A friend from college called me a few years ago, during one of the coldest winters in recent memory, to tell me about a brilliant scheme he was working on. He was talking about free flights to anywhere in the U.S., and that he needed fast-food trash to make it happen. It seems silly to me now, but these “brilliant schemes” were what made my college days exciting. One week later, we were collecting trash from Wendy’s at two in the morning — desperately searching for large soda cups while fighting off hypothermia and the horrible smell of leftover French fries and bacon cheeseburgers. In the end, we walked away with two free round trips and publicity on NBC 10 news. They called us “dumpster divers.” We used those round trip tickets to visit San Francisco, home of the queen of “brilliant schemes,” Monika Thomas.
This is an absolutely incredible tale. 31-year-old Monika Thomas is professionally homeless. She earns a steady income by house-sitting on a consistent basis. She schedules herself so that she is never without work, and more importantly, without a place to stay. She makes $15 dollars a day or more depending on the presence of pets and while house-sitting, she hosts an uncensored internet sex-talk radio show for 75$ a week. Her entire life can be packed in two suitcases and according to Chris Colin’s special feature in The San Francisco Chronicle, she’s even planning for retirement at 60.
Monika Thomas on the job. —photo by Chris Colin,
courtesy of SF Chronicle
“There are so many empty houses in this city, all the time, which is amazing given all the people who can’t afford to live here,” Thomas said. “I like to think this is a way of recycling living space, of not having housing go to waste.” —from Chris Colin’s Chronicle article
Thomas began her career of professional homelessness by leaving her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska (as well as a comfy rock DJ salary job) to answer a Craigslist ad calling for a sex-talk radio host. She aspires to host a nationally syndicated program, and admits that lugging around the same two suitcases is bad for her back.
However, nobody can deny that Thomas has written her own fascinating chapter in the San Francisco storybook. She’s lived in hundred of homes, apartments and rowhouses. In one of the country’s most expensive cities where extremely high land value has caused a fluctuating homeless population, Monika’s “brilliant scheme” has both defeated the system and provided her with more than a few stories to tell. She even has a Myspace page.
Hats off to you, Monika Thomas. We only hope that the Chronicle article hasn’t provided you with bandwagon competitors.