Things are bad out there for the average American; so bad that even people with relatively stable and high incomes are finding themselves without housing. And when folks lose their house, they often turn to living in the next largest item they own; their cars.
Multiple cities across the U.S. now provide safe, overnight parking lots in order to help homeless folks at least get a good night’s rest. The New York Times has a deeply moving story on what its like to live out of your car and the roadblocks people face when trying to get their lives back on track.
In many cities, the “mobile homeless” are now the majority of the homeless population — people living out of vehicles make up about 53 percent in King County, Washington, where Ms. Audet lives. About 45 percent in San Mateo, a county perched on California’s rugged northern cliffs, are in the same predicament. In Los Angeles, the number approaches 60 percent.
Many of them have jobs: In Denver, 135 out of the 217 people who slept in one of the lots provided by the Colorado Safe Parking Initiative earlier this year earned an average of $1,581 a month. One-bedrooms there average $1,655.
The Times follows the story of Chrystal Audet and her daughter Cierra as they try to obtain affordable housing while living in a Ford Fusion. Audet, who earns $72,000 a year as a social worker, was priced out of apartments in expensive Bellevue, Washington, based on bad credit and bad luck. One of those unlucky breaks? The very car that she spent months living in broke down:
Her free fall into unsustainable debt began last December when her car made a horrible, sputtering sound, and died. With poor credit, the only loan she could find came at a punishing cost: For the 2015 Ford Fusion with over 100,000 miles, she is being charged interest of 27.99 percent, equaling a payment of $398 per month, one-tenth of her take-home pay.
Medical bills in the thousands arrived for her Crohn’s disease. She missed two rent payments. And then the landlord raised her rent $248 a month.
“It was a case of one bill too many,” Ms. Audet said.
Down the spiral that led her to homelessness were a series of forks — choices between bad and very bad that she made, many in moments of desperation. She spent a week at a hotel. Expedia offered to break up her payments, which she is now paying off at the rate of $138 a month. To avoid her unpaid rent going to collections, she signed an installment plan, agreeing to pay $495 per month.
By midsummer, Ms. Audet’s take-home pay of nearly $4,300 a month was hollowed out by bills totaling nearly $2,600, leaving her with too little to pay for an apartment in a market where the median rent is $2,200.
Audet worked two jobs and was still not able to get housing until the local church and some experts in renting helped her and her daughter get a one bedroom, 673-square-foot apartment for $2,360 a month. Others weren’t so lucky. One man in his mid 30s was attending chemotherapy sessions for bowel cancer while living out of his car. Their stories are heartbreak and terrifying because they could be any one of us. For normal folks, all it takes is one bill too many. You should read the whole story, found here.