Over 3,000 children are homeless in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Meadow Dawn Sylvester has been homeless for 18 months now.
It's 6:45 AM at the First Friendship shelter in San Francisco, with families trickling out, including Meadow Sylvester, her husband Aaron, and their 8 year-old son AJ.
"It really seems like to me that poor is the new thing to be prejudiced against," says Aaron Burrows.
The family of three sleep on a mat together with AJ in the middle, in a room filled with about 50 other homeless people.
"Many people snore... I hear this a lot of times, konk choo konk choo," says 8 year-old AJ Burrows.
Every morning, the three pack up and leave the shelter near Alamo Square at 7 AM.
That's when families are forced out, only to be allowed back in later in the afternoon.
"Every morning we walk about ten blocks just to get to the bus to get him to school."
Their first stop: A market and Peet's Coffee.
After dipping into the bank account, Meadow learns they only have $140 for the rest of the month. It's only the 12th of the month.
The family lives off Meadow's disability and Aaron's state welfare checks, which total $1,500 per month.
The Burrows say a long and drawn out landlord dispute -- coupled with skyrocketing rents -- forced them out of their Bayview appartment.
"There's a mixture of looks you get but a lot of it is just people look disgusted," says Aaron Burrows.
Aaron suffers from social anxiety disorder. Meadow has PTSD. Both are recovering heroin addicts.
Every morning, they wash up in the market's restroom.
They only get a shower once a week, at the homeless shelter.
While Aaron must leave for a doctor appointment, Meadow walks six more city blocks and catches a bus to AJ's school.
Meadow admits she looks older than her actual age, 37 years old.
"My son calls me a turtle you know because I wear my house on my back."
All of the family's belongings are in one cart.
AJ is acutely aware of his situation. Lately he's been having trouble at school.
He frequently gets sick and doesn't sleep well at the shelter full of crying babies and snoring adults.
His teachers say AJ winds up sleeping most days on a cot set up in the school office.
His parents say he's scared when they leave him at school for the day, afraid they might not be back to pick him up, or that CPS is going to take him away.
The family has been trying for five months to get into a shelter where they can have their own room and work toward more permanent housing.
Compass is a homeless advocacy group. Officials there say there are nearly 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco. A quarter of them are families with children.
It's like I go to these appointments, I fill out these applications, and it's so depressing," says Meadow.
Today she meets with a case worker who is trying to help.
"I think as of right now the average time that people are searching for housing can be from up to six months up to five years," says Rachel Stoltzfus, Assistant Program Manager of Housing at the Homeless Prenatal program.
The Burrows lost their Section 8 voucher, so finding a new home on $1,500 per month is nearly impossible
"The rents range now from for like a two bedroom it can be like an average of $ 4,800... It's really a miracle that families kind of survive the day to day grind"
Officials say the Burrows best bet is to find permanent supportive housing where there is onsite support and rent is adjusted based on income.
With no family to help them, they say they'll continue to muddle their way through the system.
"He shouldn't have to worry about where are we gonna stay tonight, you know?" says Meadow.
In the days since KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty did this story, the family has moved out of the shelter and into a van.