We lived in a tent for five months because we couldn’t afford the $1,200 rent. Now we’re in Maine getting ready for winter.

Lauren Bahre and her husband Benji stand under the shade of the tent they were forced to live in due to financial hardship. Lauren holds the couple's dog, Ellie.

Lauren and Benji Bahre live in a tent with their dog, Ellie.Lauren Barre

  • Lauren Barre and her husband have been living in a tent for the past five months.

  • She said they are known as the “working homeless” because their income is so low that they cannot afford rent.

  • This is Barre’s story as told to Jane Ridley.

This is based on a conversation with Lauren Barre. Edited for length and clarity.

I worked at a hair salon in a small resort town in Maine. A wealthy client talks about her second home, recently purchased nearby.

They’ll say they want a blowout before dinner at a fine dining restaurant. I think, ‘Go home and have a bowl of cereal’.

My husband Benji and I live in a tent. And as winter approaches, the fear of becoming homeless grows.

I quit my job as a salon receptionist in May. I couldn’t handle the stress of having to look good all the time. The owner yelled at me for wearing open toe sandals with dirty feet. I was forced to choose between not taking a bath or washing myself in the 40 degree river. I couldn’t afford a manicure, let alone a pedicure.

Benji and I fall into the “working poor” category. He is a Starbucks barista and I currently work at a cannabis dispensary. Hours — $17 and $15 an hour respectively — vary and are not guaranteed. Our average salary is $2,400 per month. We’re above the federal poverty line, but still not enough to earn rent where we grew up.

We didn’t want a formal eviction notice from the court on our record

I don’t have enough money to rent an apartment, so I don’t have a roof over my head. Rent in our area is over $1,800 a month, plus utilities. Costs have more than doubled for him in the last two years. Landlords do short-term rentals on Airbnb, so long-term leases are hard to find. Homes sell for top prices to city dwellers looking for a second home in a beautiful location.

Things started to get worse after my mother, who owned the two-bedroom apartment we lived in with our daughter for four years, started formal proceedings to evict us. could not pay the rent. Her mother and I have always had a volatile relationship, but I never thought she would kick us out.

We lived paycheck to paycheck. Then COVID-19 made him unwell for a month before he lost his job at the bagel store. I ended up with a nebulizer because I was left with asthma and potential damage to my lungs. It even reached her husband. He took his two weeks off work.

A blue shade provides shade over the propane camp stove where Lauren and Benji cook.

The couple cooks basic foods like potatoes and noodles on a propane-fueled camp stove.Lauren Barre

My mother said the next steps would be dealt with in court.

But we couldn’t afford to buy anything. One of the worst experiences of my life was driving my girlfriend’s 13 year old to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to live with her father. My ex-boyfriend is a nice guy, but he didn’t know when he would see his child. gas Expensive, the 18-year-old Subaru Forester needed a lot of repairs.

You feel defenseless when you have nowhere to retreat

We dropped our daughter off and spent the night at a rest stop on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.then we moved to walmart parking. I lowered the car seat and used the plywood as a base for the bed. I layered blankets until I was comfortable.

The sign said no overnight parking, but there were at least 8 other vehicles parked nearby. Use the Walmart bathroom discreetly to avoid suspicion. Without a good place to retreat, you feel defenseless.

A friend lent us a roof rack to put our belongings on. The biggest challenge was that it was always wet. I stored my clothes in plastic bins to keep them as dry as possible.

Lauren Bahre's dog, Ellie, sits on a camp bed in her owner's tent.

Lauren Bahre’s dog, Ellie, has room to move around inside a 10 x 10 tent.Lauren Barre

By the end of April, the weather had improved.non-profit organizations in New Hampshire roadside station They gave us tents and other camping equipment such as sleeping bags and tarps. We drove to White Mountain National Forest to find the place. First-come, first-served basis. There is well water, but there are no facilities such as toilets and showers.

As a general rule, do not stay in one place for more than 14 nights. If you don’t obey, the rangers will move you. After that, you cannot camp within 10 miles. Some other campers are nosy and ask why you are always there. The ranger went around and at least he moved seven times.

For cooking, we installed a small propane-powered two-burner stove. We eat a lot of carb-heavy foods like $1 noodles, macaroni and cheese, and potatoes of almost any kind.

There were times when I couldn’t stop crying because of each other’s circumstances

At least for now. There is a river flowing nearby, so you can enter wearing a swimsuit. In fact, heat is more difficult to handle than cold. It’s exhausting to be outside without a place to cool off. At least in winter you can bundle up.

Looking back, the first few weeks of camp were the hardest. The long separation from my daughter combined with my fear of the unknown. There were moments when I couldn’t stop crying, mostly on the drive home from work. “The day is over, but I don’t have a home to go back to,” you think. I only have a tent

My husband was my rock and kept me sane.

Lauren and Benji Barre stand in front of a tent, with Lauren holding the couple's dog, Ellie, in her arms.

Burles and Ellie.Lauren Barre

We are not actually broadcasting our situation. It makes you uncomfortable when someone finds out that you are homeless. scary for them

Benji and I got a lot of advice from the nonprofit that provided us with the tent. According to them, the latest census showed he had more than 4,000 homeless people in Maine. But those are only those who reported themselves as homeless.we are on the next waiting list Section 8 housing, but they told us it would take five to eight years. We applied for the General Support Fund, but were turned down because the income was considered too high.

Now we are debating every day about what to do next. We’re barely scraping it off and I don’t know how we’re going to pay for even a cheap winter rental.At this point in our lives — I’m 36 and my husband is her 30 — get an apartment You may lose it very quickly.

The homeless stereotype is someone who sleeps soundly because of drugs. But that’s not our situation. It’s harder than ever to be poor in this country.

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