The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a kind of homelessness that is normally invisible – individuals and families living in their cars, motels, crowded shelters, and even doubled up with relatives or chums.
It is a reality faced by hundreds of thousands of oldsters across America, but especially acutely in California, which has the country’s largest homeless population.
At explain there are 151,000 other folks living in shelters or launch air in the state, according to data from the US housing department. However this figure doesn’t include other folks staying temporarily with family or chums, or in transitional shelters, and is almost certainly an underestimate.
Cherokeena and Priscilla are two of those other folks. During the pandemic, I shadowed the lives of those mothers and their children as they fought to find and maintain their housing and stay off the streets.
Cherokeena and Priscilla each depend upon a program called Family Promise, one in every of several in California that assist families experiencing homelessness and low-income families achieve independence by providing sources such as transitional shelters, daycare, money vouchers, clothing, meals and trauma-informed care.
And while programs such as Family Promise assist as a vital lifeline, the pandemic has exposed how precarious the safety regain is for such families, and how the inequities baked into the housing procedure have handiest continued to widen. At the finish of 2020, 19 million Americans were at danger of losing their homes to an eviction. A moratorium on evictions has been in place in California since March, but its eventual expiration may presumably have devastating penalties for those already living on the threshold.
Cherokeena and Priscilla’s tales offer a peek into the reality many Californians are facing, and the resilience and determination it takes to be a single mother raising a child, finding a job and securing housing during a pandemic.
Cherokeena left an abusive relationship with the father of her son in 2016, moving out on her possess along with her son, Mai’Kel. She labored as a preschool teacher, but paying the payments and rent on a single income proved no longer potential. After three failed attempts at living with chums and family individuals, she finally called 211 – a free resource for community companies – to safe information about affordable housing. That is how she came upon the program, Family Promise, which was near the college the place she taught.
Prime: Cherokeena Robinson braids her son Mai’Kel’s hair in the morning
Heart: Cherokeena works with Mai’Kel on his distance-learning first grade homework in their private room in the transitional house that Family Promise helped them find.
Backside: Cherokeena makes Mai’Kel lunch.
Family Promise’s mission is to assist homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence via a community-based response. The program was able to give her with a private room in a transitional refuge. However as soon as the pandemic hit, Cherokeena’s college couldn’t afford to maintain on their staff and let her plug, even supposing she had labored there for four years.
Without the income to pay for childcare, she relied heavily on her sister and Family Promise for wait on. During the day Cherokeena was able to plunge off her son at the Family Promise heart, the place he got wait on with his schoolwork while she regarded for a unusual job.
Prime: Cherokeena walks Mai’Kel into the Family Promise heart for the day so she can plug to a job interview.
Backside: Cherokeena helps Mai’Kel safe started with his homework.
On 7 October 2020, Cherokeena started a unusual job as a preschool teacher, and is now working chunky-time at Carden Dominion college in Redondo Beach, California. Cherokeena and Mai’Kel have spent the last eight months living in transitional housing the place Cherokeena pays $300 a month to rent a private room. She is now looking (and getting assist) for permanent low-income housing so she and Mai’Kel can have their very possess living space.
Prime: Cherokeena and her sister Lina Robinson, 34, meet at the park in Torrance, California, almost each day to let their kids play collectively.
Backside: Cherokeena, 32, lays in mattress along with her son Mai’Kel, 6, at their transitional house in San Pedro, California, which they share with one or two varied families at a time.
Priscilla and Sierra
In 2014, Priscilla and her daughter Sierra moved to California from Illinois to assist care for Priscilla’s mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease. They moved in with Priscilla’s brother and his family but things didn’t plug as planned. Family tensions started to make, and eventually Priscilla’s brother asked them to leave. They had nowhere to transfer.
For 5 years they slept any place they may presumably – on the streets, moving from behind buildings to bushes to bus stops and alleys, anywhere they may presumably avoid being separated. Sierra would repeat her mother that “everything is going to be alright mother, right here is kinda savor camping.”
Priscilla was unable to find work during this time because she feared leaving her daughter alone with out a safe refuge. She felt savor she had failed her daughter.
Prime: Sierra helps her mother with work she must safe finished after her job switched online during the pandemic.
Heart: Sierra and Priscilla leave the grocery retailer.
Backside: Sierra sits in their car parked launch air their apartment in Orange county, California. Sierra and Priscilla lived in their car for a fast interval of time before they were able to find assist from Family Promise.
In 2016, Sierra started highschool while living with out a home. She faced daily challenges, from finding meals and refuge, to trying to clean up and really feel normal. By June of 2017, Priscilla and Sierra were interviewed and accepted into HIS Residence, a transitional refuge program that offered them with safe refuge and supportive companies, the place they stayed for a year. After the program ended they lived in their car except they were accepted into Family Promise’s emergency refuge program, which gave them housing in a church, then later in transitional housing with two or three varied families.
After finally finding a job at the Boys and Women Membership, Priscilla got on a waitlist at an apartment complex and was eventually accepted. In September 2019, they were able to steady their very possess apartment with assist from Family Promise. To maintain on to their apartment each month, Priscilla needs assist from her daughter with rent and payments. Sierra works at Sizable Heaps, a slash save home goods retailer, and most days she helps her mother with chores around the house. She also helps her mother along with her computer work for the Boys and Women Membership.
Prime: Priscilla prepares the ‘take-home packets’ at the Boys and Women Membership place of work for the kids to bring home for their online sessions she teaches from her apartment.
Prime Sierra will get ready for her shift at Sizable Heaps.
Backside Sierra works the counter during her shift at Sizable Heaps.
Sierra graduated from highschool in January 2020 with honors. In August 2020 she began attending at Fullerton Faculty, a public community college in Fullerton, California, and plans to change into a photographer or a teacher when she graduates.
Priscilla must find a greater paying job, but has health situations that limit her ability to attain so. Sierra level-headed works at Sizable Heaps to assist her mother afford the rent. They’ve each managed to maintain their jobs during the pandemic, but a number of lockdowns have meant work and pay have been inconsistent. One month, they sold their dilapidated car to assist pay for rent.
Prime: Sierra’s graduation cap and gown hang in her room. Sierra started highschool in 2016 while homeless along with her mother and faced daily challenges of finding meals, refuge and staying clean to really feel normal.
Backside: Sierra hugs her mother before getting ready for mattress in their apartment.