Preparing for homelessness is impossible

Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Homeless. I never thought it would happen to me. Yet here I sit this week without my own roof for the first time in 26 years.

It’s only temporary. We had our closing on the sale of our Colorado home Thursday and won’t close on the house in Portales until Wednesday. So, if everything goes right, my wife, the two dogs and I will only be homeless for a week.

The other thing I never thought would happen to me is moving back in with my parents. Luckily my mom has taken us in for the first three weeks.

When I left home for Tucumcari in 1979, I borrowed a 1950’s vintage mobile home that my dad had used on wheat harvest That’s where I lived as I got started in my own life.

Life in that trailer house was quite an experience. Actually it was more of a camping experience, though I have been on camp-outs where I was better equipped. There was no heat except a tiny electric heater I had bought and the toilet only flushed with the assistance of a gallon bucket of water.

I was young and still in college but needless to say, after six months of that lifestyle, I was ready to move up. Even though the heat tape on the outside water lines kept them from freezing it was so cold inside that tin can that the pipes froze anyway.

I finally located a much nicer 1950’s vintage trailer of my own. It looked mighty good to me as we backed it onto my lot next to dad’s wreck.

Just for contrast, I paid $3,000 for that first home. This week the home I sold went for $318,000. In my own opinion, life was not $315,000 better in the most recent home.

Once I got married I quickly learned that my standards in living quarters had to rise or the matrimony in no way would be holy. My wife and I bought an older three-bedroom home in Tucumcari and life was great.

Over the years we’ve bought and sold several pieces of real estate and I feel blessed that we’ve had the opportunity to live in homes that we owned most of our married life. We’ve rented a few times for short terms but we’ve always had a sales or rental contract in place before we got to where we were moving. This move broke that string.

My wife especially was blue about leaving the home we’ve had for the last decade and the dogs miss the doggie door. But the wait is short and the place we’ll be moving into next week is great.

Reflecting this week on what it means to be without a home immediately brings me to thoughts of the families of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast towns that are homeless because of the hurricanes.

We lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for a couple of years and I have cousins who live in the New Orleans and Houston areas, so we’re thinking of them and other friends today.

When we lived on the coast we worried a lot about the threat of a hurricane taking away home and possessions. We knew the best we could do was be prepared and pray we were never wiped out. That said, it’s hard to boil your life down into what will fit in a car or pickup and flee. Heck, we thought we pared things down a lot on this move and still filled an Atlas Van Line truck.

The hard reality of losing your home can’t be easy. It will shatter and disrupt some families’ lives for years, even if they got out with their lives and those of their loved ones.
It’s good to know that I’ll have a place to call home in another week. My heart aches today for those who aren’t so lucky.