Cars: The latest form of affordable housing


At the precise moment that President Obama was proclaiming how well his stimulus package worked, a news story crossed my computer screen saying that 10% of Los Angeles County's 50,000 homeless are now sleeping in their cars each night. Multiply that number of car-dwellers to include the whole nation, and that's a lot of people who will no doubt sleep -- albeit behind the wheel -- more soundly tonight knowing just how much better off they are than our President thinks they would have been.

Let's get serious, folks.

The car-dwelling population has now reached sufficient numbers to qualify for its own bureaucratic designation. Meet the "Vehicular Homeless." Many are families whose lives were tossed in a recessionary salad spinner of job loss, followed by apartment and/or home loss. In some cases, there was health insurance loss and a family member's illness that wiped out their savings and sped the process along of moving from roof to backseat.

"Cars are the new homeless shelters," says Joel John Roberts, CEO of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) Partners, the largest provider of services for the homeless in Los Angeles County. Warm weather climates tend to draw more car-dwellers for obvious reasons, so places like Florida and southern California are a car-dweller's Riviera. It's not illegal to sleep in your car, by the way, unless a municipality makes it so. There's a 40-something woman named Sandy who sleeps on a Berkeley sidewalk next to her car because she was busted for sleeping in it. So much for the People's Republic of Berkeley.