The only thing worse than the fear of being caught sleeping is losing all your clothes.
You're not going to carry around your gym bag, backpack, and trash bag full of blankets at the same time, so you'll need to find a storage location.
I'd planned to store my belongings wherever I slept, but that was expecting Easton Softball Field to be relatively unoccupied, which didn't happen, so that plan was blown to pieces. I had to improvise —since carrying all your belongings gets tiring real quick.
Here's my experiences storing my belongings.
When I arrive at Easton Softball Field, I hear music playing and see softball players on the field, cars parked, gates wide open, and people with tickets going inside. I'm baffled. I'd visited the Softball field often when I was still in college since it was quiet and fun to bring groups and girls to tour the area; I'd never seen it used for events. My plan was to drop off my belongings, so I wouldn't have to carry everything throughout the day, but now I couldn't. I stood by a three-way intersection heading towards Sunset Rec, Hedrick, and Beverly and thought of what I was supposed to do. I had plans this day to meet up with two friends, one who I'd be signing a sublet for the summer, and another whom I helped with a work project and would be picking up a check from. It would be a lot of walking, and the idea of carrying all my belongings (and unnecessarily alerting to others that I was homeless) bothered me.
I lugged around all my belongings and went to my friend in Westwood, about a 25 minute walk. I began sweating through my button-down and black pants, but I continued walking. When I arrived at Northern Cafe (a restaurant), my friend asked me what all the stuff was. I hesitate, since this is the conversation I wanted to avoid, but there's no escaping it, "I'm homeless," I say.
"Oh, well that's..." my friend comments as if looking for cues on my face as to whether this is bad thing and that he should express sympathy or whether it's just "a thing" that I'm doing. He finishes, "... interesting."
I nod my head and we move through various conversation topics while eating Chinese food. Afterwards, he runs up to his office which is across the street and hands me my check, and I head back to the Hill to look for a hiding spot for my belongings that are weighing down on me.
Having no idea where to place my belongings, I head back to Easton Softball field to see if the event is over. It's not, but as I walk down towards campus, it hits me. I stop dead in my tracks and look at the crest of a small hill that slopes into a gulley that is sectioned off by the Sunset Rec Parking lot. Being completely exhausted carrying my belongings, I go for it.
If you look closely, you'll see a bunch of dead pine-needles in front stacked in front of the end of the gulley. I used that as camouflage since at the end of the gulley to the left (off the screen) is the sidewalk leading down to the intersection between Covel, Drake Stadium, and to campus. I hid my duffel bag and trash bag full of blankets there and kept my backpack on me.
Before committing to it, I double checked, triple-checked, and quad-checked the view from the garage, the sidewalk, and other angles to see how obvious it was. On one run-through I stared in the direction of my bag (that was camouflaged by the pine needles) from the sidewalk while walking up to see if it looked suspicious, and since I was looking so intently, a little girl with her Dad who was walking down the sidewalk, saw me and also looked in the same direction, but didn't see anything (since there were just pine needles), became confused, and, since we had already passed each other, turned around to look at me, but I had double-backed at this point to check the vantage point walking down the sidewalk instead of walking up, and so looked directly at the little girl who looked at me, had a moment of silence, and then continued on our ways. Satisfied with my hiding spot, I went through the rest of my day.
That storage spot seemed to be working well, even though I checked on it constantly and was especially paranoid at losing my belongings. I taped a copious amount of index cards to my stuff with writing saying, "Hello! This is my stuff, I'll be back soon, please leave it here. —Will, (###-###-####)" just in case someone did see it.
Oftentimes when I came back, the dew from the morning would wash all the ink away from the index card, and I'd have to write a new one. I did this several times I until I lamented an index card with the tape I'd brought.
Things seemed to be going well, and my paranoia over losing my belongings dropped as each day passed, until...
I head to my belongings at Sunset Rec to get a change of clothes, but when I arrive, a middle-aged white suburban blonde woman has her white, shiny Nissan car parked in the middle of the ramp of the parking structure and she's looking directly at my gym bag! Seeing this, I enter brain crunch mode and consider what I should do —the answer to this situation is not obvious: I could just grab my belongings and leave, I can try talking to her and ask for more information on what's going on, or I can wait and see what happens.
I don't to be asked why I put my belongings in a gulley, nor do I want them to take my belongings. My hiding location was supposed to be inconspicuous to prevent this, but now there's the potential for my "homeless presence" to start spreading around campus —that would be a bad thing, and this fear keeps me from grabbing my belongings in plain sight and just leaving.
I wait and begin making circles around the parking structure to simultaneously keep eyes on what's going on and to avoid being seen by anyone recurrently. I head to the top level of the parking structure and peer over the edge occasionally to keep an eye on my bag, but this vantage point doesn't give me a good angle on what the woman is doing, so I circle back to the second level stairs and try to find a vantage point. She calling someone on the phone, and then after a few moments, she's talking to another blonde girl in a blue UCLA recreation t-shirt. I decide to get my stuff immediately. I walk out of the parking structure onto the sidewalk then bee-line for my belongings in the gutter. The woman's car drives off as I'm walking to my stuff, the UCLA student doesn't pay any attention to me, and I awkwardly carry my backpack, gym bag, trash bag with my various belongings, brown Ralph's grocery bag, and a purple foam yoga mat that's tied with up with a shoe lace (not my shoelace, I found it like that back in Long Beach) towards Joe Bruin #2's apartment because I was supposed to take a shower there in a few minutes. I look like I'm carrying a mobile home; I am carrying a mobile home.
I throw out a bunch of unused notecards, earbuds, shampoo, pens, and anything else that is extraneous in order to lighten the load I'm carrying as much as possible —I really struggled bringing all this stuff here. I change into a t-shirt since I'll need to walk around to find a new storage spot.
I recall that though Easton Softball Field may be inconvenient for sleeping, there's an area around the scoreboard towards the back that seems unfrequented and possibly a good place to store my stuff. I grab my belongings and head out.
When I arrive at Easton, there is an event going on —it's around 5pm. How? I side on the curb of the sidewalk and think about my options. Another stroke of insight: I see a natural pathway or trail right in front of me —I decide to take it to see if there's any place I could hide my belongings. I hesitate for a moment, then decide on a location.
And I'm happy to announce for the rest of the experience, no one went back there, and my stuff was save and sound.
One of the conditions for this experiment was that I didn't want to ask for any couches. If people offered, fine, but I wouldn't proactively look for help. ↩︎