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Voices of the Unemployed: Living in a Van
Voices of the Unemployed: Living in a Van

AIR DATE: December 6, 2010

Bob is 62. He's unemployed, and he sometimes calls our show when he's listening. But here's where Bob's story is different: he calls us from his van. Where he lives. For the past 5 months, Bob has squeezed his entire life within the rectangle of his Dodge Caravan - bed, food, stove. He says he never expected to be living in his car, but that a whole new community of people - suddenly jobless and homeless - are also living behind the wheel. Who are these people? How do they get by? And how does one go from a full-time job to suddenly living alone in a van? Bob lets us into his van and tells us the secrets of surviving when you're homeless in Las Vegas.

"Bob," unemployed and living in his van

    comments powered by Disqus
    Thanks Gloria for your words of wisdom. The wave of change in our country will affect the writer sooner or later. This will not pass up to many people and it will get deeper and deeper. I predicted a jobless recovery. Thats whats happpening. While we bat back and forth whos fault it is we get deeper and deeper into this nightmare. It is not going away. It will just look different as we now have a whole new class of impoverished. I am happy for my age. I will not want to be here in another 20 years. We as a country have some big karma happening right now. It can turn around but not in the way we think. We need to get back to our centers. Our spiritual selves. Bob
    bobSep 15, 2011 06:42:04 AM
    Bob has an income of $1k a month. He says he could rent an apartment for $600 which could be further reduced by sharing, leaving him over $400 a month. If one buys chicken, rice, pasta & other staples on sale at supermarkets one can live on $3 a day or $100 a month, with food stamps much less. Or he could continue to get free food from charities and still have $1k for rent and sundries. So there is no reason to be living in a van on 12k per annum. Something is screwy here. Probably Bob.
    BonckerAug 30, 2011 06:15:02 AM
    Explain your numbers to a young family of 3 or 4 people. You seem to have missed the point of the interview. I never said I wasnt making it with my SS check. My question between the lines was how are Families making it.
    BobAug 31, 2011 03:29:33 AM
    And my question, still unanswered, is why are you living in your car? 1.) Obviously, the cost of living for a multi-person family is an order of magnitude higher than that for a single man with no dependents, but what's that got to do with your situation? Nothing. Are you saying you live in your car as a statement about or protest against inadequate public assistance for destitute families? If so, you and KNPR failed to mention that in the story. If not, why do you live in your car with an assured, steady income sufficient to rent an apartment or furnished room with enough money left over to feed and clothe yourself? 2.) You DID said you weren't "making it" on your Social Security check. You said you were homeless. KNPR said this was a story about the "secrets of surviving when you're homeless in Las Vegas." If that's not "not making it," I'd like to know what "not making it" is. I am not unsympathetic to your situation, but I don't understand it either.
    BonackerAug 31, 2011 18:05:54 PM
    Living on 600 a month, I COMPLETELY understand why Bob lives in his car. I've done the same. Hmm, live in a rat hole in the Vegas ghettos without any money left over to travel to a potentially advantageous job (and be forced to sell the car or drop insurance), or live in your car to stay mobile, stay safer, and maybe save a few dollars for emergency expenses? Yeah, so perplexing... not. "New" poor like Bob sometimes live in their cars because they have HOPE to get back to where they once were in life... Poor seniors who become rubber tramps are the success stories, the more active and less likely to be victims, I assure you.
    ShufeiSep 15, 2011 17:19:09 PM
    Bonacker take the time to do the math. It isnt hard to figure out that living on 1,095 per month is not even close to enough to live with dignity. Obviously your not in touch with what the real truth is. Is it because your not wanting to face the truth about what is going on? Or is it something else. Please go to your local food kitchens and speak with many of the recipients. You will find out they are hard working people from your community that are swallowing their pride and asking for help. They either stand in line and ask for help or they starve.
    bobSep 24, 2011 14:50:31 PM
    Bob. I'm so sorry. The majority of people are lovers of themselves. You have my prayers, that's all I can give right now, because I'm a 99er and in my 50's.
    bladeAug 29, 2011 19:59:34 PM
    Thanks. There are low paying jobs which will not feed, clothe, and house families. I am lucky that I am 62 or I would be forced into one of these jobs along with millions of others. The jobs will come back once wages compete with the low wages around the world. I am lucky that I only have myself to feed. I am lucky that I have the van. I am lucky that I have the attitude I have.
    BobAug 31, 2011 03:38:00 AM
    Bob, you said you were leaving Las Vegas. Where are you going? Best of luck to you.
    desertwildflowerlvAug 29, 2011 19:13:41 PM
    I am in the bay area. I have been helping a friends sister. He passed in a house fire and she needed help which I could give her. I am happy that I have been available for her. It feels good to give back. She has been greatful and I have felt useful again....
    BobAug 31, 2011 03:44:02 AM
    KNPR, Thank you for airing Bob's story. There are so many people facing a similar fate, many more than we are aware of. Please keep airing stories like this. Our government is not listening. You could do a series, call it The Hidden Depression, or something like that. Make it your Harvest of Shame. You could win all kinds of awards. America needs to know.
    desertwildflowerlvAug 29, 2011 19:10:30 PM
    Thanks for your comment. I listened to the piece and I think I may be the voice of many people right now. People seem to think this is a passing phase. It is not. We now have a whole new level of shame to add to the allready tough Karma we have created. The silver lining in all this is that the masses are waking up to the fact that what really matters is Not What We Thought....
    BobAug 31, 2011 03:51:02 AM
    Bob, Your story really touched me. I will be 60 in about a month. In two months, I'll be moving in with my brother, unless I find a job by then. I can relate to everything you said. I think you should let your children know what's going on. I understand your shame and not wanting to be a burden, but pride comes before the fall. You cared for them, let them care for you now when you need it.
    desertwildflowerlvAug 29, 2011 19:05:49 PM
    Thanks for your words of wisdom. I am making it just fine for now. I do agree with you and if I need them to know and help I will let them help. I always thought teaching them how to survive on their own was important and I want to model that. I also think their may be some important issue within me that needs to be looked at. Again thanks for nudging me in the right direction
    BobAug 31, 2011 03:56:24 AM
    Thanks to Bob for revealing his life to the more well-to-do NPR listeners. Talking heads feed the public economic dramas and doctrines which obscure the fact that we are in the midst of a terrible surge in poverty. This is another Great Depression for most working and poor people. It's sad that it takes a Bob, articulate and tuned to Liberal culture, to make our reality palpable amongst the bourgeoisie. Wake up and kill the Horatio Alger myth. No amount of "bootstrapping" will solve the real social crisis facing the nation.
    ShufeiAug 29, 2011 13:33:23 PM
    Thanks for your comment. If the general public really want to find out what is going on they need go no further than any food bank in any city in the country and listen to the stories. The spin is that the recession is over. Its not and getting worse. At what point do you think this will become clear?
    BobAug 31, 2011 04:01:45 AM
    Howdy, Bob. Our society has become too disciplined by the propaganda machine, and too remote from our neighbours to properly hear the suffering going on. Most people probably believe their struggles are unique, and due to cultural expectations (i.e. "everyone" is middle class or can bootstrap) newly poor people often feel the deeply internalized stigma you describe so aptly. NPR itself mostly focuses on the same talking heads and their elite economics rather than the 30 year plunge of the middle class. We need less wall street thinking, more main street. Too bad our media are often so insular; they probably find your situation "surprising". Good luck to you in SF!
    ShufeiSep 15, 2011 17:03:21 PM
    Your story is very touching, I read a memoir very similar to your situation. The book is called, "Will Work For Food or Money". I think you should check it out for your own enjoyment.
    John DoeAug 29, 2011 13:17:02 PM
    Thanks. I had heard of it.
    BobAug 31, 2011 04:04:36 AM
    Bob, sorry about your financial situation, but... don't you think it's time you left Vegas.
    tomAug 28, 2011 08:54:15 AM
    I have left Las Vegas and am in the Bay Area. I have been helping a Friends sister. She lost him in a fire and the house has been rebuilt. She had many problems with the contractor and if you recall I had worked for a builder so I was able to help her navigate some of the issues. The house is finished and on the market. I have felt very fortunate to be able to help her
    BobAug 31, 2011 04:17:44 AM
    Tom sounds like so many of these young, arrogant jerks who are completely unconscious of the fact that time and age does terrible things to people. There is a genuine wave of ageism sweeping through the corporations and companies of this country, and most people over fifty have felt it. I think that Bob is doing a remarkable job in keeping his self-respect, his sanity, and his moral center. I have a question for Tom: why don't YOU leave Las Vegas??
    GloriaSep 1, 2011 13:54:34 PM
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