Meet Mia; introducing #realvanlife

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I met Mia in the Walmart-adjacent lot where I stayed in the van just outside the central core in Philadelphia, and I met her because I had to go up to her RV with an ask: Bertie’s battery was dead, and I needed a jump. I’d moved from another (rat-infested 😂😰) lot that morning around 6 am, exhausted, and had crawled into the back to get another hour of shut-eye sans turning off the lights. I had to go find someone to help, and a woman with curly blonde hair, her keys and wallet stung around her neck, greeted me with enthusiasm. Mia is kind of person you connect with right away — a relentlessly optimistic woman who looks you in the eye, engages you with a contagious laugh, and makes you feel like you’re part of some inside joke, like when she asked her boyfriend to open the car hood. “I KNOW how to do it,” she said, “it’s just… your hands are dirtier.” She turned to me and winked. Mia, her boyfriend and her cat have lived in the lot for a couple months now, since the unraveling of her bold plan for a new beginning: she was taking everything she owned and moving to Florida, where the weather and the people were warmer. She’d been through Daytona, and it seemed nice enough for a fresh start. “I don’t care about beaches,” she said. I just really love the people. People say hi to each other on the street there. People are nice to each other there. “It’s not like here.” When Coronavirus hit, Mia felt stuck, and she’s been in this lot treading water since — spending the evenings and nights here, but trying to leave during the day when security starts hassling them. “Sometimes I just want to be like ‘Leave me alone,’” she said. “I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m not hurting anybody, I don’t want to LIVE here. I’m just passing through.“ After 40 minutes of trying, we still couldn’t manage to get Bertie started, which may have bummed out Mia even more than me. She left me with some parting tips: buy a new battery (lol, I did), carry a knife in case I need it, don’t forget to lock my doors, and never stop talking to and smiling at people. Mia, if you can’t get to Daytona, let’s get Daytona to you. ❤️❤️❤️ #philadelphia #therealvanlife #homelessness

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