Rain slid down the windows of a silver Infiniti parked alone at a rest area just outside of Tyler. Inside, 22-year-old Tyler Junior College student Montana Hadin lay staring at the ceiling of his old four-door car lost in thought when a sudden chill drew him back to reality. Winter was approaching and the “chill” he had felt would soon turn into biting cold.
Hadin was enrolled in TJC full time and working as a lifeguard when circumstances turned against him, leaving him homeless right before the 2013 fall semester. Being from Sacramento, CA, he was too far from home to turn there for help. The simplest solution, although not the most comfortable, was to sleep in his car.
“I would like lay down the seats in the back and stick my feet in the trunk, and I could just barley fit, it was very tight,” said Hadin.
Within a couple of months, the temperature began to drop and the freezing weather became a distraction from how small the car was. With a sleeping bag, four layers of clothes, and as many blankets as he could find, Hadin faced the majority of the winter alone in his car.
“I would be alright, and then I’d wake up and as soon as I moved, it’s just like instant cold,” said Hadin.
That wasn’t the only danger Hadin encountered, he recalls hearing strangers walk around his car at night when he had to park out at a Lake Tyler dock. The uncomfortable closeness of curious visitors would often keep him awake.
Luckily, Hadin had a family member close by that offered him their couch for the coldest month of that year, but when the freezing temperatures left, he had to return to his car. This is when Hadin decided that he might as well make the best of his situation.
“I was like, alright I need to make a lot of money this summer so I ended up working like five jobs, all life guarding jobs, at Pine Cove, Tyler Tennis and Swim, Hollytree, at the hospital, and a little at TJC,” said Hadin.
Hadin ended up selling his car and buying a larger vehicle with the money he earned from over the summer. This allowed him to take a tough situation and find the silver lining.
“At the time I was so use to being in a car, I was like screw it. I don’t even care anymore. I’m perfectly fine with it now. I’ve adjusted,” said Hadin, “I got use to it. I have everything I need in my car, and I can do anything on a whim.”
Hadin became resourceful, and paid for an Anytime Fitness membership so that no matter where he was, he had access to amenities such as a shower and sink. He managed to budget out money for food and then tuck the rest away in a savings account. His new normal became what most would see as a sad story, but for him it was just another life experience to learn from.
“As a person, Montana is very open to handle any situation and doesn’t let much bother him,” said Austin Mann, coworker and friend of Hadin, “He does what he has to and just makes the best out of it.”
Hadin stayed in his car until December of 2014, when the Wesley House offered him a place to stay after catching word that he was living in his car, ending his year and a half adventure. Hadin walked away from with a new found respect for those who face homelessness, and a greater appreciation for the little things in life.
“I’ve met a lot of people who, when I heard their stories and what they had to go through, it’s just like… this isn’t that bad,” said Hadin.