Mike Taylor: The reality of being homeless in Indian Country

Image from Conducting Homeless Counts on Native American Lands - A Toolkit by Housing Assistance Council / Corporation for Supportive Housing

Mike Taylor shares a day in the life of a homeless Indian:
I live and sleep in the mountains. Been living this way for a year now, so I guess that technically makes me homeless. I know an Indian who was similarly homeless, but she got a PhD and now does research at MIT. So there's always hope for Indians in my situation. If the weather is warm, I sleep outside the truck surrounded by mountains all around. The truck belongs to a relative but she lets me use it. The mountains are spectacular, so my “home” is far more awesome than the million-dollar Hollywood mansions that celebrities sleep in. There are deer, cougars, coyotes and rattlesnakes around but they have left Indians alone for millenia. The cops are the ones who bother us, not the animals. So I don't worry about the bears around me but I do sometimes worry about carbon monoxide poisoning when the snow blankets the mountains and I occasionally keep the engine running to stay warm.

After a quick splash of cold water on my face from the stream, I try to start up the truck. The last couple weeks, the truck has been giving me problems. I park on a slope so I can push it easily if it refuses to start. This morning it starts without any problems. So I drive down from the mountains to my grandpa's super-tiny extended-stay motel room and get there a little before sunrise. It may be many months before a housing spot will open up for us on the reservation, so the cheap motel room will be grandpa's home for now and the mountains will be my home. Grandpa was approved for a loan of a little over $5,000. The loan company held on to most of our id's and documents to ensure that we will pay back the loan. Because Indians are sometimes protected by tribal laws that prohibit lenders from garnishing wages or repossessing financed merchandise, these predatory lenders hold on to our birth certificates, SSN cards, id's and other documents. Without those documents Indians just don't exist on paper, and the lenders thereby ensure that their loans do get repaid. The Border Patrol does not make it any easier, and Indians from the southern states who have had to relinquish their documents to predatory lenders live in fear of being deported to Mexico. Handing over our id's, birth certificates, SSN cards and other documents is in the contract we sign with them, so the only way to move on with life is to pay back their loans.

I put that loan to good use though. Inspired by Coursera-Stanford video lectures, investment articles in ICTMN and textbooks used by financial engineering graduate programs at the top schools, I buy a security—some security that costs $5 a share or less. I do the exact same thing each morning: I put in a buy order for 1,000 shares, which executes immediately when the stock market opens on the east coast. Then I quickly put in a limit-sell order to sell the security when the price goes about 10 cents higher. Next, I step into grandpa's shower because a homeless Indian still needs a daily shower! By the time I have stepped out of the shower, the security has likely been sold and I have safely exited the market, making grandpa $100 for that day. Given my limited resource of the $5,000 loan, my investment strategy is extremely simple: find a promising and underrated security that has a volatile daily range, buy low, sell a few cents higher—and the most important—protect the principal and safely exit the market as rapidly as possible so that grandpa makes $100 for that day. All of which goes to pay his past loans, his current loan, and his bills and medical and other expenses.

Get the Story:
Mike Taylor: Everyday Adventures On and Off the Rez (Indian Country Today 11/15)

Join the Conversation