Homeless by choice?

Third in a series

By Deb Murphy

“I never thought of myself as homeless until somebody told me,” said Steve Seats, recuperating at his Horton Creek camp site from a nasty rock climbing accident illustrated by x-rays of multiple foot fractures.

Seats made a decision that a lot of us have toyed with: do we opt for a life of experiences or a mortgage. Seats went for the experiences. “My dad asked me ‘what’s wrong with you?’ I said, ‘remember all those books you made me read, the “New Testament,” “Walden Pond.” You forgot to tell me I wasn’t supposed to take that stuff seriously.”

Seats appreciates the focus on providing housing, but said that’s not always the main source of the problem. “For me and people I know, it’s the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service; it’s just finding a place to be.”

Seats has done it all: he lived in a cardboard box under a bridge as a teenager, got a job at a theater and learned the art of rigging. That got him jobs touring with rock bands and doing stage productions.

He played chess with Keith Richards.

Between tours he’d head for the Sierra. For a spell, he adapted his rigging skills as a tree cutter in Wyoming. He wrote for the climbing media. Then he hit 50 and realized “I had more behind me than in front of me.” He sold his tree cutting business and moved to the Eastern Sierra five years ago.

He found places to be, with the exception of two months out of the year.
Horton Creek closes for deer migration from early October to May. Semi-permanent campers can pay $300 for the season or opt for $100 a month.

The Pit opens in October and shuts down in spring, “it’s too freakin’ hot,” Seats said.

But there’s a 60-day limit. “Me and people I know have been chased out of the Pit for exceeding the 60-day limit when the campground was only 15% full.”

The limit also sends campers deeper into the Tablelands. For two of the four month vacuum, Seats hitches up his camper and heads for other BLM campsites where he can stay for 14 days, leave for 14 and come back for another 14 days. Forests Service campsites have a 30-days limit.

“The other two months you’re being chased around. They say you can stay at Browns’ Town but they’re not open in winter and it costs $35 a night.”

Would a “homeless” campground help? “If it were like this (Horton), that would be great. Being reasonably close to town is important; reasonably green is important.”

Many in Seats technically homeless community have everything but a permanent roof over their heads. They’re travelers who work at local hospitals, writers, photographers, climbers on an extended road trip.

Seats tells of a couple writing for the tourism media about the Eastern Sierra. They went past the campsite limit and got kicked out. “They probably wrote about getting kicked out of Bishop,” he said.

“Homelessness is such a problem in this country. (IMACA’s Larry) Emerson says the rules aren’t working anymore. It’s time to start thinking outside the box Government isn’t going to solve the problems. We have to be creative. I think half the problem is public opinion. The other half is bureaucratic nonsense.”


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9 Responses to Homeless by choice?

  1. knowthetruth September 29, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

    Yes-let’s allow the homeless to live for free in the ES. By all means, let’s feed and clothe them , provide them with medical care, free internet, cell phones, tattoos, cigarettes, hair extensions, IPads, and new cars. Why not? Why stop there, I say let’s just give everyone a house, car, 2 week vacation as well. Sign me the f up!

    • Tinner September 30, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

      knowthetruth, don’t forget free weed!

      • knowthetruth October 1, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

        How could I ever miss the weed?

    • Low Inyo October 2, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

      knowthetruth….and let’s not forget funds to hire high-priced tax lawyers and tax consultants,so with the money they do earn,they will be able to duck,weave and dodge on paying any Federal income tax like multi-billionaire and “Presidential hopeful” donald trump has been able to do since 1998..WOW !!!…talk about entitlements !

  2. Trouble September 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    I don’t know Larry Emerson of Imaca, but I can already tell I admire his thinking!

  3. Champagne September 30, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    I didn’t read anywhere in the article that those who choose to be homeless expected that they should receive anything for free. The article was pointing out 1) some people prefer to live without a permanent brick & mortar home and 2) that there is a 2 month period out of the year where homeless people cannot stay for more than 14-days at a time. It is comments such as those made by @Knowthetruth that feed into the stigma of homeless people. Just because someone doesn’t conform to mainstream ideas doesn’t make them any less human.

  4. Paco September 30, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    So this guy wants to be a vagabond with a permanent (free) address? Then blames the government off whom he sponges year round. Geez.

  5. Low Inyo October 1, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    Paco…I’ve known people that move around in a motorhome or van for most of the year…in fact,when it gets cold outside they go to Arizona for a few months…just the way they like it and want it to be….and choose not to do it in crowded campgrounds or where they’re “supposed” to be….they don’t cause any trouble,they clean up their own messes,and don’t bother anyone….AND there is no “sponging” off the Government what-so-ever….they work seasonal jobs,able to save up money for the cold and slower months…it sounds to me like you’ve fallen into that trap of being angry at those that feel they are “entitled”…..kinda like that guy that announced to 85 million people last Monday night,always taking a stand against those he feels entitled to anything at all,but then in the next breath stated he was “being smart” by finding ways to avoid paying any Federal income taxes.

  6. Trouble October 2, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    It’s sad we have to change the subject here. Let’s talk about what can be done for those who are really homeless. Changing the subject to people who aren’t looking for shelter or asking for help for their family is simple wrong. Some of these people work hard and sleep in their cars. Or are unable to really work for lots of reasons.?


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