Children play on Eighth Street in West Berkeley while their parents run errands. RV-dwelling neighbors or grandma babysit when the guardians are away. The kids fill the block with laughter and toys as they run up and down the line of vehicles, peeking inside neighbors’ doors to say hello.

Berkeley Forces Vehicle Dwellers to Keep Rolling

This photo essay accompanies the story “No Address, No Rest: Berkeley Forces Vehicle Dwellers to Keep Rolling,” which is part of the “Driving Home: Surviving the Housing Crisis” project.

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Merced Domínguez observa a las palomas volar sobre su jardín en la calle Octava. "Todos los días, me siguen a donde quiera que vaya," dijo Domínguez, arrojando alpiste en la banqueta. “Todo el camino hasta el Dollar Tree y de vuelta a casa. Solo están esperando que los alimente." La rutina habitual de Domínguez consiste en colocar comida y agua en la banqueta afuera de su vehículo para los animales callejeros que visitan la manzana, incluyendo un gato callejero que llamó Cookie y las docenas de palomas que aparecen dos veces al día.

Berkeley Obliga a los Habitantes de Vehículos a Seguir Rodando

Este ensayo fotográfico acompaña a la historia “Sin Dirección, Sin Descanso: Berkeley Obliga a los Habitantes de Vehículos a Seguir Rodando,” que forma parte del proyecto “Conduciendo a Casa: Sobreviviendo la Crisis de la Vivienda” (Driving Home: Surviving the Housing Crisis).

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On a Sunday morning, Nelson walks three miles roundtrip between the tow yard where he keeps his car parked and the Tenderloin neighborhood, following a routine that involves picking up his breakfast at St. Anthony’s Dining Room. He passes people who have picked up meals and are eating them while sitting in chairs placed on the street by St. Anthony’s. The chairs are spaced six feet apart for social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. After the coronavirus pandemic began, service providers applied safety restrictions. No more open showers or restrooms. No more public seating to charge devices. No more dining rooms. Rather than claiming a chair on the street, Nelson prefers bringing his take-out food back to his car, and enjoys it in privacy.

Pandemic Makes Ride-Hailing Gig Untenable for S.F. Man Living in His Car

During the pandemic, parking enforcement has been lax, and the 72-hour rule that forced Gregory Nelson to park in a new spot every few days is suspended. He found peace and stability staying in one spot — his version of sheltering in place — like millions of Americans. But working from home was not possible for him. Every week he tried to drive for Lyft, Nelson grappled with out-of-pocket expenses to use the ride-hailing app: car rental fees, tolls, gas and the occasional car wash. Within weeks of the shelter-in-place order, Nelson could no longer afford driving.

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Gregory Nelson brushes his fingers across the hood of his vehicle, smudging the ashes that have settled on it in early September. “Look at all this dust,” Nelson said, raising his blackened fingers. “I just washed my car yesterday. Now, it’s on everything again. You cannot have anything nice out here.” On Sept. 9, some 14,000 firefighters were battling 28 major wildfires across California. And while the containment of August’s lightning fires seemed imminent, several new wildfires ignited and were fanned by strong gusty winds. Since the beginning of the year, more than 8,500 wildfires have burned over 4.1 million acres in California. To date, the total number of deaths due to wildfires statewide is 31, and nearly 10,500 structures have been destroyed. Thousands of wildfire evacuees are living in emergency shelters and inside their vehicles.

Photo Essay — Pandemic Makes Ride-Hailing Gig Untenable for S.F. Man Living in His Car

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Public Press featured Gregory Nelson in “Driving Home: Surviving the Housing Crisis,” a photojournalism project by Yesica Prado documenting the experiences of people living in vehicles in the Bay Area. Prado followed up with Nelson to find out how his life has changed during the pandemic.

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Tantay Tolbert changes her son’s clothes on the dining room table in her new apartment. In March, the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco offered her a hotel room for 90 days, and this became her first step into stable housing. After the hotel room, she transitioned into subsidized housing. “They looked out for me during the time of my pregnancy,” Tolbert said. “They gave us vouchers and made sure we had something to eat. It was catered food every day. It was blessed.” On June 16, Hamilton Families gave Tolbert the keys to her new apartment. “On Tupac’s birthday. It’s a Black holiday,” she said. A time to celebrate.

From an RV to Four Walls and a Pantry: One New Mom’s Story

In a dimly lit living room, Tantay Tolbert reaches for a warm bottle of milk on the glass coffee table. Her month-old baby, Supreme Samuel Lloyd-Vaughn, softly cries in her arms. She caresses his black curls as she tilts the bottle into his mouth. “You were hungry, my baby?” Tolbert asks with a smile. “You eat a lot, baby.” It’s an ordinary day for Tolbert — comforting Supreme and dressing him in cute clothes. And yet, what seems ordinary now represents dramatic change and newfound stability.

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Tantay Tolbert poses for a portrait with her son Supreme inside her 1977 Chevrolet Impala in front of her apartment in Richmond. She is hoping to get $10,000 when she sells this classic vehicle. Since the pandemic started, Tolbert and her partner have increased their car sales. “People are buying equity, and they can get to where they need to go,” she said. Tolbert says she has used some of her unemployment benefits to buy cars at auctions. She and her partner fix up the cars and sell them to people — some of whom are using their own unemployment benefits to pay for the vehicles. “We’ve been doing it since I was 21. I’m 38 now. We can do this with our eyes closed,” Tolbert said confidently. “This has been the whole solid foundation.”

Photo Essay — From an RV to Four Walls and a Pantry: One New Mom’s Story

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Public Press featured Tantay Tolbert in “Driving Home: Surviving the Housing Crisis,” a photojournalism project by Yesica Prado documenting the experiences of people living in vehicles in the Bay Area. Prado followed up with Tolbert to find out how her life has changed in recent months.

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