It was almost November 2005, and my best friend and roommate, Troy, and I participated in one of our casual evening activities: throwing random stuff from the third floor of our dorm window. On that night, the “random stuff” was firecrackers. Skipping over several details, a security guard caught my display of explosive novelty and I was, ultimately, removed from University housing.

Morgan Morel
LSA junior Marty Stano spent a semester with no place to call home. (JEREMY CHO/Daily)

It was the beginning of December and I was preparing to move out and find a new place. Then I received the bill for next semester’s tuition. To my delight, the bill was almost $4,000 cheaper – as my housing contract for the following semester was terminated. The thought struck me: I would save a lot of money if I don’t pay rent! Although this assumed that I wouldn’t have anywhere to live, the thought still appealed to me, being another lower-middle-class kid whose family makes enough to be shafted through financial aid and yet still shafted when it comes to paying tuition expenses, saving money can be fantastic. I then reflected on some studies I read previously of researchers who left their past lives to live homeless and collect observations. Then I decided: I’m going to live the next winter semester homeless, save money and film a documentary on my experience – and not tell my parents, of course, because they would be too worried.

I was very excited for the upcoming semester. I would explore the city of Ann Arbor, impoverishment, minimalism and the notion of not having even a single tiny space to call “home.” At least, those were my original notions. Maybe I could be the next Morgan Spurlock, I thought. To summarize, my overall attitude going into the semester was optimistic.

I came back from winter break with a backpack and a hamper full of clothes – these items would be my sole possessions for the semester. I headed straight for the Central Campus Recreation Building where I rented a locker for the semester at the cost of $55 – one of my few expenses aside from books. I placed my full wardrobe, sitting in this small hamper, into the locker. For the rest of the semester, I would take all my showers and change clothes at the CCRB.

Now, it was just my backpack and I. In my backpack, aside from all my books, I carried a toothbrush, face wash, a towel, deodorant and an iPod. I had everything I needed for my classes and daily grooming. For sleeping arrangements, I planned to sleep on floors and futons of different friends’ rooms every night, never sleeping at the same place twice – because I didn’t want to intrude. The last thing I needed was food; I can’t disclose my main source of food for the semester.

In order to endure the semester, I followed a rigorous schedule. I attended class throughout the day, I ate dinner, I went to the CCRB to work out, shower and change clothes, and then I spent the rest of the night studying at a library until I slept on the floor of a friend’s room, which had been agreed upon earlier that day. Surprisingly, this schedule worked quite well, and I was very productive – until midterms.

I took 18 credits for the semester, thinking that I would be living in libraries anyway and would need something to do. Classes weren’t so bad at first, but when midterms came, I had too much work to handle. As a result, my visits to the CCRB were fewer, meaning fewer showers and changes of clothes, and I broke my rule of staying at a different place every night – I stayed at my friends Jenna and Yelena’s room throughout the whole midterm week. I was tired and distraught, and I didn’t have time to think of a place to sleep or try to document my experience. The only thing I wanted to do was finish the semester and complete my courses.

Near the end of the semester, I was overstressed with classes and I felt discouraged for intruding upon many of my friends. I had slept for almost two weeks in a study lounge on a bench just wide enough for my torso – allowing just one position, of my invention, to prevent from rolling off. I would wake up to my iPod and head to class leaving a note behind with my pillow and blanket saying, “Please don’t take my stuff. I’m homeless.” Although not ideal conditions, I felt much more comfortable here, as I began to feel guilty in asking to stay at another friend’s place.

Looking back to the beginning of my experience, I was unsure of what I was trying to accomplish. I thought any attempts of making a documentary on my experience would be worthless and artificial. Knowing that it would soon be over made it much easier to continue. It is this fact that invalidates any type of contrived experience. Even though I did not attempt to live on the street in poverty – conditions that generally pair with “homelessness” – I could have never truly experienced “homelessness,” for I would always know deep down, that I was not truly homeless and that I could return to my comfortable lifestyle at any moment. Knowing this, I was no longer optimistic of my experiment – at least in the notions I originally thought I might explore.

The summer came and I finished the semester. I passed eighteen credits, owning just a backpack and a locker, showering at the recreation center, never actually living anywhere. I held a large barbecue as a “thanks” to all my friends who helped me through the semester and as a way to share the surprise news with my parents. I learned a lot about myself during this experience. Although I do not regret my pseudo-homeless semester, I do not believe I would do it again.

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