I write today from Brunswick. Tomorrow I’ll be in Portland. Utah by October. I’m a “VanLifer” (my abode = the road).

I’ve lived in vehicles since before social media trendsetters decided it’s cool, calling it a “movement.” (All right – vans ideally move.) However, this implies romance over reality. This clever hashtag removes the matters of fact for many, who live in vans because traditional housing is unattainable. See, the ride isn’t always fresh pavement and panoramic views, often continuous inclines on bumpy terrain. Your bladder is full. Your van ain’t got plumbin’.

I find – wherever my wheels stop turning – the same story. From boondocks to booming metropolises, folks miss opportunities and communities as they’re snuffed out by unaffordable housing. The average nationwide ratio for income to housing expenses hovers around 35 percent (50 percent for one out of four renters). Maine’s average rental cost? $1,750, according to Zillow data cited on the website HomeSnacks. Move-in costs (typically first and last month’s rent plus equivalent deposit: $5,250). This neglects technical moving-related costs: truck rentals, utility installation fees.

Where do you suppose leftover income gets spent? Medical care? Nutrition? Education? Retirement savings? More likely, it pays the other revolving bills.

We know these people. We are these people. We make severe sacrifices to afford exorbitant rents. Additionally, COVID/economic events are exacerbating joblessness, creating fear of eviction and mounting debt.

We need policy changes to remedy this crisis. Zoning reforms; preservation efforts across governments; etc.

I do love VanLife. It quite literally affords me the opportunity to enjoy the things I’m passionate about: travel, family, social justice …

But winter is damn cold.

Meghan Allen

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