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Camping by necessity: an American homeless family

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Angelica Cervantes, 36, sits on a rock in the campground where she has been staying with her aunt Benita Guzman, 40, and their children, in Santa Paula, some 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles, California. Guzman and Cervantes are homeless but stick together in an effort to keep their children together as a family, and not taken away and separated in foster homes.

Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson followed a homeless family in southern California, reporting on how they survive in a campground:

“It’s scary, especially at night,” says Guzman. “I’ve always been spoiled. I have a large family and when we went on camping trips, I was the princess.”

At first they slept in a rental van. Then they picked up a couple of tents at a thrift store.

Now, after three weeks of sleeping at a campsite in Santa Paula, the family can no longer afford the rental van to ferry the kids to school in Port Hueneme.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Angelica Cervantes, 36, packs up tents in the campground where she has been staying with her aunt Benita Guzman, 40, and their children, in Santa Paula.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Benita washes her hair in the sink of a public restroom after dropping her children at school.

"I’m living moment by moment, day by day," says Guzman.

"I’m holding it all together. There are times I break down. I try not to let the kids see me. They tell me, ‘If you crack, we all crack. If you break Mom, we all break, because you’re the one who holds us together.’ So that’s what keeps me going."

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Benita takes her belongings into a motel room in Port Hueneme. After three weeks of sleeping at a campsite, the family could no longer afford a rental van to ferry the kids to school and had to find a cheap motel room for the night, so the children could walk to school.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Angelica Cervantes' children Alma Cervantes, 4, Preciosa Cervantes, 9, and Veronica Cervantes, 9, sleep in a motel room in Port Hueneme.

See more pictures and read more about the story at Reuters' Photographers Blog.