Monday, April 24, 2006

An interesting homeless blog

I came across an article on the BBC News web site about this blog. The blog is called Wandering Scribe (at The writer is a homeless woman. For several months now she has lived in her car on the outskirts of London, England. She started her blog in February, writing it in libraries. She survived the British winter, surviving sub-freezing temperatures.

What's interesting about her story (she's anonymous) is how she doesn't fit the stereotypical view of homelessness. She's not an addict, she's not mentally disturbed, she's not a runaway. She became homeless after a series of misfortunes. She lost her job. She went into debt while looking for work. She was apparently owed money and went into further debt expecting the money to be paid off. After exhausting her resources and with only enough cash to last a week, she accidentally spent the night in her car. Seeing how easy it was (though she would learn that it wouldn't be that easy), she stayed in it.

The Wandering Scribe is a proud woman. She takes care to wash daily, showering in a public restroom at a hospital. She tries to look "normal". She tries hard not to be a nuisance. She hides in her sleeping bag when people walk past the car, so they won't know she's in there. She's scared, afraid someone might realize a single woman is sleeping in a car and attack her.

What's disturbing about her blog is that she's articulate, intelligent. She could be anyone. She admits that she was in denial before the bottom fell out. She obviously is in need of counseling. Her decline happened after a relationship went sour. She admits that she had a nervous breakdown. After she lost her permanent residence, getting a job became more difficult, a problem that is exasperated by her current situation (we hear that one of the biggest problems about getting out of homelessness is the lack of a permanent address when applying for a job).

There are still some questions that haven't been answered (or that I haven't seen answered; I've only read several posts). Why didn't she declare bankruptcy? Why didn't she go on welfare? Was it pride, a need to make it "on her own", or something else? Are her parents alive? If so, why didn't she contact them?

In spite of the questions, and in spite of the subject matter, her blog is absorbing. She's not looking for sympathy, just human contact and catharsis. One post that's stuck with me was a recent post where she described getting out of her car and lying on the ground, trying to straighten her body after sleeping crouched in the car all night. She worries about whether or not living in a car will leave permanent physical problems.

It really makes you thankful for what you have, particularly if you've ever been on a downward slide in life and wondered how far it could go. This woman shows just how far it can go. Perhaps the most interesting (and sad) aspect was how fortunate she felt compared to some other homeless folk; at least she had a car in which to live and where she could keep her stuff.


Winter said...

I read the entire blog, then linked it on mine.. It's hard to believe this woman. I would if there wasn't a donation like on the site. Why is there no mention of looking for a job?

Allan Goodall said...

I haven't read all of it, but that is a good question. The more I read about it, the more I wonder about her.

She mentioned how hard it is to get a job when you don't have a permanent address. Why couldn't she go to a friend and use their place as a mail drop? She mentioned not wanting to call on people, which I can understand, but what would the big deal be about saying, "Hey, Bob, I'm looking for a job but don't have a regular place to stay. Can I use your place as my address?"

Not having a telephone is a big deal, of course. If she's getting donations, though, there's nothing stopping her from getting a pay-as-you-go cell phone (assuming they have them in Britain).

Why didn't she go for public assistance? Why didn't she seek a woman's shelter?

There's something that I'm missing, or there's something that's she's not saying...

Allan Goodall said...

I see she has a new post, dated today. There's a really good comment on that post, about 3/4s of the way down. The person writing the comment does a pretty good job of summarizing the woman's blog up until now.

I'm now of the opinion that she's either terribly proud, or she is, indeed, in need of counselling.

I can understand, to an extent, her not wanting government assistance. My maternal grandmother was a single mother in war years and post-war Glasgow after my grandfather died. She told of once needing to apply for assistance (for a single month) and the horrible experience that was, to the point where she never did it again. This was a woman with three children and little formal education (though she was very intelligent; I often wonder what kind of a life she would have had if she had been born in 2008 instead of 1908). My point is, I can understand pride that prevents someone from seeking help.

On the other hand, the woman is living in her car! You would think that living in a woman's shelter, even temporarily, would be a step up. Or not. It would definitely hurt her self concept of being able to help herself.

I really feel sorry for her, but I think much of it is self-induced. Someone posted information on a shelter that lets people in for a short period of time, to help them get on their feet. The women have to be without children, can not have a violent history and can not be addicts. She fits the bill perfectly. We'll see if she goes there or not. I suspect she won't, and that will tell us a lot about her personality.

Winter said...

She writes beautifully, but like I said the link to the donation paypal isn't something I think someone feeling the way she does.. would do. But I've never been in that situation, it's hard to place youself there. Even though it could happen to anyone of us..

Allan Goodall said...

That's a really good point. She wouldn't go to friends for help. She's too proud to stand in line for benefits, or too proud to tell the government she's homeless. Yet she's not too proud to take money from people on the Internet, people she's now calling her friends.

Heidi said...

I have almost read her entire blog. I have read the most up to date blogs over the last few days and all the archives up to mid april. I do believe that she is for real. Her writing brings up very strong emotions and feelings of empathy. I do think that she keeps herself living in the car because of her determination not to accept help. Although I can understand why she would not want to go to a shelter. At least in the car she can hold onto something that is hers. It can be HER place to go back to. Even if its not much. Regarding friends, it maybe that she doesn't have friends that she feels she can trust or turn to. It happens. She may be wrong in her perceptions - I'm sure that there would be someone out there that would help her but its hard to get past the paranoia that the whole world is out to get you. It is also hard to shake feelings of depression and not being capable of doing certain things. Mental illness is a horrible thing and can really do some damage. What counts is finding the strength to learn to shut off the voices that tell you that you are no good, that you'll fail, that nobody loves or understands you. But that takes time. I believe she'll get there.

Sorry for rambling.

Not read much of your blog yet. Was just doing a search on wandering scribe to see what there is out there about her.

Allan Goodall said...

I still have the feeling that something isn't quite right, but I think her blog is genuine.

I noticed that since she became a "star" she's been overwhelmed by the replies. Instead of writing about what's happening to her, she's spent the last few entries commenting on the comments. I don't think she expected the response, in the comments section or by e-mail.

I wonder how she will cope when the traffic dies down, which it inevitably will. It will die down faster if she stops posting about what's happening to her and concentrates on comments about her own blog.

I'd like to know if she's acted on any of the (really good) advice she's been given.

I hope things work out for her.

(Sorry if this isn't too coherent. I was up late writing something last night, and I'm pretty beat today. Hopefully I'll be more "myself" later this weekend...)