Our Mobile Neighbors

May 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m a caregiver. Every week I visit an upscale retirement home in a nice neighborhood across the street from an  elementary school.  In front of that school  are 20 diagonal parking spots taken by teachers, parents and overnighting trucks of the working poor. It’s a popular spot for parking live-in vehicles. Right there in front of children and people with money.  I’ve only seen a tenant once. The working poor are invisible in this country and people whose lives have moved to their car are studied at avoiding detection.

In most places it’s illegal to park and live in your car. Yet in LA county, home of  50,000 homeless people now,  Time.com reports experts estimate 10% live in a vehicle. Mobile tenants are on the rise across the USA.  The New York Times began to talk about it as early as 2006, the first year on record, they report, that a full-time worker at minimum wage could not afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country at average market rates. Then came the Recession.

Who are those people?  People you were likely acquainted with: your banker, an old school friend,  a coworker, your child’s teacher, the older couple who used to  live next door.  The Recession touched us all with indifference to class or justice. 

 By 2009 1 in every 3 working families had become low income according to a  recent report from the Working Poor Families Project.  That’s 10 million families, a number bigger than the individual population of Michigan; the 8th largest state in the nation. If market rate one bedroom apartments are out of reach for minimum wage workers then what shelter are they able to afford for their families?   You wonder, where are they all going?

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