In 2003, Kris Kalberer left her job as a retail manager to raise her kids and care for her elderly mother.
The family did well on her husband’s income from his job at Countrywide. But he lost his job in the mortgage crisis.
Their finances spiraled out of control, and they lost their house in 2011.
Since then they’ve lived with friends and in motels. Currently, the family lives in their car.
At StoryCorps, Kris sat down with her teenage daughter, Erika Kalberer, to talk about their situation.
This interview is part of Finding Our Way: Stories of Family Homelessness in the Puget Sound, a project supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Click here for the transcript.
One time we were all asleep and a car pulls up perpendicular to us and turned their brights on and started yelling, "Hey" over and over again. And it turns out it's some high school kids waking us up to see who's in the car and what we're doing. I don't think they realized it was a family sleeping in a car. And I just felt ashamed.
How is it to be around your friends?
Erika Kalberer (EK): I mean, we've been living in our car for over a year now, so I'm pretty sure some of them kind of have a hunch. There's only so long you can lie without them like, suspecting. But I don't really want them to, like, pity me.
And I've had to adjust the way I do things completely for school. I try to go to the library to do my homework but sometimes that's just kind of impossible. Like, we're not near one or we don't have enough gas to get to one. And that kind of screwed up my GPA and any chances of getting into colleges I would want to get into. I worry about that a lot.
KK: Erika, I don't think sometimes you know how strong you are. You are an extremely bright young woman. And you can go to college. And you will go to college.
EK: You, you tell me that I have my life ahead of me, but I think that you do too. And I, I'd have no idea what I'd be doing with myself if you weren't around.
KK: I think this whole thing has taken us for a spin. And this is one thing as a mom I didn't expect I'd have to try to fix. I've been able to fix everything else, but this… I'm having a hard time fixing. And I'm disappointed that I can't.