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

May 9, 2019 | Blog

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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