EXCLUSIVE: Unhoused Bay Area woman sleeps in hearse with casket on top

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Thursday, November 2, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Unhoused Bay Area woman sleeps in hearse
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Unhoused woman Julie Sue Jones sleeps in a hearse with a casket on top as she works part-time in the Bay Area.

DALY CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Close to 8,000 people are currently un-housed in San Francisco.

Many live in their vehicles and find places to park throughout the city.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena spoke to a woman who became homeless this year and now sleeps in a hearse with a casket on top.

In a Daly City parking lot, there's a car that stands out.

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"I was going to buy a van, but I didn't want to go in debt. Hearse -- I bought it. It's mine. The casket was a bonus," said Julie Sue Jones.

People stop to take photos of it thinking it's a Halloween prank, but reality hits hard when the owner Julie Sue Jones comes out and shares her story.

"This is my house. I'm homeless and that is where I live," Jones said.

Jones became homeless less than a year ago.

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"I crawl in. I turn around. Put my pillows down. Lay here," described Julie while showing us inside the hearse.

Relying on family has not been possible, since she transitioned to a woman.

"Right now, no family. They are just like, 'No. Sorry.' When I transitioned they were like, 'No,'" Jones said.

The San Francisco LGBT Center, where Julie has gotten help, says many in the Trans community suffer in silence.

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"Our LGBTQ community is disproportionally homelessness. We see the impact of this and the ripple effect of this with the folks that we work at with at the center," said Miguel Bagsit, SF LGBT Center's associate director.

Last year, Jones had a full-time job and housing.

"When I left San Francisco to go up to Seattle, I was actually driving a Hummer 3. If anybody knows, that's a very nice car. I drove that. I had a nice apartment up there with a two bedroom, two bath, and it just fell apart when I had my surgery. You lose your job. You can't afford the apartment," Jones said.

In August, she bought the hearse with her savings, costing her $3,200. She did it to avoid sleeping out in a tent.

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"Once you close it with all the curtains, it is pitch black. It is quiet. Nobody expects you to be in a hearse, so they don't bother you. The fun part is that if you are parked somewhere and you come out in the morning and they are behind you, it freaks them out. 'Oh, I wasn't expecting you to come out of a hearse.' I love that part of it," Jones.

Her optimism and the hearse are what got her the latest seasonal job at the Spirit Halloween store, where she first walked in as a customer.

"I walked in and I was talking to Sarah the manager and got hired on the spot," Jones said.

"We had the idea of using the hearse to promote the store, and it really brought a lot of people in. She is a really great salesperson. She helps out so much. I don't even have to ask her," said Macrina Garcia, Spirit Store manager.

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Jones parks the hearse right outside the store and when they've needed someone to work extra hours, she has been ready.

"I usually just like knock, knock, and she is like 'Let's go!'" Garcia said.

"Just last week I was working from 7 in the morning to 1 'o clock in the morning. Go outside and sleep for 6 hours and come back in. Do it again the next day. I did it four days in a row. I'm making the money if I can. It's just that this job is going to end because it's seasonal," Jones said.

The store's manager saw herself reflected in Jones's story.

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"Growing up with a single father, he got us out of being homeless and not being on the streets," said Sarah Piane, district manager for Spirit Halloween.

Wednesday was Jone's last day at the Spirit store and now she is taking the hearse to a different parking lot. She is starting a new job.

"I'm getting ready to start a job tomorrow at a new courier company here in San Francisco," Jones said.

But if anyone is hiring full-time, she is ready.

"I don't mind overtime. I work holidays, I work weekends, I work graveyard. I'm just here. I'm your go-to person," Jones said.

Jones has since launched a GoFundMe account. To donate, click here.

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