Pasco family living in tent in the woods

Posted at 3:03 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 17:05:48-04
ABC Action News discovered the individuals profiled in this story both have prior arrests and charges for fraud.

Two adults.

Three children.

One dog.

This Tarpon Springs family is currently living in the woods.  A donated tent is there home.

"My husband lost his job, then we were evicted, we had to live in our truck for a couple weeks and that was repossessed, so now we are living in a tent in the woods," said a tearful Lydia Barrett.

They've called the tent home for the past two months.

"I was doing good a couple years ago, working at the Union hall, I got laid off and then everything started going downhill," said Jeff Barrett.

Barrett is a U.S. Navy veteran who prides himself on providing for his sons.

"I am at rock bottom now, so I really can't go any father down," he admitted.

On some days, their smallest child, who is just four years old, will go and stay at Jeff's mother's house.  She lives just about 100 yards away.  Only, her home is too small to take in her son and his family.

The family sometimes goes to a nearby park to bathe.

They rely on  Jeff's mother to bring them food.

"It breaks my heart that I can't do what a mom is supposed to do and just get a roof for her children," Lydia said.

Inside of the tent, there are two air mattresses. 

Jeff and Lydia share one mattress and their three children are sleeping on the other--which has a hole and is leaking air.

"Spiders, bugs, we have a tarp up here because when it rains it still leaks," Jeff said of the tent roof.

The Barretts say word has leaked at their children's school of their living conditions.

"I can't even explain how it hurts to see your kids go to school and get bullied because you can't provide a roof for them," Lydia said.


A case worker at the VA helped the Barretts find temporary housing an area hotel.

"We signed in that we had a family of five, that we had a dog.  The dog went in the room for five minutes and they kicked us out like criminals," Lydia recalled.

She said the family ended up walking more than five miles back to their tent in the woods.

"They told us we couldn't be there, they wouldn't take the VA's money, they wouldn't put us up and if we didn't leave they'd have us removed," Lydia said.


According to the Barretts, they are at their wit's end trying to find help.

"I've called 2-1-1, I''ve called every number they've referred me to. I've begged for assistance and they say they don't have any funds available at all," Lydia told ABC Action News.

Both Lydia and Jeff are willing to work.

They have walked on foot to put in job applications but have had no luck.

The family has also been working with social services, HUD particularly, and they have vouchers for Section 8 housing.  However, they've been told no housing is available and won't be for at least then next 20 days.

"To walk somewhere to put an application in takes like five hours.  By the time I am there I am hot and sweaty and I look a mess.  Nobody wants to see me, they don't want to talk to me, they don't want my application and they don't want to give me an interview," Lydia said.

Lydia told ABC Action News she has been repeatedly sent away and told a prospective employer would call her later.

The only problem:  the couple does not have a phone.

"I want to get back on my feet and get back in a house and mow the lawn and take care of the kids and stuff," Jeff added.