A YouTube blogger who goes by the name Jeff 4 Justice wanted to document the experiences of homeless people forced to live in their vehicles, and he didn’t have to go far to find them.
Jeff, who won’t reveal his legal name, headed to the Walmart parking lot in Glendora in February and counted 15 people camped out in their vehicles.
In his first video, he interviewed a woman named Linda, who had been living in her pickup truck at Walmart for several weeks. Disabled and unable to make ends meet with social security and disability checks alone, she decided to pack up her belongings into her pickup truck and call it home.
In a followup video posted earlier this month, Jeff goes back to the Glendora Walmart and finds another woman to interview. The woman, who didn’t want to appear on camera or reveal her name, said off-camera that she and her adult son began living in their four-door sedan when their apartment building was deemed unsafe to live in by authorities. She said she was disabled, and although her son is college educated, she said he had been unable to find employment that would pay enough for housing. She said they had no choice but to live in their car.
“I had been told by others and seen it on T.V. that Walmart can be frequented by those who are campers…but I know not all Walmarts are that welcoming,” she said.
Jeff, himself a homeless man living in his vehicle – a lifestyle he insists is by choice – told Patch he wanted to break the stereotypes of homeless people.
“I want to move beyond the stereotype that homeless people are crazy, lazy or drug addicted,” said Jeff. “The people I met and interviewed are the middle class, victims of prolonged economic recession. They are older people who are disabled and can’t afford housing.”
Jeff said he started living in his vehicle by choice in 2010 when he noticed that most of his modest paycheck was going toward rent. Then he got laid off from his job and has since drifted in temporary positions throughout California.
Using his car as his makeshift podcast studio, he began posting survival tips on how to live in a vehicle to YouTube. The YouTube tutorials turned into interviews of people he met along his wandering journey, including random celebrities such as Roseanne Barr, Chaz Bono, Tavis Smiley, and Olympia Dukakis.
But Jeff says he uses his YouTube channel as a way to promote social activism and spread awareness on the plight of homeless people, from exposing cities less sympathetic to the homeless to promoting programs such as the Safe Parking Program in Los Angeles. Jeff also passes along a list of resources to the homeless he has met in his travels, from shelter and food options, to places where they can shower.
“The biggest thing is the homeless-phobia ,” he said. “We shouldn’t’ be criminalizing people we should be helping them.”