Living in a van and working long hours at 7-Eleven, Erik and Danyeil make every effort to save for an apartment. But money for groceries is scarce, and the two struggle to make the most out of a tough situation.
1. Working To Save Up
Erik: I’m currently in Ironworkers and that’s for an apprenticeship program, and Dani’s about ready to go back to school probably later on this year.
Danyeil: Hopefully. If things work out.
Danyeil: We both work at 7-11.
Erik: We work at 7-11. Both of us. Same owner, different stores.
Danyeil: Yeah, different stores.
Erik: Oh, our work schedule’s crazy. We work midnight to 8. It’s pretty much, we don’t get set lunches or set breaktimes for that.
Danyeil: No. We just work out eight hours and sometimes plus eight hours. I mean, we’re working six days a week to get together money to get an apartment. If it wasn’t for a pastor who had done several funerals in his family and two weddings, I mean, we wouldn’t be going into the apartment that we’re getting in January. Yeah, he offered to help us. We’re very blessed to have that help.
2. Dani’s Reflection
Danyeil: I’ve been homeless a couple times before, but never to this degree. He’s really not had to face that, at all. It’s depressing. I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like, I don’t know. Even though I know it’s not my fault, it’s hard. Because I look at my life. I used to have a really good job, and I really liked that. Now, I’m working for 7-11, which, I thank god I even have a job because a lot of people don’t have jobs.
It’s a real wake up call. It really is.
I worked as an internet tech support person. I was making $13.78 an hour. Going from that to steadily moving down the ladder as far as jobs, I had to wind up quitting because I just couldn’t handle the stress. It was really affecting my health. I had health issues at the time. That was when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I had my gall bladder removed. All in the same time frame, so it was just a lot. And I wound up quitting, which is probably one of my worst mistakes that I made.
Then I was a server for several years. Different restaurants. I got laid off October 2013? Yeah, October 2013. That’s when things started really going downhill. Because it seemed like after that, I couldn’t find a full time job, and that’s when his grandfather really started going downhill so between not having a very good job and having to take care of a person with dementia, it was a lot of stress.
3. A Slow Decline
Danyeil: We just eat what’s available.
Erik: We try to eat non-perishables.
Danyeil: Unfortunately, the government, our wonderful government, when we had a place to live, they were giving him a decent amount of food stamps, and now they’ve knocked him back to $15 a month.
Erik: I was getting about $100, I was getting $200 when I was first taking care of my grandfather because I was part time college student, full time care giver for him so I was not making any money at all.
Danyeil: But then even after you got the job.
Erik: No, then they knocked it down to $180. Got the job, they still kept it at about $160. Then when I became homeless, I told them, I’m homeless, I don’t have an address.
Danyeil: Because it was about time for redetermination.
Erik: They told me, you’re eligible, but because you’re working and you’re homeless, $15.
Danyeil: Which they don’t understand, you can’t keep a lot of food in the car.
Erik: But even if it’s not perishables, it still helps.
Danyeil: Well, I know, but I’m just saying, they don’t understand.
4. Through the Cracks
Erik: Well, everything has been in slow decline since I was in high school. I was the one that worked as a nurse tech. Did that for about, I think it was twenty years.
Danyeil: He’s talking in general.
Erik: No, it’s interesting because I mean, I was used to having a really good job, like Dani had. I worked in nursing. I worked at places like shock trauma, worked at places like those. Then it’s onto a fire company. Then it’s becoming a volunteer fire fighter EMT. It was just like a slow decline. It really was, and pop, and I was always used to making decent money. I mean, 7-11 pays me just slightly more than minimum wage. Where I was used to just going out and my job gets me an apartment, be able to have money, I can go get a credit card if I want one. And you know, it has been devastating. What I’ve been trying is to get with a new attitude. With a lot of guys in my iron working hall and stuff like that, they’ve been trying to keep me positive, Dani’s been trying to keep me positive. It’s: we’re going to make it through it, and . . . and we’re going to.
And that’s the toughest part is just watching my family slowly disappear because of everything. Because of greed and everything like that. To now where I can’t even ask anybody for anything. It’s up to me. It’s up to me, it’s up to Dani. It’s up to whoever that may be around us at the time.