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Trapped in paradise: how we got the homeless situation (part 1)

It’s tough to put a number on how many Americans are homeless. About one and a half million people sleep in homeless shelters every year, but that doesn’t count the many, many more living without a permanent home. For the past 5 years, we’ve been talking to people living on the street – whether in vehicles or informal encampments – who have told us their stories of how they got there and how they survive.

Our friend and blogger Johnny Sanphillippo walked us through the history and current situation in his hometown of San Francisco, where the homeless situation has risen with property values (among other issues). Sanphillippo shares his own experiences without homelessness.

“My mother, she never wanted to say that we were homeless because that isn’t how she felt about it, but we were living in a car, we were bathing in gas stations. And I think that other people who have never had those experiences don’t understand that there’s a broad spectrum of homelessness that sometimes you’re homeless for all sorts of reasons and it’s very often a temporary situation that you limp through until you get to something better.”

Our title is a direct quote from Dave, an RV dweller in Bolinas (California), who told us:

“I’ve been out here for 2 or 3 years. For a while I was stuck in this spot. My truck broke down, I had no money and I could not get out of town. There’s no work here. It was f***ed. But I was trapped in paradise.”