In a wealthy Virginia suburb, their cars are their beds

It’s almost bedtime. John Baird Jr., 47, smokes on the hood of his 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan, his plaid sleeping bag neatly tucked in the trunk.

Kathleen McDermott, 81, slouches in the driver’s seat of her 2002 Ford Focus station wagon. Two angel statuettes stare from her dashboard into clothes and clutter behind her.

Scott Downey, 52, works a crossword puzzle on his phone inside a 2006 Chrysler Town & Country van that smells faintly like cats. Clothes hang on hooks in the back, and emergency supplies of ramen noodles and Vienna sausages sit out of plain view.

They are in a Home Depot parking lot, largely invisible among the subdivisions and sprawl of Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, the nation’s second-wealthiest community.

Sleeping in their cars, they are homeless but sort of not, a subset of a population officially classified as “unsheltered” and slowly shrinking in these suburbs of Washington, even as the number of people living in poverty continues to grow.

Each member of the trio spent decades living a more stable existence before family trauma or economic hardship led them to the streets.

Here, they help one another with errands and auto repairs, carpool to work or church, and check in on one another at night.

Just like their neighbors in the subdivisions around them.

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