Oakland family of five homeless, living in Toyota Camry

A family of five from Oakland  who says they've never been homeless before until a year ago,  reached out to KTVU to share their story.

They  want to let people know that the homeless are not made up of only people with drug addictions or those suffering from mental illness.

Iesha Mandolph worked as an event planner for a medical device company and her husband Ezra Mandolph  was a sound technician.

They say they enjoyed a comfortable life with their three children.

But after Iesha gave birth to a daughter, Eden, last year, she  suffered a life-threatening medical condition.

Suddenly, the family's world turned upside down and ended up homeless.

At night, the family car is strategically parked in a spot that is hidden in plain view.
"It's scary. It's crazy.  It's madness," says Iesha.

The 35-year-old mother of three is holding Eden in the family sedan.  The toddler is showing signs of restlessness and wants to get out of the car, after being in it for hours with her parents, brother and sister.
"Driving around a lot is frustrating.  It's difficult ...especially when you have a toddler in the car," says Iesha.

The Toyota Camry has been home for the past several months. It's the family's lifeline.

But it's one that offers limited security.

"Is the cops going to pull up on us? Are we going to get caught by Child Protective Services ? Are they going to take my children away? Is someone going to come by the car and break into the car?" says Iesha about her concerns living out of the car.

Iesha got sick after giving birth to Eden.

She says she suffered from life threatening medical conditions: pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and a collapsed lung.  She was hospitalized and took months to recover. 

"Anything can happen.  Be ready," says Tamia Proctor, Iesha's daughter.  She's 17 and says the sudden turn of events was eye opening," A lot of people are one incident, one accident, one job loss away from this exact situation."

Her stepfather, Ezra Mandolph, took time off from work to care for Iesha and their new baby as Iesha recovered.  He eventually lost his job.

The family wasn't able to pay rent and started receiving welfare and food stamps.

"We just weren't able to keep up, to be very honest," says Ezra.

"It's lightning fast. it was literally I gave birth in the month of March and by July of last year, I had nowhere to live. I was on the street," says Iesha.

The family tells KTVU they were evicted from their home  in East Oakland.

They were paying $2,500 a month in rent for a three-bedroom apartment. Since then, they say they haven't been able find anything affordable.

Now, many days begin with the family of five cleaning up in the car and finding a public bathroom.  This time, they cleanup up in one at a public park.

16-year-old Jonathan stays by the car when brushing his teeth.

This family's story is a familiar one for Connie Green with the non-profit Building Opportunities for Self

Sufficiency, a group that runs shelters and helps find stable housing for the homeless.

"We tried to move people to Sacramento. We tried to move them to Stockton,  but even Stockton rents went up above people's income level," says Green. .
She  says the demand for subsidized housing in the Bay Area is staggering.

"I don't know what we can do if we don't find a way to make housing,   not necessarily subsidized,  but  affordable like below market rate," says Green.

The family says there is light at the end of this dark journey.

At the suggestion of a friend, the Mandolphs started a GoFundMe account in July. In three weeks, they've far exceeded their goal of $7,500.

With the surprise windfall, the family hit the road to look for an affordable apartment, driving back and forth to Las Vegas where housing is cheaper.

Hours after returning, Jonathan is at basketball practice at Oakland High.  He made the varsity team for fall.

The 16-year-old says basketball helped him  cope when they lost their home during his mom's sickness.
"It was terrible.  We were going through a lot at that moment in time," says Jonathan. His grades plummeted.

"He's not alone," says Orlando Watkins says of Jonathan.  Watkins says Oakland High's basketball coach    Watkins says during the past five years, he's seen an increase in the number of students having to move out of Oakland because of financial struggles.

“We've helped kids with groceries.  We've help kids' parents  with rent," says Watkins. 

But Jonathan was determined and  bounced back to a 3.0 grade point average.

After practice, Jonathan joins his family as they go to their storage unit, a trek they make several times a week.

They are packing up a change of clothing.

As day turns to night, the family manages to find a hotel room in Concord.

"She's definitely happy to be indoors," says Iesha of her baby Eden when they got into the hotel room. 

As they settle in for the night,  they say they have reason for cautious optimism.

With the money from the GoFundMe, they say they are applying for an apartment in Las Vegas where the  rent is  $1,200 a month for a three bedroom, half of what they were paying in East Oakland.

"Feeling powerless, helpless and hopeless.  I don't want to ever feel like this again.  I'm going to make a point of making better plans for our future," says Iesha.

The family is  reluctant to leave the Bay Area but say in order to survive they will go where they can start over.

The Mandolphs say they hope to find work soon and start saving to buy their own home someday.
 

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