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Launched TUESDAY August 13, 2019. Reportage #708: Down And Out In America: The Invisible Homeless: GWEN MAYSE leaned against her Honda Accord and looked around nervously with her small Yorkshire terrier tucked under her arm. She was too scared to sleep. Mayse, 59, normally sleeps in her car with her two small dogs. She lies in the driver's seat, reclined all the way back. She parks next to her daughter's Jeep Cherokee in a cul-de-sac of a north Sacramento business park. Half of the cul-de-sac is surrounded by barbed wire. The warehouse that used to house a city homeless shelter sits empty only feet away. As Sacramento struggles to find a solution to its growing homeless problem - opening and closing shelters, converting hotels to help the homeless, occasionally clearing out homeless encampments - a new problem confronts the county. The number of people, including families with children, living in their cars in Sacramento County has drastically increased in the last four years. Volunteers canvassing the county in January found four times the number of vehicles where people were living than they counted in 2015. Researchers estimate people were sleeping in at least 340 vehicles in the county. This included approximately 100 children. Most of the vehicles were in the city of Sacramento. The problem illustrates the complex task of reducing the homeless population in Sacramento, which has seen rents and housing prices rise dramatically even as it budgets tens of millions of dollars on shelters and support services. The city is scrambling to avoid problems like those in San Francisco, where scenes of squalor have become a symbol of the divide between the rich and the poor.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
''I feel a lot cleaner, it's awesome to get a shower or a bath, it's better then sex. It would be nice to get a real shower,'' said LAURANE IVEY, 37, after bathing in a plastic container on Railroad Shelter drive.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, gets ready to help move a friends belongings and dog to transitional housing after leaving Sacramento's Railroad Drive shelter. Ivey has been living in her car a week before the shelter closed. She says they wouldn't let her back in after she took several days to go to her daughter's funeral. She says her daughter was hit by a car and spent several days in a coma, suffered 14 broken bones and died. Ivey's mother GWEN MAYSE, 59, right, is also living in a car.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, feeds dogs that belong to several homeless people living in cars. She said she has been living on the streets since she was 12.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
''I'd rather sleep in a home, I couldn't sleep out here without my dog,'' says GWEN MAYSE, as she stresses about moving her vehicle on Friday, in Sacramento. She and her daughter were told to move their vehicles from The Railroad Drive Shelter before August 5th and had no idea where they were going to park.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, has suffered two strokes, seizures, asthma and depression and says she needs to have a car to drive in case of medical emergencies.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, who lives in her car says she has suffered from strokes and seizures and is looking for a place to rent where she can have a bathroom, running water and a safe place to sleep.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
''Life is hard,'' says LAURANE IVEY, 37, who has been sleeping with her boyfriend in the back of this van. Since then she has traded the van for an RV but has yet to get it registered. She worries that the cops will tow it away.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, left, holds Princess, as her mom GWEN MAYSE, 59, holds Phat-Phat, as they scan for apartments to rent. They say although they get $1,000 dollars in Social Security they can't afford the high applications fees and that their low credit hurt their chances.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, sinks deep into a pink plastic tub filled with water from a fire hydrant as she begins to scrub the dirt from her worn feet. Above her is a barbed wire fence surrounding the shelter she used to live in before it closed. With no place to go she lives in her car joining other homeless in parked cars across the street including her mom, who sleeps with two tiny dogs for protection. She says she wished their was a designated parking spot for the homeless with showers and portable toilets. She says she has to go to the bathroom in a bag inside her car.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, says she has been living on the streets since she was 12-years-old. She and her mother say they need their dogs for protection.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, carries a machete as she clears brush near the parking area where she lives in her vehicle. ''I've been chopping down all the weeds and stuff here. For one its a fire hazard, and my truck and two cars, right here, I don't want to catch on fire,'' she said.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, sits in a hammock holding her dog Princess as her mom GWEN MAYSE, 59, tends to their dogs. They both live in vehicles and hope to have a permanent place to park. They spend most days searching for housing but because of bad credit they say they haven't had any luck.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
TAJIA THELUSMA, 30, stressed as she smokes from a vaping pipe, talking about the hard struggles of being homeless and living in her car on Friday, in Sacramento.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
''I've got a headache,'' says GWEN MAYSE, 59, as she stresses in a van on Friday. She and her daughter were told they had to move their vehicles before Aug. 5th and they had no idea where they were going to go.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
After pouring water in her car radiator and connecting the battery for her lights to work, GWEN MAYSE, 59, uses a head lamp inside her car. At the time she was caring for her and her daughter's dogs.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
DANA ASHLEY, 54, eats a donated lunch of spaghetti among dogs, Queenie, Deva, and Tiny, that belong to him, his mom and her daughter on Thursday.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, right, and her mother GWEN MAYSE, 59, left, eat a donated lunch of spaghetti on the hood of Ivey's vehicle that she shares with her boyfriend. The mother and daughter have been living in vehicles since the Railroad Drive shelter closed.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
LAURANE IVEY, 37, and her boyfriend HERB now live in an RV that they got after trading in their van. Ivey said she suffered from heat stroke and was too exhausted to get out of bed. ''It's a lot better than a car but it's hot,'' said Ivey.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
''I'm a scaredy-cat, I'm not one of those tough broads,'' said GWEN MAYSE, 59, while holding her dog Queenie, as the sun went down and she pondered where she could park to sleep in her car on Thursday in California's capital.
© Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Wire
Renée C. Byer :: zReportage Photo

Renée C. Byer is an American documentary photojournalist best known for her in-depth work focusing on the disadvantaged and those who otherwise would not be heard. Byer’s ability to produce photographs with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity earned her the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2007 and made her a Pulitzer finalist in 2013. Renée has covered local, national, and international stories for The Sacramento Bee since 2003. Renée work has been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and on websites worldwide and was the basis for a 2009 TEDx Tokyo talk that received a standing ovation. Renée’s most recent book project “Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor,” invites you to help put an end to global poverty. Renée traveled to 10 countries on four continents to report on this story, with a forward by the Dalai Lama. The book has won numerous accolades worldwide, including the IPA’s First Place for a Documentary book. Byer’s reportage is proudly represented by ZUMA Press and been featured in award winning zReportage.com a record ten times, as well as DOUBLEtruck Magazine. When not on assignment, Renée can be found sharing her passion for photography at lectures and workshops worldwide. Renée C. Byer lives in Sacramento, California, USA.:708



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