After they lose their homes to foreclosure, after they’re evicted, after they’ve exhausted all the couches, they come here to live. To the Mosley Motel and places like it. The Mosley has 27 families with kids currently living there. There’s even several bus stops behind the motel where they get picked up for school. Many of these families live here permanently, for weeks, months and even years at a time -- trying to carve out a safe place to live even though it's not the best environment. Prostitution takes place in the motel next door and drug deals go down on the street it sits on. But motels are filling the gap for families struggling, and they provide a financial respite from renting a place that require a security deposit, plus first and last month's rent.
Karen Dall scans the parking lot of the Mosley Motel for her 29-year-old daughter Laurie Hathaway, while her grandson Andre Hathaway, 4, plays with some other children on the sidewalk behind her. After moving to Florida to help her struggling daughter out, Dall fell on hard times, too, and both ended up homeless, and living together, as three generations under one roof, in Room 88 with the help of vouchers from a local charity.
While James Sherwood watches, Angel Talbert helps their youngest daughter Alora, 7, with homework while oldest daughter Athena, 11, reads a book and talks to a friend on the phone at the same time. Space is tight and chaos reigns supreme with four people, including a 5-month pregnant Angel, and their 2-year-old pitbull Bella living in one room at the Mosley Motel. After James lost his job in the construction field when the Florida housing market dried up, he moved his family into the Mosley as a way to save money while putting himself through school.
Andre Hathaway, 4, picks up the phone in his motel room and talks to imaginary friends. When other kids aren't around, Andre has learned to entertain himself with limited means.
Valerie Drinkwater, 6, second from left, stands up on a post while waiting for the school bus with other kids from the Mosley Motel. On any given day in October about half a dozen different school buses were picking up and dropping off about 22 kids from the motel.
Laurie Hathaway buries her head in her hands while pleading with the clerk at the front desk of the Mosley Motel to allow her to stay just one more day, while she tries to figure out a way to come up with some money. Two days behind on her room payment, a hospital visit with a mysterious stomach virus and no energy to work left Hathaway in a bad place.
Christopher "C.J." Stone Jr., 15, jumps to see over the privacy fence erected on the northside of the Mosley Motel, and into the parking lot of the neighboring Economy Inn Stadium Motel, where his mom had gone to look for him when he disappeared for a few minutes. As C.J.'s mom tried to re-enter the Mosley, the clerk at the front desk stopped her, saying she was seen on the security camera slipping into the Economy Inn, so it was assumed it was for a drug deal. The Mosley has taken great measures to clean up their act, reduce the number of police calls and to separate themselves from the Economy Inn, where drugs and prostitutes run rampant.
Andre Hathaway, 4, eats frozen waffles for dinner, after fending for himself and digging through what little food there was in the refrigerator, while his mom sleeps off a sickness on the bed behind him.
Valerie Drinkwater, 6, blows bubbles with Deansya Manning, 6, in the parking lot of the Mosley Motel, which has been recently gated and secured, with guests having to sign in at the front office with a picture ID, and cars needing a gate code. Since only a handful of the residents at the Mosley have vehicles, the parking lot ends up becoming a big playground for the kids there, usually housing nightly football games, foot races, chalk drawings and on this night in October, bubbles that were handed out by a local church group.
Shawn Engwis waves to a friend while riding his bicycle home from working a 10-hour day at the Family Dollar store, and then picking his daughter Valerie Drinkwater, 6, up from the babysitter who watches her most days after school. Engwis is a single dad, with no other mode of transportation, and no room in the budget to get anything else anytime soon.
An exhausted Valerie Drinkwater, 6, collapses on the bed in a neighbor's empty motel room, while sitting in there watching cartoons and playing with her bunny rabbit, Shadow. Raised by a single dad, who sometimes stays up late on the laptop or watching TV in their own room, Valerie sleeps where she can.
Laurie Hathaway, 29, right, was three days behind on her payment for room 88 at the Mosley Motel and asked to leave. Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse, an exasperated Hathaway covered her face with her hands and sighs. Her mom, Karen Dall, left, had just returned home from the hospital after being Baker Acted when she learned that they no longer had a place to live. Dall started packing her own bags, saying "she'd just find a shelter or a friend or sleep on the streets" because Hathaway had called her aunt for help and a free place to crash with her son for the weekend, and her mom knew she wasn't welcome there.
Big, fat, sad tears roll down the face of Andre Hathaway, 4, after being told by his mom that they were all packed and it was now time to leave the Mosley Motel. Out of all the places Andre's family has bounced around to while being down on their luck, the Mosley was the first place with other families. With dozens of kids to play with at the motel, for Andre had made friends for the first time. His mom Laurie Hathaway said that's what he was saddest about leaving behind.