Charlomane and Prince Leonard were doing just fine before the recession hit. But for the past three years, they've been forced to live with their six children in a self-storage unit in northeast Houston -- a situation that they reluctantly accepted until Texas's Child Protective Services came in and took custody of their children this week.
The storage unit that the Leonards have been living in is fully equipped with air conditioning, beds, a refrigerator, microwave, a tub and two computers. What they don't have is running water -- which was part of the reason the CPS came in and removed the children, ages 2 to 12. They kept their water in a 55-gallon drum that Prince Leonard refilled daily. They fill jugs of drinking water at grocery stores and use a "compost" toilet, Charlomane Leonard said.
She said the CPS visit was unexpected. The child protection authorities made their first visit and took the children on the same day, said her husband. She is still nursing her youngest. The children were placed with their maternal grandparents and the Leonards are permitted to see them just six hours a week. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16 to determine the family's fate.