As one social worker says, cars are the new homeless shelters. Welcome to the economic maelstrom.
Tim Barker never thought he’d have to live in his truck. Four months ago, the plumber was in a one-bedroom apartment in California’s San Fernando Valley, with a pool and a Jacuzzi. Then, on his birthday in October, he and 199 other plumbers were laid off by their union, Local 761 in Burbank. Now Barker’s son sleeps on the sofa of his cousin’s one-bedroom Hollywood apartment, and Barker sleeps on the roof of the apartment building – or in his 2003 Ford Ranger pickup. “I’m 47, and I’ve never lived in my car,” says Barker, a husky 220-lb. single father with sandy hair and a rapid-fire voice. In January, as torrential rains pelted the streets of Southern California, father and son were sleeping in the truck in San Pedro, next to the Los Angeles Harbor. “We were able to spend four nights in the Vagabond Motel, but for two nights we slept in the car,” says Barker. “It was raining, cold, and the cat was jumping on us. We both got sick.”
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