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Arielle Metzger This is the truck that Arielle and her family lived in for eight months. (Cy Cyr / Novus Select)

I Lived in a Truck

When Arielle and her family became homeless last year, they traded four walls for four wheels.

Arielle Metzger, 15, is used to dealing with tough times. Her mother died when she was 3 years old.

Arielle and her younger brother, Austin, live with their dad in Florida. Money has always been tight. But things got much worse when Arielle and her family became homeless and had to live in a truck.

NOWHERE TO GO

Arielle’s dad, Tom, is a construction worker. But in recent years, times became tough, and he got fewer and fewer jobs.

Last year, the family ran out of money. They finally had to give up their home in April 2011.

The Metzgers had nowhere to go. They couldn’t afford a new home. And they didn’t have any family they could live with.

HOME SWEET TRUCK

Not long before they had to leave their house, Arielle’s dad had an idea. With the money he had left, Tom bought a truck.

Somehow, the family of three (and their large dog) would have to make this their new home. Arielle gave up most of her stuff. It didn’t fit in the truck.

The truck did not have a bathroom or windows in the back. But Tom worked to make it as comfortable as possible. He built bunk beds. He made a sliding door so that Arielle and Austin, 14, could have some privacy.

A SCARY TIME

The first few months living in the truck were scary. Tom would park the truck in parking lots or friends’ driveways for the night. They didn’t know what would happen if the police found out they were homeless.

“We were afraid that social services would take us away from our father,” Arielle explains. “My dad stayed up all night watching out for cops.”

DAILY ROUTINE

During the day, Tom looked for a new job. Arielle and Austin went to school.

When they needed a bathroom, Arielle and her family would go to gas stations. They picked a different gas station every day so they wouldn’t get caught. They took showers at the YMCA.

The truck had no stove. So they ate canned or jarred food that didn’t need to be heated. “We would have different kinds of ravioli or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” Arielle says.

HEADS HELD HIGHT

At first, Arielle was afraid to tell her friends about living in the truck. “I didn’t know if I would lose my friends if they found out,” she says. But that didn’t happen. The few close friends Arielle told didn’t treat her any differently.

The Metzgers tried to make the best of their situation. To keep their spirits up, they kept busy.

Arielle and Austin often visited the public library, where they could use computers. They acted in plays at a local theater. Living in the truck was “an adventure,” says Arielle.

A BRIGHTER FUTURE

In December 2011, the family was on the TV show 60 Minutes. After seeing the show, many people offered to help. One group got the Metzgers a house to live in.

The home is temporary. They will live in it for only one year. Arielle’s dad is still looking for a job.

But Arielle is hopeful about her future. She plans to study hard and become a lawyer. She would like to work on court cases for kids who need legal protection. “I like to take care of people and help them,” she says.

Being homeless wasn’t easy. But Arielle never complained. And she says the experience taught her to be thankful for her family.

“Teenagers should appreciate what and who they have in their life,” says Arielle. “It may be the last day they have it.”

This article originally appeared in the March 5, 2012 issue of Action. For more from Action, click here.

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