Navigating the booming cost of urban life

From extended commutes by car, train, and ferry to living in cars or with strangers, workers struggle to access city jobs.

Mark Tafoya, 69, lost his home in Coronado, across the bay from downtown San Diego, but continued to live there in his car. He'd often been asked to leave by police and was ticketed for sleeping in his car. Tafoya lost his job working for San Diego County five years ago but currently has a part-time job and is studying to be a clinical psychologist. He recently began staying at the Dreams for Change safe lot in San Diego, where he says he feels safe.

It’s a day like any other in San Diego, built from blue skies, 74 degrees, palm trees, school buses, traffic congestion, Taco Bell, and Hobby Lobby. The morning light is flat. Yet at the horizon, a haze, an implacable stirring.

Drive away from the Pacific Ocean, into the working-class enclaves and commercial strip mall anywheres, and look closer. There, in that random Nissan chug-chug-chugging at the red light, or there, in that minivan by the curb, you see a life’s possessions, consolidated and squashed into rounded lumps of shirts, towels, and blankets flooding through the gaps between the headrests, their driver’s postures pitched forward out of habit.

Now drive about nine miles from the beach to Golden Hill, to a parking lot beneath the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway at the New Life Assembly of God church. The lot is leased by the nonprofit Dreams for Change. Every night around six, you’ll find more cars stuffed with entire lifetimes, parked in the fading afternoon dusk, their occupants looking uniformly beaten down.

Read This Next

These ants can shrink and regrow their brains

How to stop discarded face masks from polluting the planet

‘Tiger King’ stars’ face scrutiny in court

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet