DENVER — A couple with three young children reached out this week to ask for help finding a new place to live.
The Arvada, Colo. couple says they've been sleeping in their pickup truck for a week and a half.
Anna Nelson and Will Wadzinski have been married for 12 years.
Nelson said they fell on hard times nearly four years ago when the leasing agent at their apartment complex in Arvada showed up one day and asked what they were still doing there.
"She said we only signed a six-month lease," Nelson said. "We thought it was a year."
Nelson said the leasing agent told them they could extend the lease, but it would cost an additional $300 a month.
The couple couldn't afford the rent increase, so they moved out of the apartment and into a motel.
"At the time, we thought that going to a motel would give us shelter until we could find a place," Nelson said. "Once we got to the motel, we weren't able save. It was so expensive between feeding everybody and making sure we had a roof over our heads, so we ended staying there. We spent a little over four years at the motel."
She said they paid the motel rent with cash so they didn't establish any credit history.
Fast forward to August.
Nelson said an extended family member offered to let them move in with him.
She said it was only after they moved in that he told them he was having financial difficulty and faced eviction unless he came up with $2,500 in cash.
Not wanting to be involved with that, they tried to move back to the motel.
"When we left in August, we were paying $65 a day," she said. "But because we left, the room rate is now approximately $120 and taxes."
They can't afford that, so they're now living in their pickup truck, a 1994 Ford F-150.
Wadzinski, who has a steady job working in a repair shop, said he gets a decent check but it all goes to "furniture storage, cellphone, gas for the truck and to a motel, on the nights that it gets really cold."
Nelson said they spent Thursday and Friday night in a motel.
"We got a voucher from a church," she said.
After the snowstorm was over, it was back into the pickup.
Wadzinski said it's tough fitting five people and two dogs in the Ford.
"My daughter sleeps up front," he said, pointing to the front seat. "I sleep back here," he added, pointing to the back seat. "This actually folds down into a bed, the seat flops forward."
He said there is an air mattress in the camper portion of the pickup where Nelson and the two other children sleep.
"I run an extension cord through this screen, close the window and then plug in the little space heater," he said.
Daughter Natalie became emotional as she described how she does her school homework in the front seat.
"It's more comfortable than sitting in a harder chair because of the cushions," she said. "But at the same time, it's not the best. It's just stressful knowing that I'm coming home to a bunch of stressful things."
She said her grades initially dropped at school, but have improved.
Wadzinski said his boss has bent over backward trying to help the family and will help a little bit more, if they can find an apartment.
"That's our hard part," Nelson said.
She said there is an eviction on their record dating back to the time they first moved out of an apartment and into the motel.
"Everybody looks at the eviction and says, 'Um, no. You're kind of an iffy person. What if you don't pay your rent?' " she said.
She reiterated that when they were living in the motel, they paid their rent, but it was all in cash.
The family is hoping they can find a landlord willing to give them a second chance before winter arrives.
"I want a roof over our heads. I want something that we can call home. It's been so long. The kids want some place to play. A room, some privacy," Nelson said.
Wadzinski choked up a bit talking about the kids.
He said it wasn't easy growing up a generation ago, but the cost of living is so much higher now.
"That's no life for them ... we grew up in a house," he said. "What are they growing up in?"