By day, Peachanda DuBose sits behind the wheel of her car delivering goods for two food carrier services across the Santa Clarita Valley. Once nightfall hits, she gets to what she’s truly passionate about: playwriting.
But the 45-year-old writer isn’t creating her next production in a modern studio or a coffee shop. DuBose writes in her vehicle, the same one she uses for her 12-hour work days and the one she and her son, Lamont, 20, call home.
“Late at night, when I’m done with work, I’ll write on my phone because I don’t have access to all my stuff right now,” said DuBose. “My specialty right now is theater, but I want to branch out into networks, film and television.”
On Monday, the playwright wrote something a little different. It was a letter to the Santa Clarita Homeless Task Force committee members, which she presented Wednesday during their monthly meeting, detailing her personal trajectory as a working, single mom who has been homeless for more than half a year.
In it, DuBose discussed how she made the bold move to relocate from North Carolina to Los Angeles with her two children to expose herself to better opportunities as a writer. She had already produced bicoastally from the East Coast to L.A., having won more than 16 awards and accolades for her works and twice earning NAACP awards, but DuBose “knew that the opportunities that (she) needed were not there.”
Due to hectic scheduling of her shows in L.A. and the urgency to find a home quickly, DuBose and her children settled in with a friend, with a plan to temporarily stay until she had enough to secure a home of their own.
“Two, maybe three weeks into my moving across the country with my children, my colleague informs me that they are being evicted,” said DuBose. “I was floored. Now, with nowhere to go, my children and I found ourselves living out of my car, till this day, eight months later.”
The situation caused her young adult daughter to leave, she said, leaving only DuBose and Lamont in “survival mode” and “(mastering) how to be inconspicuous” about their homelessness. The pair maintain their hygiene as best they can in local hotels, public park and fast food restrooms and laundromats. Due to their situation, Lamont has not continued schooling and currently helps his mother.
“(W)hen it’s time to sleep, we drive down to a popular location in Sylmar to sleep alongside other homeless people like me, who have cars, jobs and a family, but nowhere to live,” said DuBose.
While DuBose has two jobs, her ability to save up enough money for a deposit and first month’s rent for a home has been “nearly impossible when you’re out surviving.” The family would need about $5,000 to comfortably move into proper housing. She is currently waiting to hear back from a job with the U.S. Postal Service, with hopes it may help bring steadier income.
To her, being homeless means “when you do not have a place to go home to at the end of the night. It’s not always because people are addicts or irresponsible. It’s ‘life happens,’ and people see themselves in situations they never thought they’d be in.”
This definition was part of why DuBose felt motivated to share her story with the task force. She was introduced to the committee members by Bradley Grose, CEO of Help the Children, after they met during one of DuBose’s food delivery runs.
Task force committee members were moved by the DuBose family’s story and shared some ways they could help. Among them were Ricardo Rivera, an outreach worker with the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, and Jan Daisher with the William S. Hart Union High School District, who said they would help guide Lamont back to school and into boxing programs since his goal is to become a professional boxer, as well as other services that could potentially lead to housing.
Mayor Marsha McLean, who is part of the task force, said, “Thank you so much for putting yourself out there. This is something that just shouldn’t be allowed to happen in our society, someone working two jobs and needing to have a place to live and not being able to find one.”
DuBose and Lamont said they were thankful for the support they received Wednesday at the meeting.
“I think it’s beautiful when people know good soil,” she said. “Good soil is when you plant something and you know that something is going to grow. Me and my son are good soil, and I think that Mr. Bradley saw that.”