Boston Globe staff photographer Erin Clark named Feature Photography Pulitzer finalist for 2020

Patrick Lupien and Mariah LeMieux-Lupien knew they were going to be evicted from their apartment in Biddeford, Maine. The lapse was a matter of basic math: As Mariah put it, when you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Despite Patrick’s $40,000 a year salary, the Lupien family became part of an often invisible group known as the “working homeless.” Their story illustrates the growing housing inequality that is prevalent in America today. The family’s hard road over the next six months - from eviction, to living in a campground, to homeless shelters, and then finally finding a home - offers a window into the insecurity and panic that comes with raising children on the brink of financial insolvency.--By Erin Clark
Laya Lupien eats a graham cracker and rests her hand on the door of her family’s tent while trying to escape the summer heat with her brother Dylan (left), mother Mariah, brother Evan, and father Patrick in 2019. The day before, the Lupien family of five was evicted from their home after having their Social Security income taken away, their food stamps reduced, and their rent raised without warning over the span of one year. “Thank you, mommy” said Laya for seemingly no reason. “I really don’t know why you’re thanking me,” said Mariah. “My kids are camping with no roof over their head, and they’re still thankful.” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
On the day of their eviction, Mariah LeMieux-Lupien organizes paperwork detailing her children’s behavioral charts and progress while Evan and Dylan play on the couch. All four of Mariah’s children have special needs, and while living in Northern Maine the children were not receiving the education and services they needed, which prompted the family’s move south to Biddeford. “It was really hard going through all the school work from the kids,” Mariah reminisced. “How happy and hard they’ve all worked. They’re kicking ass while I’m barely hanging on as an adult.” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Laya and Evan Lupien take a bath while their parents pack to move out of their three-bedroom apartment after being evicted in Biddeford, Maine. Evan, who has severe ADHD and cognitive issues, was not receiving the one-on-one attention that he needed while living in northern Maine. Oftentimes, he would be placed by himself in a resource room because the school did not know what to do with him. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Mariah closes her eyes after packing a tote in her bedroom while her son Dylan, who has non-verbal autism, sits quietly at her side. “I’m lying here looking at the disheveled living room and kitchen, totes stacked or half full, our lives coming undone,” said Mariah. “But my kids love me, I don’t feel like I deserve any of it. But I’m grateful they do.” With nowhere else to go, the family has reserved a spot in a campground for the unforeseeable future. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Laya and Evan push a tote up the ramp of the U-Haul while their parents, Mariah and Patrick, watch from the porch of their apartment. After about two years of living in Southern Maine, the family is facing homelessness after spending several months teetering on a precarious financial cliff. Their income fell far short of what it costs for a family to get by in Biddeford - $61,000 according to an MIT living wage calculator. Suddenly, the family couldn’t cover their rent. Beginning to panic, they called extended stay motels and shelters across the state and settled with a nearby campground. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Mariah sets up her family’s tent in the waning moonlight next to beachgoers and vacationing families at Shamrock Campground in Biddeford, Maine. The Lupien family would be making the tent their home. “My outer shell is very good at appearing like I’m fine. I’m not. It’s fight or flight that has taken over.....Hopeless, yes, I feel that way. But helpless, no,” said Mariah. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Evan, Dylan, and Laya watch a movie while getting ready for bed in the back of their family’s van. Camping presents special problems for the Lupien children. Because of the children’s special needs and Dylan’s flight risk due to his autism, the children slept in the van with the doors zip-tied closed. “Am I poor enough to get help?” asked Mariah. “Will they think I’m lying anyway? Homeless with kids should matter, right?” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Patrick Lupien brushes his teeth with his son Evan while they get ready for the day in the campground bathroom in the early hours of the morning. Campground life requires a very rigid schedule for the Lupien family. They wake up at 5:30, have cereal for breakfast, drive to the bathroom, and take the children in shifts to wash up and get ready for the day. “Being this poor... this level of poverty means to live in constant fear,” said Mariah. “We’ve been told we’re doing everything right. We’ve taken every piece of advice and acted on it.....doesn’t seem to matter.” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Patrick Lupien sits with his son Evan at their campsite while Laya and Dylan watch movies in the van. With the children’s special needs, Mariah and Patrick have found it difficult to keep an eye on them while living in the campground. Surrounded by a pond and dense forest, the couple has to be abundantly cautious to ensure the children do not wander off. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Dylan Lupien drags his feet while his father Patrick walks him to the bus for summer school. The family made arrangements to have the children picked up from the campground while they made it their home. Throughout their homelessness, it was a priority for the parents to keep their children in school, despite their living situation. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Mariah picks up her son Dylan and holds him close while spending a night at a hotel in Portland paid for by their case manager. Earlier in the day, the Lupiens packed up their tent for good after spending over a month living in campgrounds. After threats from DHHS to have their children taken from them due to unsuitable living conditions, Mariah and her husband chose to move the family to New Hampshire after finally being accepted to a homeless shelter. The decision was a hard one to make, as it would mean leaving Patrick’s job and important services for the children behind. But it meant keeping the family together, which was their number one priority. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Patrick, who had been working as an IT consultant for 12 years, leaves his office on his last day. With the threat of losing their children, and with shelters in the area not able to accept them, Patrick and Mariah chose to abandon everything and move to New Hampshire. “He (Patrick) didn’t know if he was gonna find a job. He had no idea. He was taking a leap. We all were,” said Mariah about the choice to leave Southern Maine. “There was so much unknown. We’ve been here for two years. It’s not working. Everything just keeps getting worse.” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
After arriving at the New Hampshire homeless shelter with an uncertain future, Patrick talks with Mariah while Laya eats dinner at the church. Shortly after the move, Patrick began applying for jobs. It was challenging to live within the strict rules and requirements of the program. They had been struggling on their own, but at least they had been in charge. “With homelessness, there’s an incredible amount of loss to deal with,” said Mariah. “It reaches far beyond a home and comforts of safety. There’s a loss of dignity, loss of confidence, loss of security.” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Mariah searches for after-school snacks at the Seacoast Family Promise day house while her son Dylan waits in a highchair. She uses the highchair to keep the 6-year-old, who has non-verbal autism, focused and stationary while eating. For three months, the family rotated through church shelter programs weekly for a place to sleep and eat. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Exhausted, Patrick leans against the bedroom door while his daughter Laya and son Evan jump back and forth on the bed. Often forced to share one room while at a shelter, the family of five needs more space. Two weeks after the family moved south to New Hampshire, Patrick got a job as a field engineer at Granite State Communications. His salary was $80,000, double what he was making in Maine. Now that Patrick had a well-paying job, they turned to the next hurdle: finding an affordable apartment that could comfortably fit their family.
(Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Laya lifts up her arms in her best superwoman pose while she plays with her mother Mariah during one of their last nights at the Seacoast Family Promise shelter. The family found an apartment and are leaving shelter life. “ It feels scary, odd, unreal, and totally amazing all at the same time,” Mariah said. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Evan plays on the ramp of the moving truck while the Lupiens move into their new apartment. After being homeless since July, with most of the family’s belongings in storage, he was excited to be reunited with his scooter. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Dylan holds a children’s microphone to his ear while feeling the vibrations during the move into their new home. Sometimes, when they are in the van for too long, Dylan’s brother Evan thinks they’re moving again. “It’s still very twilight. It still doesn’t feel real,” Mariah said. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Dylan wraps himself around his mother in a tight hug on their first morning at their new apartment. The family has been living in the apartment for a little over a week. The floors are carpeted and the kids have bunk beds. Mariah and Patrick are trying to get used to the larger paychecks, the locks on the doors, and the feeling that their family might be safe for a while. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
Frosty the Snowman plays in the background while Mariah hands a branch to her son Evan as they set up their Christmas tree in the living room. With boxes still left to unpack, the Lupien family is slowly settling into their new apartment. “Between the better paying job and learning how to manage what we have, has left us with a new and quite strange feeling of not needing to panic,” said Mariah. “The sadness and shame from not being able to provide as well as we have wanted to, that well worn path in my brain, all that energy can be rerouted to somewhere else.” (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)
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