July 9, 2008
Every night at dusk in this wealthy California coastal town, Barbara Harvey puts down food for her golden retrievers, Phoebe and Ranger, and watches as they go for their evening walk.
Not long afterwards, the 66-year-old mother-of-three clambers into the back of her white Honda CR-V, pulls up a blanket, and beds down for the night, snuggling next to her beloved dogs for comfort.
“For the most part I sleep okay,” says Harvey. “But it is very cramped. And my dogs are big. The CR-V wasn’t designed for people to sleep in.”
This was not quite the old age Harvey had been hoping for. Until recently she rented an apartment that featured a garden bristling with roses and heavy with the scent of jasmine.But when Harvey’s job as a 37,000-dollar-a-year (23,600 euros) notary evaporated in the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, she found herself penniless and destitute in a town where the average price of a home is one million dollars.
Harvey’s nightly “home” now is the quiet carpark of the historic Santa Barbara Mission, one of 12 sites around the town that is part of a safe parking program run by a non-profit outreach group, New Beginnings.
According to Michael Stoops, executive director of the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless, Harvey’s experience is not exceptional.
“We are receiving reports from different agencies and individuals in the field that it is becoming more common,” Stoops said. “It’s definitely a trend.