Family of 5 live in car in order to be in ‘top-ranked’ school’s catchment area

A family of five have been living in their car in order to fall into the catchment area for the region’s top-ranked high school.

Veronica Vargas and her partner Alex, alongside their three sons, aged 14, 13, and 11, have been living out of their Hyundai Santa Fe in the suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA.

The family were living in Florida when the Covid-19 pandemic began but decided to relocate north when Veronica lost her job as a Spanish language interpreter and Alex lost his role in telemarketing.

They burnt through their $20,000 (£15,000) of savings and eventually couldn’t afford to pay the rent on their house, NPR reports.

The two parents then chose to move the family to Pennsylvania after securing full-time employment at a Walmart in Allentown, which pays $18 (£13.50) per hour.

"A lot of the workers know about the kids' situation," Vargas said.

Combined, Veronica and Alex make more than the median household income in the US which is around $67,000 (£50,000) a year, so they don’t qualify for any government aid programmes.

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The area of Allentown is highly sought after by families as it has one of the region’s top-ranked high schools.

Diane Irish, a social worker, explained that one-bedroom apartments within the school district can cost $1,800 (£1,350) a month and landlords usually won't even rent such a small unit to a family.

So, parents often overextend themselves financially just to keep their kids in the local schools.

In this case, Veronica and her family have converted their Hyundai into their bedroom, living room, and kitchen, spending most of their time in the local park when not in school or work.

But living in the car is still expensive for a family of five, as they have to fill the car up with petrol every day in order to keep it running so the boys can stay warm.

On top of that, there's a car payment, occasional hotel stays, storage unit fees, $13 (£10) truck stop showers, and even frequent trips to the laundromat so Veronica can get wrinkles out of the boys' school clothes.

The family use storage units to keep some of their belongings they cannot fit in their car safe.

The extra fees make it hard for them to save the thousands of dollars they need for a deposit, along with the first and last month’s rent.

Veronica said: "I've lost like 20 pounds. I don't eat because of the stress.”

Photographs from inside the vehicle show the cramped living conditions the family of five endure day-in and day-out.

They place pillows and duvets on the car seats to make room for sleeping arrangements when nighttime comes around.

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