It sounds like something to be jealous of: A guy whose home is the road, who moves about as he sees fit, just him and his four dogs. He calls his van home.
That sounds kind of ideal, like Easy Rider without the drugs or the sand in your hair. But this guy, Jimmy Tarangelo, isn't roaming the road. He's literally living on it, the victim of twin afflictions of mental illness and recessionary times. He parks and re-parks his mini-caravan (a Ford Econoline and a 20-foot camper purchased for $750) on the streets of New York City's lower West Village, where in the buildings above, lofts sell for well into seven figures. Every so often, as the street signs require, to dodge tickets. Ever since he got kicked out of his home, eight years ago, he's lived this way.
The New York Post paints a pathetic portrait of how the bottom rung of society is coping with the times. For the ranks of the homeless, patching together an existence takes ingenuity and hours of evasion. His survival depends on working the system.
Over the past two years, he's racked up some $7,000 in parking fines, but because traffic wardens are forever getting minor details wrong, he keeps winning his legal battles. Even if he paid them all, that would still work out to about $600 a month. He can keep living this way indefinitely as long as he keeps shuffling his parking spot. It's illegal to keep a mobile home parked in the same spot for more than 24 hours, but 1) it's not technically a mobile home and 2) he doesn't.
Tarangelo was once a homeowner. ("I had a house once," Tarangelo, 56, told the Post. "I don't mind owning something.") These days, he spends his time watching DVDs he checked out for free at the library. He gets free grub at a nearby strip joint and a church. No bathroom. That's what Dunkin' Donuts is for. (Explains a lot about the state of the toilet in the one near me.) The Post doesn't address what happens when he needs a shower.
While he used to work for the local electric company and as a superintendent, he now is funded through Social Security checks, which validated him for disability payments based on his depression. As New York magazine revealed in 2004, Tarangelo was evicted from his apartment for "a clutter problem." First depression caught up with him, and now recession keeps him there.
Live in Manhattan for $0 a month! The catch: live in a camper