Inland Empire single mother says the only way to keep her family together is to live on the streets

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) – Courtney Lee pulled a cart behind her as she walked along 6th Street in San Bernardino in the afternoon heat. The wagon contained not only his belongings, but those of his 64-year-old mother and 7-year-old son.

For the past three years, Lee and her family have been homeless after leaving a domestic violence situation.

“I have no problem going to work, I have no problem being compliant with medication. I just need help with housing,” Lee said.

Lee said that despite working a 60-hour warehouse job, she was unable to afford rent. Often the family slept in their car.

The choices and resources she says she was offered left her with an impossible choice.

“We have been advised that due to my family composition, my mother and my son…we being a multi-generational family, we are not eligible for assistance together. The only option they offer us is to separate the family.”

That would have meant placing his son in foster care, his mother in a seniors’ residence, and Lee in a shelter at the time. She chooses to keep them together.

“There are countless people who are one paycheck away, one change in direction of their building far from the same as me.”

California’s escalating homelessness crisis has created more options, but also more restrictions for the homeless. A study conducted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University shows that most LA County residents see the problem getting worse.

“The prevalence of seeing encampments, of seeing individuals living on sidewalks, in tents, in parks — it’s something much more visible,” said Brianne Gilbert of Loyola Marymount University.

The study of Los Angeles County residents found that a majority of respondents were more supportive of short-term housing than long-term housing solutions. In addition, residents supported the cleaning of the camps regardless of the beds available in the shelters.

“There’s a consensus that short-term housing is the best use of existing funds and there’s also a sense that there’s less patience with encampments,” Gilbert said.

The survey finds that LA County residents are eager to find a solution to homelessness. But for those like Lee, wading through the tide of resources and restrictions is a daily test of patience.

“I understand that people have no compassion for me as a 34-year-old woman and my mother as a 64-year-old woman, but my son deserves better,” Lee said. “My child deserved to know where he was going to sleep at night and to have a home cooked meal.”

Lee doesn’t have a car anymore, so tonight she, her mom, and her son plan to sleep in a tent after using their last hotel voucher of the year.

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