Hunker Down Diaries: Portland, Ore., Woman Lives In Her Minivan During Pandemic : Coronavirus Live Updates Naida Lavon, 67, was recently furloughed from her job because of the pandemic and lost her housing in March. Now, she lives out of her minivan as she navigates the changed world around her.
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For Portland, Ore., Woman, Home These Days Is Where She Parks Her Minivan

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For Portland, Ore., Woman, Home These Days Is Where She Parks Her Minivan

For Portland, Ore., Woman, Home These Days Is Where She Parks Her Minivan

For Portland, Ore., Woman, Home These Days Is Where She Parks Her Minivan

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/882080701/882481391" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Naida Lavon, 67, lives in her minivan after losing her housing and being furloughed from her job. Naida Lavon hide caption

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Naida Lavon

Naida Lavon, 67, lives in her minivan after losing her housing and being furloughed from her job.

Naida Lavon

The coronavirus pandemic has left tens of millions of people without a safety net. Naida Lavon is one of them.

Lavon is 67 years old, a retired school bus driver, and she was recently furloughed from her part-time job at Avis Rent-a-Car. In March, she also found herself without a home so she started living in her minivan on the streets of Portland, Ore. For the past few months, Lavon has been keeping an audio diary of her experience being newly homeless.

Her first night living in her car, Lavon didn't know where to park and feel safe. She drove around and found a road in an industrial area on the west side of Portland's airport. The road is lined on both sides with people living in their cars, RVs and trailers. Many look as if they have been parked there a long time: They have awnings and furniture set up. Lavon parks alongside them each night, and although she doesn't interact with her neighbors much, she says she feels there's safety in numbers.

For privacy, Lavon has blacked out most of the minivan's windows with insulating material. Her bed takes up half the back of her car. Her mattress is made out of seat cushions, camping pads and a duvet cover. She has an old sleeping bag for warmth. She stores her belongings in plastic drawers and a rooftop carrier.

Lavon (here before the pandemic) considers herself fortunate compared with other people without housing. Laura Jones hide caption

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Laura Jones

Lavon (here before the pandemic) considers herself fortunate compared with other people without housing.

Laura Jones

One of the biggest hurdles for Lavon is staying clean. Because of the pandemic, many public restrooms are closed. She often goes to the grocery store during the day to use the bathroom and wash up. Occasionally, she stops by a friend's apartment to take a shower. Lavon says she tries not to panic about the possibility of getting the virus but takes as many precautions as she can.

Lavon considers herself fortunate compared with others living on the streets. She has a nice car, which runs well. She's usually clean and well-dressed. She has Social Security and a small pension, even if it's not enough to afford housing in Portland.

Hunker Down Diaries

Hunker Down Diaries is a new series from Radio Diaries, sharing short diaries and conversations between people thrown together by the pandemic. Stories about ordinary life in extraordinary times. To hear more stories from the Hunker Down Diaries series, subscribe to the Radio Diaries Podcast.

In her audio diary, Lavon records a conversation with her daughter, Laura Jones, 43, as they sit in a Starbucks parking lot. Jones lives about two hours away in Tacoma, Wash., with her husband and two kids.

Jones wants to know how long her mother thinks she can live out of her minivan — until September, Lavon replies.

"I would like for you to stay with us," her daughter says.

But there's no spare room, and Lavon would be sleeping in the kitchen nook.

"I'm not comfortable with that," Lavon tells her daughter. "I hate to feel like a burden."

Lavon also worries that her presence would add tension to Jones' relationship with her husband.

For Jones, the hardest part has been seeing her mom's bed in the car.

"That's when it hit me," she tells her mother. "What kind of daughter am I if I'm letting you live in your car?"

Lavon has struggled with housing instability since she was a kid. She grew up with a single mom who worked multiple jobs, and they moved around a lot.

"I'm just one of those people that's always on the move, not always willingly," Lavon says. "That's just how my life has gone."

This story was produced by Nellie Gilles of Radio Diaries, with help from Sarah Kate Kramer and Joe Richman. It was edited by Deborah George and Ben Shapiro. We also had help from Jessica Deahl.