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San Diego Family Lives Out Of Their Van

Evening Edition

Above: Finding a safe place to sleep just got a little harder for homeless people living in San Diego County. Last month, Cornerstone Christian Church opened its parking lot for people to sleep overnight in their cars, but the City of Vista said the program is required to have costly permits and undergo public hearings in order to continue.

On a recent Wednesday, Angela Caldwell and her five children pass the warm hours of the afternoon at the YMCA in City Heights. Her 9-year-old son, Justin, cools off in the pool while Adrielle, 6, and Gabriel, 7, hit the court with their basketball team.

As other families head home after a day at the Y, the Caldwells pile into their van, which they also call "home."

"Five years ago if you would have told me that this is where I would be, I would have been devastated," Caldwell said.

Aired 8/23/12 on KPBS News.

Finding a safe place to sleep just got a little harder for homeless people living in San Diego County. Last month Cornerstone Christian Church opened its parking lot for people to sleep overnight in their cars, but the City of Vista said the program is required to have costly permits and undergo public hearings in order to continue.

The family moved across the county in their van two months ago. They came from Michigan to San Diego to be closer to Caldwell’s ex-husband and father of her children, who range in age from 8 months to 9 years old. But the housing she had hoped to find didn’t pan out, and within a couple of days, they were homeless.

She doesn’t want to let their lack of housing deprive her kids of their childhood, so she keeps them busy.

"I’m just hoping that in some way when they remember this moment they will think, 'wow, we were homeless, really? We were staying in our van? That’s crazy, we did this, and this, and this'” said Caldwell.

When the family ran out of options, a caseworker at St. Vincent De Paul said they could sleep on mattresses at the Rescue Mission, or they could check out the overnight parking lot program, Dreams for Change on L and 28th Street near downtown San Diego.

Caldwell's children are full of energy when they arrive to the lot. They spill out of the van bouncing balls and later shooting each other with water guns. Caldwell believes her children look forward to ending their day at the parking lot. "It tells that this experience isn’t the worst-case scenario for them” she says.

The parking lot program provides a safe place for homeless people to sleep in their cars. Social workers on staff at the lot also provide help to access services, like CalFresh and unemployment benefits, offered to San Diegans in need.

CEO of Dreams for Change, Teresa Smith, says over the past two years, 70 percent of clients have found longterm, or permanent housing.

The Caldwells are on waiting lists for a few shelters around the County, but Angela has found it difficult to qualify. "Several of them have said that we have too many children.”

She is no stranger to adversity. After dropping out of college, she and her then husband started a family. Then, her second son was diagnosed with leukemia at just thirteen months of age.

"In the hospital I was always wishing for better days. I was always projecting that I could give him a better life.”

Cladwell wants to find a job that will allow her to work from home. She believes her situation is temporary.

“Someone told me, it’s just a season, and I said, 'no, it’s intermission. We are out getting popcorn right now, and then I am going to go in and see the rest of the show, and I am going to have a grand finish.'”

As the street lamps flicker to life over parking lot, the family climbs into their van. Tomorrow, they’ll get up and start it all over again.

Comments

Avatar for user 'N6NQR'

N6NQR | August 23, 2012 at 10:48 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Now that the 'homeless' are comprised of the middle class, (not just the stereotypical alcoholics, drug addicts, and mentally ill), hopefully this nation will learn a little compassion for those less fortunate in our society.
I do not know if the fear/rejection/disdain of the homeless in our society is due to the realization that "It could happen to me!". Or there really are cold hearted jerks in this country whose lives are so pathetic, the only way they can feel good about themselves is to look down on those less fortunate.
"Charity begins at Home". This would be an excellent time to tell our 'allies' that they have to fend for themselves because we need the "Foriegn Aide" right here at home more than they need it.

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Avatar for user 'friend_of_a_friend1'

friend_of_a_friend1 | August 23, 2012 at 1:55 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | August 23, 2012 at 5:09 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

@Friend of a. You left out the billion dollars she won in the lottery; her kids have been given multi-million dollar movie contracts, her ex gave her all the child support he owes her; oil was found beneath the three houses he gave her and EXXON pays her royalties on every barrel pumped; it turns out she's related to Obama and as soon as he heard she was living in a van he ordered a battle ship to San Diego, where she and her kids get the Captains Quarters.

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Avatar for user 'NNix1'

NNix1 | August 23, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'Lonato'

Lonato | August 24, 2012 at 4:12 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | August 24, 2012 at 7:33 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Interesting turn in the story. Is it common for journalists in general or Acacia Squires in particular to ask the sort of background questions that would reveal this other side prior to publication? If so, were they ignored or responded to with unexamined lies? If that sort of background work is not done, is it avoided for some legitimate reason or is it an oversight?
Do we have anything other than three anonymized posts to validate the counterclaims? Will there be a follow-up article?

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | August 24, 2012 at 12:31 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

So is it ok to just make stuff up about this person?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | August 24, 2012 at 1:41 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

No it isn't OK to make stuff up. Somebody isn't telling the whole story but it isn't obvious from either the article or the posts who that is. Can you provide any evidence in either direction Willard?

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Avatar for user 'akralon'

akralon | August 25, 2012 at 10:01 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'Stevens_abitch'

Stevens_abitch | August 26, 2012 at 10:53 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'Blessedwith3'

Blessedwith3 | August 26, 2012 at 11:02 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

GOD knows the truth in this story. Why people choose to give their negative accounts I'll never understand. Instead of Bashing her or trying to discredit her, why not HELP HER & the children get off the street. From my personal experience its not easy to care for more than one child by yourself, a child with cancer and a mother with a heart to go thru it with out giving up hope. To have a child that has beat the odds & be a living testimony;) WOW! I am saying instead of critisizing, HELP! Regardless to how she got her, the children is what really matters the most. Be the heart that LOVES! Not condem.

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Avatar for user 'Stevens_abitch'

Stevens_abitch | August 26, 2012 at 11:03 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'God_knows_thetruth'

God_knows_thetruth | August 26, 2012 at 11:43 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'PackardYeats'

PackardYeats | August 26, 2012 at 6:17 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

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Avatar for user 'akralon'

akralon | August 26, 2012 at 6:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

My side of the family.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | August 27, 2012 at 6:54 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe we could get Jerry Springer in here to sort this out for us. Anyway, it seems unlikely this is going to be resolved here. Good Luck

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Avatar for user 'growup_focus'

growup_focus | August 27, 2012 at 7:32 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Wow really? I noticed in one of the previous posts "the fact she has five kids and sleeps in a van"...isn't that the bigger concern here? The world has changed so much and people focus on other details so FOCUS because it sounds like everyone is grown up even though making pretty not-so-grown-up statements. Who cares where she lived? Who cares why she left? How about we do what we can, spread the word far and wide that this woman and 5 babies need a place to stay? I'm sure they don't have many of the luxuries most of us here have and it is not up to us to JUDGE. I say, if you don't want to help her keep it moving. Thank God that it isn't you...the saying goes "you reap what you sow" so anything we don't know is probably not our business. So grownups lets focus on these babies and their mom. The ex.....maybe there are reasons you are the ex????LOLOL...

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Avatar for user 'growup_focus'

growup_focus | August 27, 2012 at 7:46 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

@Akralon..the children are adorable! Did you say "my side of the family"? Hmmmmm??? I didn't see anything negative about an ex-husband in her story, so it looks like we all got more info and he told on himself. Ouch!!!! Guilt is a Mother isn't it? Best wishes Angela Caldwell and those beautiful babies, someone will get you in a house very soon. You got my vote strong lady!

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Avatar for user 'Claire Trageser'

Claire Trageser, KPBS Staff | August 27, 2012 at 12:14 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Comments on this story have been removed because they were either personal attacks or revealed private information. Both are violations of our Terms of Service (http://www.kpbs.org/about/terms-service/#rules-of-use). We are now closing the thread to further comments because commenting is no longer productive.

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