Skip to Content

SPECIAL REPORT: Living on the streets in Imperial Valley

Karina Bazarte shares the story of one local couple who lives on the streets

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Living on the streets can be a struggle for several people; that includes one couple in the Imperial Valley who say they're thankful they at least have each other to get through the hard times.

"You never know what you can expect. I mean nothing for sure you know when you’re out living life like this," said Sam.

“I am not going to give up on myself. It's not that I chose to live like this, things are going to get better for us you know. We were in the park one time you know, it’s better two heads than one que no," said Francis.

Samuel, better known as Sam, and Francis, better known as Pancha, both share the struggle of not having a permanent home. But even so, they say home is where the heart is.

“I have a home, and even if I am basically out in the streets, I have a home, and it’s with Sam," expressed Francis.

Francis explained who Sam is.

“My significant other. He's the one that has gone through everything with me. We have been through hell and back, hell and back, hell and back," said Francis.

Sam said when he was younger, living the fast life seemed perfect and the mistakes he made weren’t something he cared about.

“I’ll bounce back and I will. I’ll get back to work again and get my things, my home. But last time it’s been a little bit harder, you know, I think after the COVID and all that stuff," explained Sam.

For Francis, it was the drugs.

Her father was from Brawley and her mother was from Westmorland, both were truck drivers who fell in love.

But one day her life took a drastic turn.

“They would still truck drive afterward when I was small but those times ended because my father passed away at the age of 26. He overdosed, and I was four. My mom was eight months pregnant and she lost my sister," said Francis.

Before living on the streets, both Sam and Francis used to live in a mobile home and were tattoo artists.

“I had a home and we had an RV, we had a car, we had a truck, we had everything, then COVID came and identity theft came into the picture and that really screwed us up," explained Francis.

Identity theft and COVID wouldn’t be the only bump they hit on the road. A fire burned down their mobile home sending them to Mexicali.

But life in Mexico was not easy.

So they moved back to Calexico, just a block away from the border.

Reporter Karina Bazarte got to spend a day with the couple to see how they survive.

“This is our home… Where we stay at," said Francis while showing where they live.

Francis was also able to show Karina their kitchen, which is all handmade.

“Come this way, we put our wood with this that we found. We start a fire, hot water, and we cook. It’s just like living off the grid," explained Francis.

She was also able to show Karina where their bathroom is located.

“I don’t think you can see it but we buy this from Walmart. We put the hot shower in there and all the water comes out.”

And finally their bedroom, all made with Sam’s bare hands using only cardboard and wood.

During the cold nights, they use aluminum blankets to try and keep warm.

“We put them [aluminum blankets] underneath the blankets when it gets really cold," said Francis.

Francis said every day is a challenge, including the mistreatment from others.

But the hardest part is feeling like they're together but alone, separated from the rest of the world.

“I feel sorry for some people because it’s terrible when you feel alone," said Francis. “I sometimes tend to have my little party of poor me. poor me. but Sam always tells me, hey snap out of it.”

She said sometimes she reflects on days gone by like dressing up, wearing high heels and jeans.

“This was my everyday wear… What women don't want that you know..But when you are living like this you can’t… You can’t be in high heels you can’t have your nails all done your hair all done living like this you can’t you can’t," said Francis.

Meanwhile, Francis wants to become a drawing artist and create murals, she also loves law and has her own library.

Karina asked what gave her and Sam hope.

"Knowing that there is a God that loves me and wants the best for me and is waiting for me that there is a God," said Francis.

According to the Imperial County Continuum of Care Council, last year there were more than 1,300 homeless people in Imperial County.

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Karina Bazarte

Karina Bazarte joined the KYMA team as a reporter in September 2022.
Reach out to Karina with story ideas and tips at:


KYMA KECY is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content