• May

    Homeless for Three and a Half Hours


    It’s early, just shy of 5:00am, still dark, yet the birds are having a field day in the background. Their chirping is truly intense and full of life. Today’s blog post comes from a place of profound peace and gratitude, for my friends, and for life, my greatest teacher.

    Yesterday I was homeless for 3-1/2 hours.

    If that sounds strange, let me explain. When I returned to Victoria after several months in Mexico, I rented an apartment. Unfortunately, the problems began immediately with a neighbor below me who would repeatedly yell instead of speaking, stereo noise coming through the floor and lots of smoking wafting up from below, of pot and cigarette smoke, which was uncomfortable at times.

    Still, I did my best to make it work, partly because I was under a lease. Fast forward six months. Some new tenants moved in next door and the problems immediately became much worse. Booming stereo noise, lots of screaming and yelling, loud parties whenever they wanted and the strong smell of pot smoke which stank up the building and my apartment.

    Complaints to management had little effect. Frustrated with the lack of results, I took matters into my own hands and called the police. That made everything worse and my neighbors took revenge by harassing me further.

    This led to many calls to the police and visiting the station on a number of occasions. Eventually, I realized that there would be no help for me and my only choice was to move out.

    It was a nerve-wracking month, for many reasons. Part of that was the harassment from my neighbor and bullying from my manager, who blamed me for going over his head and calling the police. And of course, I was being blasted by the stereo. It was a toxic environment.

    I placed several ads on the local free sites (Kijiji, Used Victorie and Craigslist) offering a work trade in exchange for rent, all to no avail. Then one morning, I posted an ad on Kijiji and received a response an hour later.

    I was invited to have a look at a place at Willow’s Beach (which just happened to be my favorite local beach) and was part of Oak Bay, a highly desirable part of town. I was shooting for a lower rent to keep my expenses down (a challenge in Victoria because this is an expensive place to live).

    I was given a link to the listing for this new place and I noticed that it was on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and that it was renting for $2,000/month, which was way out of my budget. I called the landlord back immediately, because I thought there had been a mistake.

    It wasn’t and I was invited to take a look, regardless, because the place was empty and had been for months. Sally, the owner wanted to rent it even for a reduced amount, because some money was better than none. When I saw the place I was flabbergasted. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen.

    We quickly came to an agreement and I stayed there for three months. My rent was only $600. I could hardly believe my good fortune.

    Fast forward to three weeks ago.

    I’d been looking for a new place for April 30. Then disaster struck and I lost my biggest client, which cost me a lot of income. Fortunately I had some money saved but I had to give up my desire to have a personal apartment. I had to look for shared housing.

    This led to a string of disappointments and one unusual situation. In the shared rentals market, Victoria contains many student listings, due to a large university and community college here. I encountered something I’d never seen before – reverse discrimination due to my age (54) and because I wasn’t a student. I was turned down probably 90% of the time.

    And of the remainder, many places were dumps, some disgustingly so. With time running out, I kept looking for places and found a couple, but the I wound up hanging. One was a place I really liked, but it fell through at 10:00pm on the 28th. And the last place, my last hope, fell through at 9:00am on the 29th.

    I had no prospects left and I was filled with terror, which had been mounting the whole month, because I was afraid I wouldn’t find a place. My worst fears became true.

    That last day was painful, emotionally, for me. I didn’t know what I was going to do and for many days before that, I was listening to a teaching by Adyashanti, one of my favorite spiritual teachers. In this video clip, he talks about terror, and that it’s a very common experience on the spiritual path.

    I won’t get into what he said here, but I will say this much, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. In my mind, I knew I couldn’t make things work – at all, that I was done, in every way.

    I sat in that space for a long time. Eventually, I felt something inside me let go and the result was stillness and peace, which I still feel even as I write this.

    On the evening of the 29th, I found a few more listings and wrote to them. I also put the call out to my friends for some couch surfing.

    The next morning, yesterday, I awoke to uncertainty, and yet the sense of peace was still there, despite knowing I would be homeless in a few short hours. I went for coffee to one of my hangouts, the Pure Vanilla Cafe’ and enjoyed my time there.

    Afterwards, I went for a walk, which took me down to Willows Beach. Through all of it I felt a deep sense of peace, and paradoxically, joy, which kept coming up as a walked. I had no idea why. Even though I knew I had no place to go, I couldn’t hold onto the fear; my mind kept returning to peace.

    I was baffled. I didn’t understand this at all.

    Later, I packed up my stuff and started moving it into a storage locker. All went well and during that time I kept receiving messages, mostly from my friends informing me that they didn’t have room for me. Mixed in with that were a couple of messages about places to go, but I didn’t have much time to respond to them because I had to be out of my place by noon.

    One listing advertised a place in Esquimalt and I responded. Unfortunately, it as for June 1st, which was too late for me and I said so. At that point I dismissed it, thinking that was the end of it. Much to my surprise, I received another message letting me know that they could probably offer me room and board.

    I called back the number and spoke with Phillipa, one of the landlords and said I’d have to call later, that I was still moving. By noon I was done and left my apartment. Tired and hungry, I went to my favorite pizza place for a quick bite of lunch and to hang out at the Moka House, a coffee shop next door.

    I called Philppa again and said I’d be by in a while. I stayed at the coffee shop for a while and while I was there, I noticed the same peace I’d been feeling and every now and then, brief periods of joy. I was mystified. I was now homeless. I had no idea where I would go. I knew I couldn’t afford hotels for long and that I might wind up sleeping in my car. Not a fun prospect.

    Eventually, I drove to Philippa’s place out in Esquimalt, which has a reputation for being a run down area. As I came closer to my destination, I drove through one of the most beautiful areas I’d ever seen, with many old growth trees, lovely streets and homes.

    Shortly after that, I arrived at my destination and felt disappointed because the house looked like a relic from the 1960’s. And when I went to the front door, my heart sank when I heard the sound of a dog barking. Still, I knocked on the front door and was invited inside.

    And that’s when everything changed. The dog, as it turns out, was a dachshund, one of my favorite dogs. Philippa, my host and her husband, Tim, invited me in. Tim took care of the dog and Phillipa invited me to tea in the garden, which turned out to be a lovely place.

    It was clearly an interview and after a while, Philippa showed me the two rooms for rent in the house and she also showed me the other room for rent. It was lovely and it felt like a sanctuary to me. The one down side is that I couldn’t cook there so I knew it wasn’t a fit and said so.

    We then returned to the garden and spoke some more. Tim, Phillipa’s husband, came back and we continued to have tea and talk in the garden. After a while, it began to become clear that I’d found a new place. This was confirmed when Philppa said that she would need to get me a key.

    By noon of yesterday, I was homeless. By 3:30 of that same day, it was over. When I wrote to my friends to tell them the good news, they were shocked and amazed. Many of them wanted to know what happened, so I decided to write about it to explain it.

    There’s much more to what happened than I’m writing here, so I want to close by using a video by Adyashanti, which I watched many times. It will offer more insight into my mindset. And for some of you, I’m sure you’ll want to know more. If you do, write to me, and I’ll explain further. Here’s the video (audio, actually):

    And in the days to come I’ll write more about where I’ve landed and the people I’m with.

    Thanks for reading. See you soon.

    © Nathan Segal

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