“I consider myself a survivor,” Arlene said. “This might look like a hardship, but it isn’t.”
Arlene, 56, has spent most of the year living in a tent, moving from park to park, since 2007.
She lived in a subsidized two-bedroom apartment, taking care of her father. When he died, she was able to stay until a family needed the apartment.
Arlene had the option to move into a one-bedroom apartment, but she would have had to give up one of her dogs, Vanilla or Breezie. She was unwilling to do that.
“I think the world of them,” she said. “They’re like children to me.”
She had camping equipment, so Arlene and her dogs began living in a tent.
“This is probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said. “By living this way, I’ve really uncluttered my life.”
She misses some modern conveniences — like air conditioning and flush toilets — but she has some technology at her disposal, including a laptop computer.
“It kind of goes with my lifestyle,” Arlene said. “A desktop wouldn’t work too well.”
A cell phone and post office box allow her to keep in touch with acquaintances and receive paychecks. She isn’t close with any surviving family members.
This year, she has spent time at Marion County Park and Lake, Marion Reservoir, and lakes at Newton, Council Grove, and Kanopolis.
Arlene supports herself with disability payments. She previously served in the U.S. Air Force and later in the reserves. She had worked various jobs before becoming a full-time caretaker for her mother and then her father.
From May to October 2008, she entered data for Harvey County register of deeds office. The job was part of a program for low-income senior citizens, but the program ended in October.
It gave her the needed training for a data entry job, but she didn’t pursue a job because she had numbness in her hand.
Her lifestyle gives her a better chance to appreciate nature, she said. She likes waking to the sound of birds singing.
During the winter, she stays in a motel. In 2008, she camped until Nov. 30. She returned to camping in late April.
She hopes to save money for a van-style camper some day. It would save her time setting up and taking down a tent and make it easier to cope with thunderstorms.
“I enjoy the outdoors,” Arlene said. “I really don’t think I need to have a home.”