taxes, sales taxes, county taxes, permits, as an LLC as well as other overhead necessary (software licenses, parts, media, part time independant contractors, etc) to keep the business running so it’s not a straight wage for me.
- When will you be in your new place? My guess – educated guess – is August 4th. Moving target, I know but that’s what I’m seeing at this point. So I’m continuing to raise Motel money. I’ll stop when the end is in sight.
What are some advantages of the Motel 6? Okay, no one asked that…but you really grow to appreciate the bed being folded down, soap and towels replaced daily, and the power of a commercial washer and dryer. My sneakers need cleaned weekly due to the work I am doing on the new property and nothing says clean like a commercial washer and dryer. I have also learned I should have had a mentor before ever stepping foot into Home Depot. I couldn’t get a caulking gun to work for 2 days. Turns out the last person using it put a nail in the end to prevent it from drying out. Didn’t figure that out for 2 days. I also washed the motel towels myself with clothes I had never washed yet. Now the motel has blue towels. I probably just bought myself a set of towels.
My paypal is ‘http://paypal.me/careycat‘ – I use this and not a GoFundMe because the paypal goes to a debit card tied directly to the Motel 6 in seconds, not days. It makes funds instantly available for the Motel 6 to charge for my room. The target is always moving it seems, so any donations towards the room are helpful. Please consider a donation today. Any amount helps, rooms are, on average $62/night and I book early to avoid sellout. This motel consistently sells out and I believe it’s due to area work crews renting rooms. I book early to avoid disappointment. They are a pre-pay deal.
God is Good. He is so sovereign.
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.