I spent the day with a homeless family here in Seattle, yet it felt like spending the day with a normal family. The big difference was at the end of the day Carey and her daughter Maggie drove their van to a park to sleep for the night.
I first met Carey Fuller through I post she wrote on change.org, "What It's Like To Be A Homeless Mother". She blogged anonymously so I had to beg the editor to connect us. From that point on, I have been so very impressed by Carey. I have done everything I can to help her and will continue to do so.
Yesterday, I met Carey and her daughter at a yard sale they were holding. On weekends she tries to make a little money by selling either old stuff she had in storage or new stuff she finds. Carey is very resourceful. When she needed money to repair the van they live in, she published a Kindle version of a book she wrote on Amazon.com, Writings From The Driver's Side.
Carey wants to start chronicling homeless life on video. I was bringing her cameras, but they were stolen at my first stop when my car was broken into. I am all about empowering homeless people so that did not stop me. I just took Carey to Best Buy and let her pick out a camera that would fit her needs.
In the afternoon, Maggie, Carey's youngest daughter (oldest daughter was at camp), wanted to go swimming. We drove to a local park and Maggie jumped right into playing in the sand with other kids. No one would ever notice this family lived in a van, unless we told them.
This is the first time I have spent the day with a homeless family. As a case manager in Los Angeles, I spend lots of hours with families experiencing homelessness, but never like this. I had mixed emotions all day. Part of me was overjoyed seeing Carey and her daughter as a normal family, and part of me was dreading what I know was going to happen next.
Thanks to Murphy USA, I was able to fill Carey's van up with gas. I then followed them to the area where they feel safe enough to park for the night. Once we got on the freeway, I almost broke down. Knowing this loving family I spent the day with had to sleep in a run-down van messed me up. We pulled into the RV parking area and I was fighting back the tears. Maggie ran up to me with a happy, excited smile saying "this is where we sleep." Carey then started to talk about the rabbits. Blew me away because I was more messed up about them sleeping here than they were.
But that is because Carey is an amazing woman doing the best she can to raise a family while experiencing homelessness. I know deep down it must hurt, but Carey is not going to show it to her children. She is going to be the best mom possible while they survive this challenge -- together!
Carey manages the We Are Visible Facebook Community and the InvisiblePeople.tv Facebook Page along with the Twitter feeds @WeAreVisible and @InvisiblePeople. But right now, because they are back in the van, she has very limited internet access.
Yesterday was a very good day. People on Twitter rallied so I was able to give $320. Today I am going to meet up with Carey again and try and get her a better phone that also saves money.
I am going to end this with my one wish. More than any other homeless family I have met, I wish I could help Carey find a place to live. I feel so powerless. I send her what money I can and I have also helped her find job leads. I have asked all the homeless service connections I know in the area to help -- none can! I practically beg media to come do her story. Sometimes it works, but the exposure is still not enough. If you are a documentary production crew or news media, please come follow Carey for a few days. The story of a homeless mother raising two children while living in a van needs to be told better than I can. What I experienced yesterday has changed me. Carey's story is powerful and I strongly believe this is the story the world needs to hear and see.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest and can help please contact me or Carey directly. Let's get this family the support they need. Let's get this family into housing.