First Person: Living In A Car In San Diego With 3 Children
More than 500 families in San Diego County are homeless, according to the last point-in-time count.
Lola Cheatham and her three daughters are one of those families. They have been living in a parking lot in the city of San Diego on and off for nearly two years.
The nonprofit Dreams for Change operates the 30-car church parking lot in Golden Hill where Cheatham parks her van most nights.
"It's a little bit better than ... a shelter system or something like that because you have your own domain, your own space, and in a shelter, you're kind of pressed up against everybody. And if someone's detoxing on drugs or alcohol, then that's kind of hard ... in a family situation," Cheatham said.
The parking lot is open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Dreams for Change also operates two other parking lots in the city.
Cheatham's oldest daughter, who is 12, sleeps on the back row of seats, her 3-year-old daughter sleeps on the middle row, and she and her five-year-old daughter sleep in the reclined front seats. Cheatham has decorated the inside of the van with battery-operated twinkle lights so the car battery does not drain down.
Prior to staying at the safe parking lot and a shelter, Cheatham and her family lived in an apartment in North Park. They moved after the three-unit property was sold to a realty company that planned to renovate and increase the rent.
"We didn't have anywhere to move to but we had done this before where we just kind of had a transitional period in a motel for a few weeks or a month or something and then found a place, but what I didn't understand was the rental policies had shifted and you need three times the rent, combined (monthly) household income, and a 650 or better credit score," she said.
Cheatham, 36, is taking community college classes and is an aspiring actress and writer who has written a screenplay.
"My father helps me with living expenses so that I can pursue my career goals...and so I can be their mom...that's my number one job. And even if I had a job that was relatively decent paying, childcare, and rent, and you add it all up, I still don't know as I would be making ends meet and strangers are raising my kids," she said.
As part of our First Person series, Cheatham tells her family’s story from the van that she and her three daughters call home.
Our first-person series features stories of San Diegans told in their own voices. More than 500 families in San Diego county are homeless. According to the last point in time counts. Lola Cheatham and her three daughters are one of those families. >> They have been staying at a safe parking lot in the city of San Diego on and off for nearly 2 years. As part of our first-person series, Lola Cheatham tells us her family's story from the van that she and her three daughters call home. >> There's Logan. She's 12. She's five years old. And we have a three-year-old. I sleep in the driver side. I reclined see. I will put up like a down. It gets pretty cool. If you do that, you can stay in your own little heat source. When we lay in the middle section, I put a barricade solutions and flop around. Logan is in the far back. They both recline the seat and they sleep right next to me in the passenger seat. This specific lot, they are spew around town. This one particular is a golden Helen. >> Is a church parking lot. It's well lit. Is a little noisy. But the cars actually some at the ocean at this point. [ Laughter ]. It's kind of nice. It's kind of cozy. Is not a huge parking lots. So, the people that are here are on a consistent basis. We all know each other.'s community feel. It's a little bit better than a shutter system or something like that because you have your own domain. You have your own space. He of the shelter that your press up against each other be. >> It's hard. That's why we prefer to stay here. >> One of the reasons we ended up moving from our last place is that they sold to a realty company that was visibly trying to freeze us out so they could renovate Jacob the rents. After that, I decided, it's okay. We will just move. I did have a place to move to. Please don't yell. >> >> I decided, we did have anywhere to move to. We have done this before where we hide an transitional period for a few weeks or month. I find a place. Why did understand was the rental policy which have shifted. Unit three times the rents combined with household income and a 650 or better credit store. At that time, single mom, my father helped me with living expenses so that I can pursue my career goals as a writer actor. I was replay. I was shopping around that for a while. Sought to be the my mom. Is my number one job. >> Even if I did have a job, that was relatively it is a paying child care. You know, you at all. I still don't know where I would be. And try to make ends meet. Traders are raising my kids. He understands that. I feel like, there's just not a lot of support for moms or if the is, you have to do a certain list of criteria and if you don't, you are not -- you can't take a minute of that opportunity or whatever. So, it is somewhat snowball. At the same time, it was a joyous time to move and not to move out of the area. It's kind of a humble rebellion and to be shut off to a home or somewhere that's outlying. We have a life start here. We know people at the laundromat. We know where our PO boxes. We know where the restaurants go to. That is our support. That the family. To take my whole family away from that, just because, whatever the reason is that they aren't able to find a suitable living here. I understand why. But, I feel like we can find a way. We can do this until something gives away so we can maintain our life. It may sound silly and stubborn. I think it's just a lesson and doing what you have to do until he gets better. So, hopefully, of that will turn. Until then, we are doing okay. >> >> >> As soon as someone sees that you have a whole bunch of stuff in your car, and you have kids with you, whatever is, that is a bit of a pause. They will craned her neck and try to see what's going on. They would see if you are on drugs. It is totally fine. That is normal curiosity. If you're having a disagreement with a child or having a bad morning or if you just aren't feeling well, that adds to this stress of a good day. >> There's definitely a beautiful and wonderful neighborhood that we have. That have come over and introduced themselves. We are friends now. They will say Hello every morning. If you don't show one one morning, they ask if you're okay. The living expenses of a leading passport -- we are only eating microwavable stuff. That's a challenge. Need to be able to maintain the car because the car has so much more normal wear and tear. We drive all day long with extra weight in the car. That can be tough. My tire -- I have to it up every morning. I will get it soon. It's that kind of stuff that is always hanging in the balance. As a mom, you just want to take care of stuff. You have to learn how to trust that it's going to be okay. Would have you come up against, you will be fine. We have been. >> >> >> Just finding a place to live has been the biggest challenge because we've tried come it is a program called Robert Lee has a. It is grant money. You get first and last months and doubled the deposit as an incentive to a landlord that might want to work with you. But I try since last October. I tried over a dozen places. As soon as they heard Robert rehousing, they were, no thank you. We want more mains tream tenants. I was like, I don't know what that means. Okay. That's been tough. No matter if you have mental or health issues or drug in the alcohol and it is, you just want to live in fancy free. With your family that is on the lower bracket of income at the moment, or for however long you have been or whatever, a veteran, everyone is want in together as a homeless person. >> We get the same blink -- blanket treatments. Not by those not everybody can utilize the resources. Everything else, you have to get used to and get off your back. >> Maybe can focus on the negative then you can focus on positive. It's we try to do. >> >> >> That was Lola D p.m. She's been living in a with her three daughters for two years. The first person was produced by Brooke Ruth.