Hi! I’m new to ParentEmeritus with homeless adult child in peril


New Member
I’ve been lurking for a few years, but it’s time to come out of the shadows. My

I’m a 60-something mom to a 43-year-old adult child with multiple challenges: mental and physical illness, homelessness and poverty. In her 40’s now, she’s made a succession of bad decisions … and is now squatting alone in a tiny travel trailer on public land, alone and snowed in 30 miles from the nearest town. She can’t get out, and it’s unlikely anyone can get in, there’s no phone service, she’s drinking ground water and burning wood in her trailer to stay warm.

This winter is going to be very, very hard. I am probably going to need some friends.

I’ve been at this awhile, nearly 30 years, but I enabled-enabled-enabled for most of that time. Because my child is trans, I allowed her to defer much of adult life, telling myself that “gender reassignment will sort all this out!”

Only, it didn’t. Even after transition, her issues mounted. Right on schedule, in her early 20s, mental illness started to manifest. She did manage some stability—employment, housing—for about 10-12 years in her 30’s, but she’s never been a full participant in the wider world.

A year ago, health issues began sending her to the hospital—and in March, she was evicted from the trailer park where she’d lived for 12 years. She did some couch surfing, but finally pulled her trailer to a remote location on BLM land, and has settled there. No job. No money … and now, she can’t get out.

This is a recipe for tragedy, and I need to be prepared.

I was able to get a satellite communicator into her hands before she got snowed in. Made for backpackers and running on solar, this lets her send brief emails out, and it contains a panic button, so she can summon help in an emergency. I am able to hear from her each day, which is a priceless blessing.

There are positives. A couple of years ago, she began accepting treatment, and she’s being pro-active with her caregivers, going to appointments and taking her medications. She got out a couple of weeks ago, made it to town, and checked in at the clinic: all great steps forward for her.

But the risks of her situation are so great. Fire. Infection from groundwater. Injury away from camp. Flare-up of health issues. Illness.

You all know the dance. I am caring for myself and sitting on my hands. This is my child’s dream, this is what she wants, and she is the only one who can make it work.

So I thought I’d pop up, since I’m hanging out here more and more. Nice to meet you all.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Hello. If that name on the bottom of your post is your actual name, please contact Runaway Bunny, the site owner and remove or change it.

What is blm land?

Yours is an unusual post. I don’t know if you can contact authorities in that area to see what assistance they might be able to provide or at least for some ideas.

Especially considering your age and her age, please take care of yourself. The enabling must stop. Your adult child must figure things out for themselves. And in a way…you can set an example by focusing on yourself and living life to the best if your ability.


New Member
Thanks for the tip about ID, Nomad--it's been a LONG time since I've been part of online communities, and I'm rusty. Will do.

"BLM land" is shorthand for public lands held out in the West, by the Bureau of Land Management.

Her situation is close to what you saw with the movie Nomadland: she's lived in a travel trailer for many years in the Desert Southwest. Folks "boondock" out there, without services, in small vans or campers. Short term camping is permitted, but this kind of long-term stay is not. So far, she hasn't attracted the attention of the relevant authorities--and even if she did, her camper is now frozen in to the axles, she tells me.

Let me reassure you that we are doing what we can, where we are. All her parents, along with some close friends, communicate as a group, so I have backup from other concerned adults. Her dad has done what he can to speak with social workers and caregivers, her friends have pitched in with various rescues over the past few months, and she has appropriate contacts with social services.

She simply WANTS to live in the wilderness. Has for a lifetime. Dislikes human society, wants to be out there. And she's refused to get a job or otherwise choose an alternate housing situation.

It's the classic dilemma. She's not incompetent, strictly speaking. She's highly intelligent, and has her own ideas about her situation and her own view of her mental health. It's taken years to get her to the point of accepting treatment, and only hitting a very hard bottom has gotten her there--but even being treated, she simply does not want to be part of society.

My job as Mom: Don't Enable. But it's scary as can be right now, as she is running so many risks. Thanks for the safe place to hash it out!


Well-Known Member
Hi there, frieend. I am sorry for your daughter's situation and poor choices. I understand. I send prayers from the deepest core of my heart.

I enabled my 30+ daughter for ten years and we lost a lot of our savings trying to help her. However nothing changed or helped our daughter. She is homeless in a motorhome somewhere NW. Arizona?

After tons of therapy and NAR Anon too, my husband and I believe we don't help Kay when we try to help her. She is also choosing "to leave the rat race." She survives on government services and won't work. Her crazy husband works part time at a pizza place and he also gets services.

My husband and I almost divorced over Kay, and my.two very good kids were upset at me because I was the one who kept "helping" her. I spent way more time on Kay than on anyone else.

in my opinion I woke up in time to save the rest of my family and to force Kay to stand on her own, even as she chose homelessness.

Kay may want to leave the rat race ( meaning not work to her). She can do what she wants to do, but we are not going to help her live that lifestyle. She is an adult, strong and able to work and do better. No reason she can't get a job. We bought her a house, then a mobile home and she lost both. And they were also thrown out of apartments that we paid for.

At least if we don't offer help, Kay has to apply for government help, which she refused to do when we "helped," her. Did I forget to mention they have a child who is in the custody of our other daughter? She does.

We as parents don't have to help our 30+ adult kids live their dreams. in my opinion THEY have to do it. Or not. I decided NO MORE. Our Bank of Mom and Dad is mo longer open to her and Lee. She is furious and won't talk to us. That is her decision.

We can decide to spend our lives taking care of adult kids. But we can't live forever. We have no choice about dying. Then what?

Going fot help about this problem in my opinion is a good possible plan. Therapy and Nar Anon saved my life and family.

My heart goes out to you. I hope you can find peace.


Well-Known Member
She simply WANTS to live in the wilderness.
There is nothing I can tell you that you don't know, that you haven't lived.

I have great compassion for your situation. Partly because I share so much in common with you. My son has a chronic illness and he chooses to not accept treatment. He refuses treatment for mental illness, too. His preference too is to be away from it all. He has paranoia. I know the terror. Lately we have been persuading my son to stay put in a house I own, rather than set off on his own. It's day by day. Unlike your daughter, he's ambivalent.

I live out West, near the Sierras and BLM land. Just recently I spoke with a woman who'd lived out there for a few years. It's my understanding that people can just move their trailer a bit, and by this they comply with the rules. It's not your daughter's fault if she's been snowed in. She's literally stuck.

But like you say so much has become even riskier with all of the changes society and the Earth are going through. So many of us are called upon to find security, wholeness and safety in an existential sense, when reality presents us with so very little that is reassuring. In that we are circumstances that are very much like our children's.

I for one sometimes have a hard time accepting the powerlessness of my situation. I can hold onto the illusion that there is something I can say, think, do that will transform our circumstances so that I am no longer in that magic trick where I am tied down and the magician is about to cut me in half. But the reality is I have put myself there.

What I have to accept is that I have put myself there in that box, feeling it will soon be sawed open, because of empathy, connection, and love for my child who I feel compelled to believe I can and should save.

I can't. But it's not that my child or yours, can't or won't save themselves. (From what you describe, the willingness of your child to accept and seek out important mental health services, and to stay connected to loved ones, is crucially important, and so wonderful. )

But I have to save myself from that box, where I feel in such peril.

These adults have free will. They have the dignity and power to choose their own lives. And I have the potential for independence from attachment that is destructive. Because when I feel such fear about imminent catastrophe, I tend to act towards myself and my life, in a way that is desperate, reactive, and panicked.

I am older than you. Living like that will shorten my life and impair it's quality. And when I think about it, that is crazier than the way my son is living. Feeling bondage to potential catastrophe and fear.

Your daughter is in real peril now due to the intersection of climate change and lifestyle choice. That is real. But the other stuff, the vicarious anxiety that comes from living to close to the edge with them in the box, I can change.

Love, Copa
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Deni D

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
Staff member
Ming, I've run across lots of people who live a nomad lifestyle, from our travels in campgrounds. A friend of mine mentioned BLM land to me recently. From what he says it depends on where one is as far as what they have access to. Most likely not water, in the colder areas off season anyway, because they shut it down ~ they don't have frost free water hook ups. But many have bathhouses with water for showering and someone could fill jugs of water to bring back to their trailer. The freezing of the drain hoses is another story but if she keeps her hooks up closed until she drains she will probably be okay.

I hope she has electric on site, propane for heat, and a back up generator, those are most important in colder climates. Insulation around the bottom of the camper to keep air from moving into it from underneath so much is what people do in the colder areas, hope she's been able to do that. I don't know of any camper where someone can burn wood in it without risking burning down the camper so it very well could be she's playing you a bit on that one. A camper with a wood burning stove would be highly unusual.

As far as her being allowed to be there longer term without moving, frankly from what I've seen unless she were in an area that was popular for the season she will be okay. Flying under the radar of the rules is just not so much of a concern in the off season for rangers (authorities)in these places.

I can understand how someone who distrusts humanity, doesn't get humanity, and doesn't have the drive to connect to people would want to live in nature and be left the hell alone. I think it's a solid lifestyle choice, not one for me, but I get it. Not being part of society cuts them off from many things as we know, but then it's only an issue if they have given up on society verses just all that interested to begin with.

She's made contacts and had gotten support and has accepted treatment. I'm sure they will nudge her forward as they can and she could end up in a stable living situation if she accepts it. That's what happened with my son. It makes a big difference when someone is on the books with social workers and social services. They may only have apartments available for someone in her situation but then you never know, someplace out in the woods, like where my son is, where the neighbors keep an eye out for each other but stay out of each others business could be acceptable to her at some point.

This winter could be a good experience for her to help her make a decision to go into a more secure living arrangement. I hope so for your sake.


New Member
Yes, we all know the essential conflict, as parents: we must stand back and allow our children their path, even when every motherly fiber of our being wants to step in and take over.

It has been the fight of my own life to give up denial and step away from enabling, and I think Copacabana put it so well: it’s hard to accept the powerlessness of my situation.

Deni, my daughter isn’t anywhere near a campground, services, or even other people. She’s camped half-way up a mountain in the Great Basin, parked on a spur track near a mining site, with no services, no phone coverage and 30 miles from the nearest town. She has a satellite communications device that sends short SMS messages, but no other contact with people.

And, deep heavy frightened sigh, she is staying warm by burning wood in a homemade wood stove. Inside an antique travel trailer that is crammed with clutter. My heart is in my throat when I think of the risks she is running.

Last week, she was able to get to town for two days. She checked in with the clinic, stocked up on food, and got her mail—but she tells me she could be snowed in until March. (Me? I grew up there and I say ”April … or May”.). She says she has enough supplies, she’s got a little woodpile growing, and this is where she wants to be.

This mom is scared, but I WILL stay the course. I can choose to love my child, even if I can’t control her choices … or the inevitable consequences that come from those choices.

It’s just hard to have a front-row seat as the train wreck gets close! But my daughter needs me, and needs me calm and detached.

Things that are helpful right now, include reminding myself of the many many decisions my child has made to get to this point. I’m a Buddhist, so spiritual practices like loving-kindness (metta) meditation are good fuel for loving detachment.

Finding support is another lifeline. (Thank you, everyone—and especially the forum owners.). Just knowing there are others out there who walk the same path makes things much less lonely.

Deni D

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
Staff member
my daughter isn’t anywhere near a campground, services, or even other people. She’s camped half-way up a mountain in the Great Basin, parked on a spur track near a mining site, with no services, no phone coverage and 30 miles from the nearest town.
Sorry to hear this. I had assumed there were some other people near where she is at least. I hope things are clear enough for her to get into that town again soon. And I hope she decides to find somewhere a little safe to stay for the winter.

You sound like you have been working hard on and doing a great job staying in the right place in your mind and feelings. Your daughters situation is really a rough one to deal with though. I'm guessing she's very resourceful considering where she is living but it sure sounds like she's flying without a net.


New Member
Checking in with a status report on my "houseless" daughter: cautiously optimistic.

Child was able to get her truck down the hill and make it to town last week for medical appointments, but snow has returned. However, she's stocked with water and supplies, and has amassed enough wood for awhile.

In herself, she seems a bit better. She's making regular contact with loved ones via her satcom device. She reports taking medications and seems calmer. Even admitted that her location isn't the best, which is HUGE for this kiddo.

Back to watching the weather and hoping for the best, and thank you for a haven of folks who understand.


Webmistress, I have been following your story and have been concerned about your daughter’s welfare. It sounds like you can take a breath, here, with the latest news. The fact that she is making contact with loved ones would give me a lot of piece of mind if I were in your shoes.

So, I pray for warmer weather and your daughter’s continued progress. Many hugs


Sending good vibes...

My heart goes out to you. I'm glad there's some "stability" for the time being. Sometimes all we can do is deal with life minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day. Looking too far ahead sends us into panic because of the unknown.

Try putting your daughter into your Higher Power's hands praying for the right outcome. Sometimes my prayers for my sons and their issues and crisis are so specific as if my plan is the only plan for the right outcome when in reality, I have no power and no control of their choices.

I recently read, "Asking God or your Higher Power for help, does not mean asking for specific results-this is asking to execute "our" will."

Turning our will and our lives over to God or our Higher Power means we put the outcome in God's hands.

In reality, it allows us to relinquish the stress of the responsibility we think we must enact to save our children combined with the release of the solutions to the situation to our Higher Power. It's a win-win if we can do this.