Housing in and around Silicon Valley has been an issue for anyone not making tech figure salaries for some time, with more and more people outside the industry being displaced by the needs of Facebook and Google workers.
The Guardian reports that in California’s East Palo Alto—which is a separate town from Palo Alto—homelessness is becoming closer to the norm for school age children in the district. About one third of school age children are defined as homeless, either sharing space with other families, living in RVs or in shelters. That’s 1,147 kids. While some consider moving into more affordable agricultural areas, it’s often difficult to find work there. The Guardian followed one family who live in an RV, describing the difficult conditions for their three girls, who are still attending school from their mobile home:
The RV has almost no free space. The main cabin has two beds – one for the girls, and a second that converts into a table where the children do their homework. Omar cooks in a tiny kitchen, but because the refrigerator is broken there is no way to store fresh food. Bags of clothing are heaped on the floor, and the windows are sealed with aluminum tape for warmth. Omar sleeps in a back room crowded with belongings.
“The shower is here, but we turned it into a closet,” said Luna, five, pointing at a door. Instead, the family washes at a YMCA. They try to use the RV toilet as little as possible because the tank fills quickly.
Their father, Omar Chavez, was injured at work and the family lost their home. While the neighborhood of East Palo Alto was traditionally inhabited by Latino and black families, the influx of white gentrifiers working for the nearby tech industry has completely changed the rental landscape and cost of living. Omar’s wife Adriana makes $11 an hour working in a day care, and with one bedroom rentals now averaging at $2,200 a month, they thought the $1,000 RV was the best option.
The Guardian also spoke with the superintendent of Ravenswood City school district, Gloria Hernandez-Goff, who has plans for ways to adapt school land to suit the needs of her students who are living as the Chavez family does, such as installing washing machines at the school and opening the parking lot to RVs so students can feel safer sleeping at night. She believes lack of sleep and stress is affecting many of her students’ educational experience and lowering test scores. Of the dynamic between Palo Alto and its Eastern counterpart, she says, “You used to say you’re on the wrong side of the tracks. Now you’re on the wrong side of the freeway.”