2023 Feature, Small Newsroom winner

No Way to Live

About the Project

28-year-old Sarah Fay lives on the brink of being unhoused. Sarah, who spent a decade in the foster care system, has a full-time job that pays $24 an hour, yet no place of her own to live — unless you count sleeping in her grandmothers’ cluttered garage near her ailing 64-year-old mother.

To add to Sarah’s fears, her grandmother is selling her house soon and Sarah worries she will have nowhere to go. The process of searching for an apartment in Los Angeles has taken a toll on her mental health and left her unsure she’ll be able to find a place of her own.

There is far more demand for affordable housing in L.A. than there is supply, so prices have soared in recent years, and few renters’ incomes have come close to keeping up. The result is that renters in Los Angeles County are the second most “cost-burdened” in the nation, and rents grew about 20% in a year. When family instability and other personal challenges are added to the mix, the possibility of homelessness becomes very real. Individuals may move in and out of homelessness with a change in finances, family relationships or personal health.

Sarah’s story, which is representative of so many Americans today, remains one of a young woman doing her best against challenges that may be beyond the reach of individuals to overcome on their own.

Judges Comments

All the layers of being unhoused are laid bare here. Being unhoused is a thing of generational trauma and mental health, and all these things were expertly weaved together. You can really tell that the reporter’s experience of being unhoused gave it a nuance it wouldn’t have had if someone else who hadn’t experieneced it had done this.