Living in her car, she was afraid and harassed. Then she found an unexpected refuge


Los Angeles (CNN) As an Uber driver, Lauren Kush tries to keep her Toyota Prius spotless.

But keeping it tidy serves a dual purpose. The 36-year-old woman is homeless and has been sleeping in her car at night, converting the back seat into a bed. 

“I usually wake up a few times, just tossing and turning,” she said recently as she grabbed some blankets from her trunk.

“It’s not very comfortable,” Kush said of the tight space. “I’m 5-foot-6 or -7, so I have to make sure I have some legroom, and this is basically it.”

Kush started sleeping in her car when she could no longer afford an apartment in Los Angeles, where median rent for a one-bedroom is $2,350 per month. She’s now among more than 16,000 people in LA County who live in their vehicles — about a quarter of the nearly 60,000 homeless people here.

California’s rising homelessness problem has led to an overall increase of 2.7% nationwide this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said in a press release Friday.

But while cars, trucks and RVs can be cost-effective alternatives in places with some of the nation’s steepest rents, they lack bathrooms and showers — key amenities for people with jobs but no home. Beyond that, sleeping in them on most city streets is illegal. And they often leave inhabitants vulnerable.

“I was harassed constantly,” Kush said of nights spent parallel parked. “People were screaming or there was a fight.”

Many of those obstacles vanished this year for Kush, however, when she started overnighting in the Prius in a parking lot monitored by a security guard hired to keep watch over an impromptu neighborhood of makeshift shelters.

“I don’t have to worry about being raped,” she said. “I don’t have to be worried about being robbed in the middle of the night.”

The site is run by the nonprofit Safe Parking LA, which offers a “safe and stable place to park the vehicle, remain compliant with local laws, and have access to restroom facilities.”

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7 thoughts on “Living in her car, she was afraid and harassed. Then she found an unexpected refuge

  1. ‘an apartment in Los Angeles, where median rent for a one-bedroom is $2,350 per month. ‘ Yikes!!

    My niece and her family live in Jamestown, ND in a beautiful 3 bedroom 2 bath (and a laundry room !) and pay $1100.00 per month in rent.
    So 3 working adults in that same apartment would share the rent at $367.00 per month.

    1. I live in a 150 square foot truck with a 5 gallon bucket for a toilet. And you know what? I love it. 🙂 everything nice and close, refrigerator, micro, nice bunk awesome heat and cold and they pay me to do it. Not for everybody, but it works goddamnit!

      I see couples with big dogs doing it, now that would suck.

      1. For a woman, exposed in a small car like a Prius, IDK, even in a “secure” parking lot it seems like a safety risk. Lotsa craziness lurking around especially in CA. A lot of people in her parking area could pose a risk. Rape theft. People on the edge.

    2. Jamestown, ah that brings back memories, I bought a couple of houses in New Rockford back in 2011 and we used to drive to Carrington and Jamestown to shop. The cost of living is cheap there.

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