SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — Areas of Los Angeles have long been associated with the issue of homelessness. However, two local men are helping to make more visible a fine line that exists between being homeless and living “home-free” voluntarily.
Nicholas Coolridge, or “Modern Tarzan”, as he refers to himself, says he chooses to live in a customized van at Santa Monica beach, going so far as to claim he is living his dream in doing so.
“This is my house, for almost three years now,” Coolridge said.
Coolridge, who has built an impressive 20,000-strong social media following on his Instagram and Twitter pages, has installed a cold-water shower system, as well as solar panels to provide power for interior lights, his piano and even a refrigerator.
The most rewarding part for Coolridge, however, is not having to pay rent.
“To not have to pay rent, I’m able to focus more on what I really want to do in life,” Coolridge explained. “I could pay rent, but I don’t want to spend all my money on rent.”
Another local man, who is also living in his car, refers to the lifestyle as “home-free” rather than homeless. Identifying himself only as Terry, he says he even lived in his office for a time after having his identity stolen.
“I had this big financial hit,” Terry explained. “Raises and bonuses were frozen at my job. I had medical bills that came from a surgery. I also had my identity stolen, so my IRS tax return was indefinitely postponed.”
Terry says that instead of going deeper and deeper into debt, he chose to live in his office for 500 days, without his employer or co-workers knowing.
Terry runs a blog called “The Office Hobo,” where he describes the unique living situation in depth. While living at his office presented plenty of challenges, he says there was 24-hour access and no security cameras.
“No one was there,” Terry recalled. “It was this underutilized space. I didn’t have a closed-door office. It was an open room, with a back room as well.”
When Terry’s work went out of business in May 2014, he chose to live out of his truck, despite having built up a savings.
He has called that truck home for the past year.
However, he maintains the difference between living homeless and living “home-free.”
“There are folks who aren’t making the choice,” Terry said. “They don’t have the preference to live this way, and if you gave them a way out, they would take it without hesitation.”
Nicholas, in Santa Monica, agrees with that sentiment, and says he is actually surprised to learn that there are those who covet his lifestyle.
“I’ve never really felt unsafe living in my van,” Coolridge said. “I always thought people might hassle me more or be more turned off by it, but to be honest, they love it. They are envious most of the time.”
As for the future, Coolridge says he is taking it as it comes and making the most of life in the meantime.
“I’m going to live in my van as long as it makes sense. As soon as I can afford to buy a house or something that also makes sense, I’ll be doing that. It’s really a dream life.”
To visit Terry’s blog, visit “The Office Hobo” by clicking here.