KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – This pandemic continues to be a struggle for everyone, but even more so for those who were struggling with basic needs before the crisis hit.
Now the gap is widening even more for people without the means to put food on the table or a roof over their head.
Currently, the parking lot at a metro Flying J truck stop is the safest place for some people to shut their eyes at night.
One of those people is a woman named Dawn. She lost her job and her place to live when the stay at home order started and now lives in her 2006 Toyota Camry with her cat hope.
While she didn’t want to show her face out of embarrassment, she told KCTV5 News that she represents many people in Kansas City, struggling to stay healthy and safe.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s depressing, it’s sad, it’s scary. It’s everything,” Dawn said.
The 53-year-old was a server at a local restaurant but was laid off three weeks ago. The friend who she was living with also lost her job and moved across the state.
Dawn was set to move into her own place April 1, but now can’t afford the first month’s rent required to move in to her new home.
So for now, she is trying to get by in a pandemic without having a stable roof over her head.
“Getting ready in the backseat of your car, like brushing my teeth out of a milk jug of water, you know, taking a shower every once in a while at Flying J or going to a friends house,” Dawn described. “I don’t like that, I don’t like the situation I’m in. It’s embarrassing, you know?”
She’s already got a new job lined up at a grocery store but can’t start until she gets a copy of her birth certificate in the mail. She worries about her health considering she has such a bad case of asthma that she had to find an inverter for her car to be able to plug in her nebulizer.
“Sometimes when I get real stressed out, my asthma bothers me a lot, like when I get upset,” she said.
Dawn is at risk when it comes to COVID-19, but says she has no choice but to get back to work.
Tara Raghuveer of housing advocacy group KC Tenants said there isn’t a solution yet for Dawn’s situation besides help with food and prescriptions.
“She and many people who are frontline, essential workers now are actually some of the people who are the most vulnerable and should be staying at home,” Raghuveer told KCTV5 News. “It’s something that weighs on me every night because I’m in touch with probably upwards of 10 people in similar situations who are not being served by what little service infrastructure exists right now. And are scared. And are sick of living out on the streets in a time when they’re being told to stay home.”
KC Tenants is calling on the local, state and federal lawmakers to do more to help people like Dawn, like passing a temporary rent and mortgage suspension and higher pay for those essential workers at grocery stores and drive-thru restaurants.
KC Tenants launched a hotline at 816-533-5435 this week for people who find themselves homeless, getting evicted or in unsafe housing. They also have more information at their website, KCTenants.org.
For now, Dawn is struggling but grateful for what little she does have. She has hope this pandemic will pass and she’ll come out on the other side stronger.
“I have a car. Like the other night when it was cold, it was cold in my car. So the people who were outside, I can’t imagine. I can turn my car on every once in a while and it warm up you know, they can’t.”