“For three months I slept in my car”— Muhammad’s experience with the housing crisis

May 09, 2019

I’ve moved about 11 times and I’ve lived with over 20 roommates since 2014, entirely because of the high cost of rent.

Before I joined CA YIMBY, I thought that this was the new normal of living in California—that housing would always cost over 50% of my income. When a roommate couldn’t make rent for one month, we’d all get evicted. Owning a home or even having a savings account would be impossible. The future looked bleak. Why was everyone working so hard just to have a roof over their heads?

“For three months I slept in my car and worked as an Uber driver while going to school. When riders would request trips to the airport I’d have to deny them since I had no room in the trunk.”

I worked over 40 hours a week while being a full-time student at UC Berkeley. About half of my old roommates couldn’t make ends meet, and moved back in with their parents.

I struggled too, and for three months slept in my car and worked as an Uber driver while going to school. I remember when riders would request expensive trips to the airport and I’d have to deny them since I had no room in the trunk. I’d have to miss class to make ends meet. Panic and anxiety became normal. Just to shower, I would go to a friends apartment where he rented half a room for $800.

When I secured a sublet, I had to drive nearly an hour to get to class. When the sublet termed out, it was during my summer session so I had to temporarily live at three different locations in a 6 week period. I had to forgo my last semester at Cal because I couldn’t afford to live in the Bay Area anymore. I’ll be taking online classes from Sacramento this summer so I can finally receive a Bachelor’s Degree.

Ever since I was little I wanted to attend UC Berkeley. The housing shortage in California deprived me of a normal college experience. I just needed a place to live, and instead became part of the unseen homeless population in the Bay Area—the ones lucky enough to sleep in a vehicle every night.

Financial aid covers tuition for the state’s low-income students, but it doesn’t cover one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. I’ve heard that 10% of students have experienced homelessness while attending school.

That’s why I’m working hard to advocate for affordable housing production — because it’s the right thing to do. We need more housing in California, there’s no getting around that.

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