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Amari G. - A Van Story

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Amari G. is a woman in her late twenties that has overcome homelessness through van life. Throughout her childhood, Amari shared that she was "always a loner kid" and has a hard time fitting in. However, she performed very well academically. Amari was enrolled in all advanced courses and was accepted into the GATE program at her school. She was also heavily involved in sports, as she participated in swim, dance, water polo, taekwondo, and cheer.


Her biological father was not present in her life, and when he was, he was very verbally abusive. Amari shared: "This damaged me a lot, emotionally as a child. [It] really damaged my self-esteem and self-worth, like I never really felt worthy of anything or anyone." She also mentioned that it made her feel like the "best that [she] could do felt like it was nothing."


On the other hand, Amari's mother and stepfather were present in her life & were great parents. She shared: "My mother is my role model, and she [is] a really strong woman." Amari also stated that, although the male figure present in her life was her stepfather, she always considered him her real father, as he was in her life since she was just a year old. With this, Amari's parents always encouraged her to go after whatever she wanted. She shared that the values that they instilled in her at such a young age have allowed her to stand strong now, no matter the situation.


Amari has experienced homelessness twice & in two different situations. Her first experience occurred when she was only 19 and she shared that it was a situation of a "typical teen bumping heads with their parents." Amari ran away for a week and lived out of her 2-door Honda Civic. She had a job at the time and was going to school. However, due to the fact that she was short on income & living on food stamps, she dropped out of school to focus on money. After a week, she ended up going back to her parents due to the dangers she faced while experiencing homelessness. Amari stated that men would try to break into her car and people would scream & bang on her windows regularly.


After she returned home, she got a job and moved out a few years later to an apartment. This is when her second experience with homelessness, from the ages of 25-26, occurred. Amari's mental health was poor due to her childhood (verbal abuse, depression, isolation, etc.) as well as an event that occurred in her apartment complex. This event caused her to seek therapy and develop extremely bad social anxiety to the point where she "couldn't even step out on [her] front porch without hyperventilating and crying." Amari stayed locked up in her room for days and would sleep as much as possible. She shared that her social anxiety became so bad that she started calling in late to work & then off of work. This began occurring weekly and since she "wasn't fulfilling her end of the duty," she was terminated on August 3rd, 2020.


Amari had worked with that company for 4 years, so along with pandemic assistance, she had some funds from her unemployment that she could use. Due to her poor mental health, Amari was assigned an emotional support animal named Kilo. After getting Kilo, she invested in a trailer using the money from her unemployment and completely renovated it. Amari then moved this trailer to her parents' house and lived in their backyard. However, her house was filled with many family members, such as her grandparents, aunts, cousins, siblings, & nephews, which caused it to become very hard to stay back in the trailer. So, Amari sold the trailer and her parents offered her a place in their home. She decided to take the offer, however, due to the toxicity in the house, her brother beat her severely & ripped bald spots out of her head. Amari then decided that she needed her own space, so she moved into the garage with her dog. Although the garage was infested with bugs and rats, Amari shared that she was still grateful to have a place to sleep. Amari became extremely depressed & suicidal, so she began abusing leftover pain medication from her previous injuries from motorcycle accidents.


After a short time of using these drugs, Amari decided that she needed to clean herself up for her dog as well as her mother. She shared that Kilo completely changed her life and allowed her to overcome her social anxiety, so it was not fair of her to do this to him. She also stated that her mom was her rock and that she didn't want to leave someone who put so much love and effort into their relationship. So, Amari landed an under-the-table job at a smoke shop for a few months and was able to make enough to build her van. Amari installed solar panels, put in running water for a full shower & a toilet, and made the van as liveable as possible. She shared that the build was very therapeutic & that van life has taught her to be brave and more minimalistic. Being a minimalist has taught her a lot about life and society. She shared: "I actually have so many more life experiences from having so little. You try to possess all of these things in life to the point where they possess you."


Amari has now been living in her van full-time for a year & a half. She is also enrolled in college full-time. She wants to continue van life and actually get a Sprinter van since her current van is an old Chevy that she cannot stand in. However, she does have the goal of eventually moving to a small farm with land so that she can live sustainably.


Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world, Amari! You are so incredible!


If you would like to learn more about Amari, check out her social media accounts below.


Donate to Project WHY today so that we can continue to interview these amazing people! Project WHY is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation registered with the State of California & the United States government. 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness! :)


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