Life in a minivan: Mother, student and worker tells her story

Danielle Williams.


NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA — Danielle Williams, 46, takes care of her teenage daughter and two dogs in the parking lot where she lives in her minivan. She downsized from an apartment to a car five years ago, after she was laid off from her accounting job in Santa Barbara CA. She looked for other work but encountered age discrimination. She picks up temporary work, but not enough to afford housing. In Los Angeles, 16,000 people now live in their vehicles, 32% up in the last year. There is no profit in building affordable housing for the poorest people. The government must step in to do so.

Recently, Danielle got accepted into college, so has moved to North Hollywood, where she is living in another lot. Following are her words, from an HBO interview video:

“Every day is different. I usually get up between 5:30 and 6:30. The days I have to work I drop my daughter off and then I head off to work and I work a full day. On the days I go to school we’re there the entire day. A lot of times we go to a restaurant where there’s WIFI so we can study while we’re eating.

“My car is a Chrysler Town and Country. My seat will go forward and back easily, though the space is not quite enough for my knees. This is a bed here, if you look in the back. This is a dirty-clothes hamper and this is my daughter’s bag of clothes; the rest is storage. We have a 7×10 storage space that is pretty much full. We had a life before this. I just couldn’t pay the rent any more, and we ended up sleeping in the car, thinking it was only going to be temporary.

“I do consider myself homeless. The world considers me homeless. When you think about homeless people you think about someone who is maybe on drugs, or with lots of mental health issues, or is lazy. But many are people like me, who are actually working, going to school, trying to get out of the life that they’re in but just can’t. We did one night at the rescue mission, that was terrifying for my daughter, and I felt like I would rather sleep in my car because I feel safer in my car than in one of those places.

“This is hard, but I know in the long run going back to school is the right thing to do.”

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