Gabriel Martin, 5, center, drinks green apple Kool-Aide as his siblings Anthony, 8, and Victoria, 11, wait for their neighbor Megan to bring out more drinks at the Colonial Motel in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Martins live in a motel room with their infant brother Jeremiah, mother Akira, her fiancé Brad and their uncle Pete. Over the past nine years, the family has moved 16 times through a series of temporary housing situations. Paying more than $1,000 per month for their motel room makes it difficult to save for a security deposit and initial rent for an apartment.
Brad holds his son Jeremiah as Akira looks on and Anthony, Gabriel and Victoria lay down to sleep. The couple sleeps in one full-sized bed, Pete sleeps in the other, the baby sleeps in a playpen and the three children sleep on the floor sharing two blankets— one on the ground and one covering them. Brad works at a junk yard, often getting home just before the kids' bedtime. As soon as he walks in, he insists on "baby time" with Jeremiah.
Victoria sits outside alone, upset that she was unable to attend an after school bible study group because she did not have transportation home. The family does not have a car, so the children take the school bus and Brad's boss drives him to and from work. After leaving the Colonial Motel without a destination in mind, the family ended up at the Super Value Inn, neighbored by eight other motels along a highway in Spotsylvania, Virginia.
Victoria helps Gabriel brush his teeth as Anthony washes his face while they prepare for the first day of school. They must get ready in silence and with only the light above the mirror so that they don’t wake Brad, who often works until late at night. Gabriel was nervous for his first day of kindergarten, never having attended pre-school.
Brad used a vice grip as a make shift door handle. Residents were hesitant to report needed repairs in case the motel management required them to foot the bill.
Victoria washes the family's dishware— plastic to-go containers— in the bathtub. It is her daily chore and she prides herself on her time efficient system that allows the greasiest containers to soak the longest.
Akira and her son Gabriel share a moment in the pool at the Super Value Inn shortly before being joined by a crowd of other residents.
Victoria spun around a pole as she played outside by herself. Of all the places she has lived, she said her favorite are the motels that allow the children to play outside in the parking lot. With seven people living in one room, stepping outside is a way of getting a moment alone.
Akira makes eggs for lunch on the hot plate. The family uses the double hot plate and toaster oven to cook all of their meals, though both appliances are prohibited by the motel for fire safety reasons. Akira, Brad and Pete always let the children eat first to ensure there is enough food to go around.
Gabriel rests on his mother Akira's shoulder as she feeds her infant Jeremiah while Victoria solves a crossword puzzle and Anthony reads toy advertisements. "My hope is that we will be in a house by the time he is walking," said Akira as she imagined raising a toddler in the limited space of their motel room.
Pete Martin looks out the door as he takes a break from the stressful process of searching for vacancies. The family was told that they must leave the Colonial Motel on short notice due to bed bugs infesting the walls of the building. "The sad part is we were willing to deal with the fact that stuff is messed up, and the bed bug issue, due to the convenience of the price and the location," said Pete. He has spent hours time researching houses for sale and state-sponsored grant programs to help first time home buyers, but realizes their short term solution is to find another motel room.