A 75-year-old woman has shared her challenging story of being compelled to live in her 2013 Chevy van due to her inability to afford rent, despite working full-time.
Lindy, an Arizona resident, has found herself grappling with the repercussions of surging inflation and the increasing cost of living. She has adapted to a life on wheels inside her van, where she has set up a small bed, a small stove, and boxes for storage. In a bid to stay warm during colder months, she relies on a tiny stove since she cannot afford heating. Fortunately, she lives in an area where snow is not a concern, as using butane for heating can cost her around $400 per month, an expense she cannot meet. While she has solar panels in her van, maintaining them has proven too costly and unreliable.
During the scorching Arizona summers, Lindy is unable to afford air conditioning, enduring sweltering conditions that once reached a staggering 140 degrees inside her van. Despite receiving social security benefits, Lindy still finds herself with very little left for food after other expenses.
Lindy attempted to apply for food stamps a few years ago but was told she earned ‘$8 a month too much’ to qualify. She relies on food donations from churches, often receiving bags of vegetables weekly. Any extra money she manages to secure is used to stockpile food, ensuring she has a reserve that includes six months’ worth of supplies, including 40 pounds of rice and 20-30 pounds of beans.
Regarding housing, Lindy has encountered difficulties with the state’s housing system. She was informed that her rent in low-income housing would be higher because she had a job. To be eligible for lower-cost housing, she would have to be unemployed for six months, a situation that would make it nearly impossible for her to survive for a year and a half. Reentering the housing system after leaving it also presents challenges. In her last attempt to navigate the system, a state employee advised her, “You are so much better off in that van.”
Lindy, who has been living in her van for over a year and a half, reflects on the ever-increasing cost of living, lamenting that “everything costs money.” Despite her struggles, she remains fiercely independent, with a son who would help if needed.
Statistics from the Economic Policy Institute indicate that older women are more likely to live in poverty, with 17 percent of women between the ages of 70–79 and 22 percent of women aged 80 and over living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, men have lower poverty rates at 11 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Inflation remains a significant concern, with a 7.1 percent rate reported. Data from Dunnhumby reveals that one-third of households are reducing meal sizes or skipping meals to save money, while 18 percent report not getting enough food to eat. Additionally, 31 percent have downsized their portions due to rising grocery prices.
In addition to food costs, a large portion of the population lacks a financial safety net. A striking 64 percent of participants in a study admitted they would not be able to come up with $400 in an emergency. Inflation has caused substantial increases in the prices of essential goods, with meat and poultry up by 10.4 percent, cereal up by 15.1 percent, and fruits and vegetables up by 8.1 percent. Gas prices have risen by nearly 60 percent in the past year, airfares are up by more than 34 percent, and used car prices have increased by over 7 percent. Apparel costs are up by 5.2 percent, shelter costs by 5.5 percent, and delivery services by 14.4 percent.
In Arizona, which ranks 37th among states with low costs of living, an annual income of $44,875 is needed to make ends meet, according to SoFi.
Lindy continues to work full-time in hopes of improving her quality of life.