Sandy sleeps next to her car because it's illegal to sleep in her car


Sandy sleeps in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk in Berkley, California because it’s against the law to sleep in her car. She’s on the verge of mental illness from life on the streets. The […]


Sandy sleeps in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk in Berkley, California because it’s against the law to sleep in her car. She’s on the verge of mental illness from life on the streets.

The thing keeping her unemployed? Her age. She says that’s the main factor keeping her from finding work, and she’s living a “completely miserable” life on the streets.

She runs to get away from people who are up all night with drugs and additions. This, full shelters, and the outlawing of sleeping in a car led her to slip into a church to sleep one night. The next morning, she awoke to a $400 ticket for trespassing. Of course, she can’t pay this, and now has an outstanding warrant.

She doesn’t qualify for mental health assistance. She’s not quite old enough for senior assistance. And no one wants to hire someone her age. Sandy, and others who are homeless at her age, are truly part of a forgotten generation.

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  • Brad Melton


    Of all the interviews you've done this one may have broke my heart the most. Sandy appears to be a sweet gentle spirit that has no options. She's tried and tried but has hit some shameful walls. The most shameful being the church. I hope that was one of those whacked non-Christ following, non-Bible believing, nonsensical made-up Church of the Who Knows What. For how can anyone with an ounce of Christ in them allow one of God's children to be fined for trespassing in their house of worship?!!!

    God, my God, forgive us for what we've become!!!!!


    It is a Passive Aggressive Assault upon a person when they are prevented by “Laws” to protect their SAFETY, especially when they have a means to do so,
    which may be less than socially acceptable but far better than the Alternative.

    The very act of not having an acceptable safe alternative to assist a Homeless person in obvious need is that aggression which is passively delivered .

    When I went for Mental Health help before I became Homeless I was diagnosed mildly depressed and prescribed Prozac 10mg. Now after being reHoused 8 months after meeting both HUD definitions of Chronic Homelessness. I have progressed past major Depression and am diagnosed Borderline Personality.
    So when Sandy speaks to her worsening mental health condition I for one Hear her loud and clear.

    It is an obvious conclusion to see the deteriorization of our well being under these circumstances. One we would and somehow do deny for whatever reason. But we do get less able to care for ourselves and then they legislate what little Property we may retain and declare it “NO MAN'S LAND”

    This is a prime example of how we develop and nurture Criminal behaviour we then declare a crime. A damned if you do and damned if you dont conundrum.

    We create our own problems. Shame on us .

  • me125

    Post these videos on Youtube! Not enough bandwith here to stream them.

  • me125

    Youtube please!

  • me125

    Not enough bandwith here to stream these videos. Upload them on Youtube please. get a contact us page on your website. You have been doing a great job, but the video streaming on this site is very poor. Youtube can stream them loud, clear, and free too. Thank you.

  • shannon

    It is extremely unfortunate in a country as wealthy as the United States that there exists such a large segment of forgotten people. The ability to find and maintain employment, paying a living wage, would allow many of the invisible people to be “seen” as productive and conscientious members of society.

  • River

    Hi, Brad.
    It most likely was a standard denomination Christian church where Sandy got her ticket, Christ-following, Bible-believing, and all. I belong to a church that fits every one of your descriptors; we are the Church of All Worlds, and we even admit right out in public that our founding document is science fiction. We don't follow the Bible and we don't follow Christ; though many of us consider Christ to have been a teacher of universal truths, he was no more the son of the Gods than we are – and thou art God, Mark. Yet I don't know a single adherent who would turn Sandy away. Certainly our family would not. We would invite her into our homes and our circles, to break bread with us and our families. So would all other CAW members that I know.

    We are children of the Goddess, not of your jealous God. And thank all the Gods for that. It's your people who condemn Sandy to homelessness, not mine.

  • Peter

    I found myself in similar circumstances as Sandy at one time. (still technically homeless, but that's another story.) At the time I was late-40's and had a difficult time getting a job. Then I got a job that ended at 3AM. It was relief. I had been sleeping in the woods with mosquitos (intense mosquitos even with repellant) and sometimes a coyote would hover around me. When I got this job, I tried going back to sleeping in my vehicle, thinking that the police had completed most of their rounds by then. I got a few warnings from one cop who sort of knew the situation, but I did once get the ticket for sleeping in the vehicle – which in that place was illegal from 10pm to 7am. It was really odd that you could sleep in your vehicle during the day. This is a little slice of life homeless. There has been a lot more than that between that time and now. I will be negotiating living space for work on/in the home next. I would like a bus or old rv at some point. I do have a web site, but keep my homelessness private for now.

  • Jason D

    It seesm your allowed to sleep in your car on a day time because so many people take naps during lunchtimes or during the day but they dont want to encourage homelessness (like encouraging is all it takes for everyone to want to be homeless).
    I was fortunate that once i had to do without cash for 8 weeks thanks to a former emplyer trying to hurt me, my landlord tried to have me thrown out and the poice were trying to get me to leave, thankfully i didnt leave and i fought it and won..but for all the peole who have a hard time and dont win..i hope luck finds you in one form or another and you can get help….you are our family and we should NEVER ignore our family

  • citizenx

    This is a shameful act by the chruch and the law as far as I am concerned! This woman has done no wrong! Now she has a STUPID fine of which she can not pay back! So many more are living like Sandy and so many more to come! I am a woman of age and my husband is in danger of losing his job. Yes! Social injustice prevails in our land of the free and home of the (scared).

  • Jason D

    It is shameful, america has existed too long on scaremongering and this is the very thing they do which makes life so scarey, they ask on their most public figure (statue of liberty) for the most downtrodden and most sick, then they hide them away and treat them like dirt, the church has become a capitalist venture now too..where has their sanctuary status gone, if they cant help someone, even if its just a guiding hand to a place or a sandwich or a blanket or anything, then they should have their charity status removed, they are either charitable or not and fining the homeless isnt charitable in any circumstances whatsoever

  • longshot1960

    I am new to this site and if this question has already been answered, please forgive. Do you have a way to contact these profiled individuals again in case any viewer might have a way to help one or more of these individuals? In Sandy's case, did the church where she got the ticket report her? What kind of church is THAT? I am sure, with the economy so bad in California, that all organizations that traditionally reach out to those in need are overwhelmed. But, I think that just talking with Sandy just a few minutes and one would see that she just needs a safe place to sleep. If someone could help her more than that, I am sure she would be ecstatic. I have a only a few friends in CA and one of these has also been unemployed for almost a year now. The others are employed and long-time residents (Santa Clara) and they might be willing to help, even if it was just to let Sandy sleep in a tent in their backyard. There used to be a program out there called Open Hearts, Open Homes, where families allowed individuals or families to stay with them for a certain period of time when they became homeless. Is there anything like that in California? There is another organization that might be able to help some of these individuals, the National Association of Hospitality Houses ( They provide temporary homes to individuals and families in cases of medical emergency. Talking with them might give some of these homeless individuals some leads to people who might also be willing to house a homeless person for a set period of time as a kind of stop gap to help them get some rest and maybe get back on their feet. The worst they could say is that they couldn't help. That appears to be happening now so there is nothing to lose by asking.

  • longshot1960

    One possible suggestion for those who have a vehicle they could sleep in but can't at night. I have thought that if I ever became homeless, I would join one of the 24 hour gyms and spend the night at the gym each night and in my vehicle during the daytime. They have shower facilities so that helps too. Might even be a place to network after a time. Maybe it is illegal in CA to sleep in your car during the day too. Some locales it is ok during the day but not at night. Obviously Sandy, in this case, would have to come up with a gym membership fee and maybe even a permanent address for filling out papers. So it might not work out for her but if she had a friend who's address she could use to get mail, then it might work. The gyms usually offer a free pass for a certain number of days free as well. I assume parking at the gym would be free but that could be a problem too I guess. Just trying to come up with possibilities for Sandy. The North Point gym ( in SF is open 24 hours a day.

  • Annie

    I don't understand why Sandy's supposed to be so old. She doesn't seem old to me. Too bad Berkeley doesn't have a Wal-Mart, though there are a couple of fast food restaurants. My mom is over 50 and just got a job at McDonalds so I just don't understand why no one will hire Sandy. McDonalds doesn't allow a very high quality of life but in Berkeley I believe there's subsidized housing; in Oakland there's even more. It's a scary situation though.

    Oh and yeah these videos should be posted on Youtube. I couldn't hear a lot of what she was saying because it kept cutting out.

  • FreePhotoProject

    I have been receiving your emails for awhile now and just want to say it is such a beautiful thing you do, bringing the reality of homelessness and their stories.

    We provide free portraits at local events for the homeless and its a powerful gift that most of us take for granted. Its not food or shelter but it can be a source of inspiration, reconnection and hope.

    We are in the running for a 50K grant from Pepsi Refresh. Please support us and cast your vote! Spread the word, post it on your Facebook, website, Twitter! We're a very small group but growing our support quickly as people recognize the preciousness of the gift we are trying to provide.

    You can hear for yourself from some of the people we have photographed just how much this means.
    Please help us continue to provide “Smiles on both sides of the Camera!”

    Bless you for all you do and congratulations on your win!

  • Michelle

    I know I am a little late on this thread but it affected me deeply since I am in a similar position. I am a college student in NYC and because my mother makes enough (even though I see none of it except $100/month from her 65K AFTER taxes…) I cannot really get aid.

    We no longer talk because of it so I don’t have a place and never had close family (I’m adopted). I tried to save money by living off campus since I pay my own tuition and jump from friend to friend. I do the craigslist thing of exchanging cat sitting and cleaning for a place to sleep and even ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor of someone’s mainly just out of pity.

    I’m not tough enough to go to the youth shelters of Harlem/Brooklyn mainly because I am fearful of getting the only things I have stolen. I am on the quest now to live in a 24hr gym in addition to cheap storage space for clothes even though I sold most everything for money so I only have maybe 2 suitcases full of belongings to my name.

    I am very saddened that the church called the police on Sandy. In my community, the African-American community, this happens a lot and they simply tell you to leave if you look immediately dangerous but offer some help if you are in need.

    To the person who stated that it was your people’s (standard denominational church) not her people’s fault (her church): If you believe we are all children of God then it is everyone’s fault. Even though you may have different minor beliefs you cannot wash your hands by saying it is someone else’s fault. Just as I should have fought harder for homeless issues when I volunteered heavily, you should have written a letter to your mayor about the things going on. From donating a penny to organizing a rally, we are all at fault for the state the world is in. Even if our efforts do nothing, God knows your true intentions and will award or punish you accordingly. I hope Sandy gets the help she needs and grows in faith from these pitfalls of life.

  • Katerinainfl

    I would like to help can you email me at

  • John Colby

    This highlights how bankrupt our current socio-economic system is. A rich nation like ours — where the 1% bask in unimaginable wealth — should not allow this. It’s completely unacceptable. We need to remake our nation to be kinder and gentler.

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  • Jane

    This woman should get OUT of the extreme-liberal state of California and t ry to move to a more conservative state say like boston where they treat poor people alot better and allow them to sleep in their cars. That sounds so left wing to me- like they are trying to HIDE something. There are nicer friendlier places that would help her….

  • Jane

    Shes pretty and not that old and straight-laced, she doesnt belong in this siutation!

  • guest

    From the BPD newsletter: 2014 Year, Issue 4


    There are people sleeping in a van on my street . What can be done about this? There is a law against persons sleeping inside house cars—BMC 12.76.020. However the law is specific to vehicles modified for human habitation—such as the case with an RV or Class B van (see pics to the right) that typically are equipped with a refrigerator, sink, etc. If the vehicle is like the van pictured on the left, then it would not be considered a violation. Currently, there is no law against persons sleeping inside a car. If the vehicle remains parked in the same place for over 72 hours, the vehicle can be reported (510-981-5980) for violating the 72-hour parking rule (BMC 14.36.050).

  • D

    A rich nation shouldn’t allow it? Yea. But you’re missing something. The rich don’t want to make it better for the poor, and many of them love money, and the rich influence or control decisions of congress. Research the history of the Rothschilds to determine why things are the way they are.