By: Ras Tafari

What is it like to be homeless? Ras Tafari shares about living out of his car and using his computer to access resources and employment. This is part of a series of articles published in Streetvibes newspaper.

When the housing bubble burst some time back, I lost my home, wife, and children. Day to day living became my new lifestyle; being homeless was not a part of my plan at this stage in life but as we all know, life happens, and all I had left was my car and my one piece of equipment: my laptop PC.

Out in the Field
The going got tough, so I got going, going where? I had to have a game plan, so I could eat, sleep and earn a living, so poof! I turned my car into a mobile office/mobile home/entertainment center. How? I purchased, at a flea market, a car inverter that converted my car battery into A.C. (alternating) current. It plugged right into my cigarette lighter; boom Power. My laptop had Wi-Fi capabilities, a DVD player and a disc burner. My car had air conditioning and heated seats that let lay flat at night like a Futon and a Bose sound system. First and goal to go.

Armed with a Mississippi-handmade-old-school quilt and skullcap for those knee-knocker nights, a plug-in fan if need be to catch the summer breeze, and his rod and his staff to comfort me (prayer and a pistol), I slept in the valley of the shadow. Morning brought on the day and the game began. I had some key places to park; my best spot was on Ridge Road where I used to live. A friend of mine who had a R.V.
pulled my coat to the fact that the Wal-Mart/Home Depot allows Campers, Truckers, and R.V.’s to park on the lot all day. No hassles; hell I would get some movies from street vendors get some popcorn and watch a flick or two to pass time and plan the next day.

On the lot was a White Castle and across the street was a Mickey D’s. In the mornings, I would decide which bathrooms to use—Mickey D’s or the Castle (the best coffee in town)—to get the crumbs out my eyes, pop the trunk, grab my kit containing soap, lotion, wash towel, tooth paste, etc., and saunter in and handle my business. Had to get cool with the morning staff so they can be cool with what I was doing. After that I would go to my car and get my trusted PC, order coffee and get the paper that would always be there. I liked Mickey D’s because they had free Wi-Fi, so I would check my emails and the internet to search for jobs and respond to inquiries. I had, at the time, some PC certifications and I had a business card I used to meet potential clients to consult on computer issues. This worked out great and hardly no one knew I was homeless. I had a garment bag in the trunk so if I needed to suit up I could—like Batman.

Room to Grow
Using the technology at my disposal (mainly Microsoft Office), Word made letters, resumes, flyers, and folks never knew that I was sleeping in my car. Acrobat Pro turned me into the man on the flying trapeze of business where I communicated with contacts who could not in any way judge me based on the color of my skin or the wrinkles in my clothes. I just kept telling myself to cross my T’s and dot my I’s; spellcheck in Word was my secretary and had my back. None was wiser. And email gave me an international address. I used my contacts from Outlook to query people on resources for the homeless.

I went online and put in an application for Public Housing and got an apartment. I connected with a friend of mine who was a professor at a community college and he said re-invent yourself, so now I have two associate degrees in Networking and Information Technology Security. I hacked a lot of Wi-Fi when I was on the streets to get that info. I currently have a service contract with J-RAB Inc., a public housing advocacy agency for C.M.H.A. residents. J-RAB, Inc. has been able to help me grow my business through training, self-determination and empowerment; which I, in turn, give back to my community.

Being homeless sucks and is stressful, but it gave me a new insight to living and surviving a very humbling situation. But it also brought the best out of me and motivated me to change my status. I started from the bottom now we are here! And I brought my whole team with me; I love this tune that we live by cause it’s the theme song of my life.

Feature photo courtesy