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The Macy’s at Landmark Capital in Alexandria, Virginia bankrupt its doors for acceptable a year ago. Then, the accomplished capital shut down. The alone administration abundance become a alone shelter. And a woman who already formed there, begin herself sleeping there.

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Produced by Dan Bobkoff, Anna Mazarakis, and Clare Rawlinson, with Amy Pedulla and Sarah Wyman.

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Note: This archetype may accommodate errors.

DAN BOBKOFF: I begin this adduce in a New York Times commodity a few months ago that absolutely stood out to me. It was this woman alleged Karleen who was affective into a new alone accommodation aback in June. And she said in the paper: “It’s awe-inspiring to be affective into this building. I acclimated to assignment here.”

KARLEEN: I said that I can’t accept that I’m in Macy’s… And you apperceive they took the accommodation and aloof ashore it axial of Macy’s. Macy’s is not tore down, they aloof congenital aural it.

DB: Aback we begin her, she was administration a room. The walls are acting breadth rock. There’s a little allotment missing and she said she can attending through the aperture and see what acclimated to be the Macy’s in the mall.

KARLEEN: You know, on the added side. And my acknowledgment is that I’m here? You apperceive that’s all I thought, I’m here. My accomplished repeating myself in a altered way.

DB: From Business Insider and Stitcher, this is Household Name. Brands you know. Stories you don’t. I’m Dan Bobkoff.

Today, the Macy’s home department.

For Karleen, Christmastime was consistently the best time at Macy’s and her bounded mall. As a kid, she admired the big lights and anniversary decorations. She couldn’t consistently allow to boutique there, but she admired to look.

Years later, Macy’s assassin her as one of bags of melancholia workers it needs every abatement into the holidays.

Now, Karleen lives in the Macy’s breadth she formed eight Christmases ago. It’s a alone shelter, and she’s accomplishing all she can to move out.

The adventure of Karleen and this Virginia Macy’s is additionally the adventure of what’s accident to the boilerplate class, and how Americans accept started to acerb on the acceptable administration store.

Stay with us.


DB: I’m not abiding absolutely aback I chock-full activity to malls. I anticipate it was in the aftermost decade or so.

As a kid, my ancestors would accumulation into the base wagon and arch to the capital in December to buy aftermost minute presents for anniversary other.

And we consistently entered the capital through the Macy’s and this abode was consistently decked out. There were trees, ornaments, colossal afflicted presents.

And I didn’t absolutely anticipate about it until we met Karleen, but Macy’s and the holidays accept gone calm in America for like best of the country’s history.

MACY’S AD: That’s the abracadabra of Macy’s.

DB: The aboriginal time Macy’s backward accessible until midnight on Christmas Eve? 1867!

Here’s a adventure from the New York Times on November 28, 1924. Aboriginal sentence: “Santa Claus chose Thanksgiving Day this year to appear to town. He catholic from 145th artery all the way bottomward to 34th, benumbed on a float as 10,000 kids and their parents looked on.” It was its aboriginal Christmas Parade… now accepted as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

MIRACLE: “What do you anticipate of my parade?” “It’s abundant bigger than aftermost year’s.” “Well I achievement Mr. Macy agrees with you.”

DB: In 1947, there was Miracle on 34th Street.

MIRACLE: “Mr Macy, if you admit the admirer built-in there, will you acquaint us who he is?” “Kris Kringle.”

DB: Turns out Macy’s had been employing the absolute Santa!

MIRACLE: “Do you absolutely accept this man is Santa Claus?” “Well I…”

DB: And every decade, Macy’s begin some way to accomplish itself a big allotment of the holidays.

MACY’S AD: “Can you acquaint me who’s in allegation here?” “I am.”

DB: Sometimes reprising the characters from Miracle…

MACY’S AD: “I fabricated an arrangement with Mr. Macy.” “Is there a Mr Macy?” “Not aback afore I was born.”

DB: In this ad talking to Donald Trump

MACY’S AD: “What’s with the get up Kringle?” “I’m Santa Claus” “Let me see for myself.” “Oh go ahead, cull it.”

DB: I don’t apperceive why he keeps assuming up in our episodes. Karleen and Christmas accept consistently gone calm too.

KARLEEN: I’m built-in a anniversary from Christmas so, I like it.

DB: It was the aboriginal ’60s, and not continued afterwards she was born, a new capital opened in Alexandria, Virginia. It was alleged Landmark.

High academy bands played for an aperture ceremony, and tap dancers performed in a axial stage. The army was packed.

After it opened, Karleen would go there all the time as a kid, but the alone time she absolutely admired it there was about the holidays.

KARLEEN: It was beautiful, it was lit up, the alfresco was the capital attraction. It was pretty.

The decorations was the copse and lights to go about the ancillary of Landmark that would blink the names out, and in the capital they had lights and stuff. Those was pretty.

We bought whatever we could afford, like socks, underwear, jeans that was not popular, or whatever we could allow for 6 kids or 6 girls.

DB: Aback then, there wasn’t a Macy’s at Landmark. It was alleged Hecht’s. Macy’s bought that alternation years later. Aback Karleen was a kid, best of the time, her dad would booty her to the Sears on the added end of Landmark Mall. She was not into it.

KARLEEN: My father, you apperceive what I can’t stand, he had a acclaim agenda from Sears, and I do not go arcade in Sears. Every time we charge article we go in Sears in the basement. Sears was arid and we went to the capital every added week.

DB: Karleen grew up aloof a few afar from the mall.

KARLEEN: My adjacency was alleged John Roberts Homes.

DB: The John Roberts Homes were an aboriginal affectionate of accessible housing. Not big towers, but rows of barrio with backyards and clothes lines.

KARLEEN: It was a appealing dwelling. We had our own sprinklers, big fields, we had like little racquet den. And on the Memorial Day, we had a continued annular amphitheater that had roses and we acclimated to booty it off and go to our ancestors and put it on their grave, so we didn’t buy them. We couldn’t allow to buy roses anyway.

DB: Her parents afar aback she was seven. While her dad would booty her to the Sears at the Landmark from time to time, her mom was accomplishing best of the parenting.

KARLEEN: I accept six added ancestors and one brother. We did the best we could. We was on welfare, of course. Bistro biscuit for breakfast everyday, sometimes bistro breakfast for dinner. Running out of aliment afore the end of the month, but we all admired one another. She did the best she could.

She died two years ago on November the 21st, from branch failure. So she was a able lady. I absence her, I absolutely do. I wouldn’t be here, but you know. She was a able lady.

DB. Did you apprentice a lot from her?

KARLEEN: Yes I did. I abstruse how to cook, account elders, aloof be accommodating and no amount what aloof accumulate activity forward. Additionally she acclimated to say, no pun intended, ‘Don’t let no man pay your rent,’ and I agitated that with me.

DB: Yeah, so you don’t let any men pay your rent?

KARLEEN: No, I abiding don’t. (laughs) No, because aback I say go you go.

DB: Two things happened aback Karleen angry 16. She started blind out at the Landmark Capital aliment cloister to accommodated boys. And she got her aboriginal absolute job at the bounded amusement department, allowance with kids’ activities. She said the kids had no respect.

DB: What did they do?

KARLEEN: They bandy actuality at you, discharge at you, alarm you names or compression you, so you apperceive there’s annihilation you can do. You accept to accord with it.

DB: Oh man!

KARLEEN: They’re rugrats.

DB: That does not complete fun.

KARLEEN: No but that’s how they were. They couldn’t booty it out on their mother so the mother let them booty it out on us that brought them here.

DB: And you were alone 16?

KARLEEN: Yeah, 16. And that was my money for my summer clothes to go aback to school.

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DB: There wasn’t abundant money larboard afterwards she bought those clothes, but the Landmark Capital was still breadth she spent best of her time. Often at those aliment cloister eateries.

KARLEEN: Yes, the eateries was breadth you would accommodated a guy aback you were window arcade and couldn’t allow to pay for stuff, but your accompany was activity to buy article and all you had was money to buy aliment so you would go up to the beanery and aloof accommodated bodies and chat. That was the adhere out for us.

DB: She admired activity to the Chinese and craven stands.

KARLEEN: I would go with the bodies that I knew and aloof accommodated up with people.

DB: How would you bang up conversations?

KARLEEN: ‘Hi, how you doing?’ That’s how we consistently aloof sit bottomward and the bench taken. You apperceive kids, you aloof talk. We aloof get to talkin, afresh we barter numbers. And aback they had a bold at their academy we acclimated to go, and aback they had a bold at our academy they acclimated to come.

DB: Did you get any boyfriends out of that?

KARLEEN: Not in my mother’s house! Not in my mother’s house!

DB: As I accept to Karleen talk, I apprehend that this capital has been the focal point of so abounding important moments in her life. Like, booty her additional job. It was at the US apparent office. Akin at 17, she ample out that alive for the government could be a acceptable gig. So she’d sit there filing designs…

KARLEEN: And afresh I would book them. Bisected the time I acclimated to attending at the designs, they was beautiful.

DB: There’s this one architecture she absolutely liked. You ability admit it:

KARLEEN: They aloof put a little mark on it and afresh the annual designs.

DB: So aback you went aback to the mall, did you anytime see that tennis shoe—

KARLEEN: Yeah, account it was Adidas and that’s what I admired to abrasion and I still abrasion Adidas today.

DB: Karleen declared what Landmark Capital looked like aback afresh and it’s aloof such a quintessential boilerplate chic American mall.

KARLEEN: What would I see? Okay, I would see the tennis shoe store, which is Payless. I would go accomplished the allotment breadth they accept the pretzels and they would douse them and we would say, ‘wow, we appetite a pretzel.’ Or we would comedy up and bottomward the elevator, or we would booty the change we had and put it in the balloon gum machine. The big balloon assurance was advancing out. Afresh we aloof absolved about til we got to the beanery and that was a wrap.

DB: How abounding were you? Was it a big group?

KARLEEN: No, three or four of us. Bisected of the time bodies didn’t accept money to pay for them added kids to go so through the anniversary we would save our money, sometimes we didn’t eat cafeteria at academy aloof to go to the mall.

DB: As Karleen got older, the burghal of Alexandria started changing. Affordable accommodation became akin added scarce. Then, the acreage about the John Roberts Homes breadth she lived with her mom and ancestors got a lot added admired aback a new DC busline stop opened abutting door.

So, in 1982, the burghal of Alexandria awash the accommodation project. The accommodation ascendancy said at the time that hire hadn’t kept up with expenses. That they bare the money from the auction to abstain bankruptcy. Alone one burghal lath affiliate voted adjoin the plan.

Nelson Greene said at the hearing: “We apparently should accede the bodies active there.” The Washington Post acclaimed Greene was the alone Black councilman.

Karleen’s ancestors was afflicted to move. But she still kept activity to the capital to adhere out.

KARLEEN: The bad moments aback I didn’t accept any money to go, or I didn’t accept any money to get annihilation to eat so we aloof went and aloof sat around. But somehow or another, there would consistently be somebody there who gave us food.

DB: Did article appear in your activity that led you not to accept money at that moment?

KARLEEN: I had one parent.

DB: Yeah.

KARLEEN: Actuality on welfare, not accepting a job. You apperceive my mother, I apperceive she was struggling, I’m not gonna go allurement her for money unless I absolutely bare it or something, that’s what happened.

DB: If you haven’t heard of Alexandria, let me acquaint you about it. Today, it’s a burghal of 155,000… and because it’s commute-able to DC, it’s home to a lot of government workers. But originally, it was a bondservant trading port, and there is a actual celebrated centre to Alexandria alleged the ‘old town’, forth the Potomac river. Over the years, it’s afflicted a lot.

KARLEEN: Aboriginal of all, it’s not affordable to live. And this is like, we in a little amphitheater and we got all these big homes about us and the awning is in a circle. It accept changed, and afresh we can’t allow to alive so it’s a lot of alone bodies afresh they got rid of the shelters. It’s just, it’s abhorrent to me. It’s depressing.

DB: The aboriginal time Karleen accomplished homelessness was about twenty years ago. In her mid 30s.

KARLEEN: Me and my mother, you know, me and my mother were added akin than different. We aloof could not alive together. And so I left.

DB: Why?

KARLEEN: Account she got her agency and I accept my ways. And I, if I couldn’t accord with her agency or account her house, you had to go.

DB: So she went. And sometimes she slept outside, continuing up. Or she’d lie bottomward in fields. Or in people’s cars.

KARLEEN: It was terrifying. It was cold. You beddy-bye but you’re not sleeping account every word, every complete you’re aloof bustling up.

DB: It’s like one eye open-

KARLEEN: You gotta anguish about accepting raped, killed, or whatever.

DB: She says it was easier to animation aback from actuality alone aback she was younger. She would acquisition new jobs and new places to live, akin if there wasn’t a abiding solution.

And forth the way, she had four kids.

KARLEEN: Ericka’s 30, Chyna’s 25, Rashaad is 21, and Malik is 14. And I don’t apperceive what I was thinking, I had a babyish at 42.

DB: In 2010, the holidays were approaching. The decorations were starting to go up at Landmark mall. And Karleen bare a new job.

KARLEEN: It was Christmastime and I bare added money for my kids so we had this abode it’s alleged Job Link. I would go to Job Link and get on the computer and see who was hiring. I said ‘wow, I’m able for this.’ So I’m accomplishing the Apparent Office, so I absolutely went to Macy’s, they assassin me on the spot, and that’s how I concluded up at Macy’s.

DB: What did you do there?

KARLEEN: I did pricing, which agency you go about and browse the amount tags if it’s clearance, markup, or sales, I would change the prices of the clothes, which abide of like 2500 pieces a day. And I backward in the kid’s administration account I had accouchement but I could not allow their clothes. I consistently looked at it, I consistently priced it. And I consistently admired it. It was aloof too outrageously too high.

Like Kenneth Coles, what was out aback then? I don’t know. All I apperceive they were designers I can’t akin bethink the designers aback then. All I apperceive is for a shirt for $19 for a babyish shirt was not in my budget. Aback I could go to like Kmart and get it. The shoes was too expensive. There was Babyish Phat jeans then, which was $30 for some jeans I apparently would put in the washer and blend them up. So no, I wasn’t accomplishing that.

DB: So you concluded up affairs actuality at Kmart instead?

KARLEEN: Yes, I abiding did and put a continued shirt on and anticipation they was the aforementioned jeans.

DB: So you begin the abstruse to a acceptable deal?

KARLEEN: Yes I did.

DB: But what’s accident while she’s alive at the Macy’s is that retail in this country is alteration absolutely dramatically. This is appropriate afterwards the recession acutely concluded but the abridgement is rough. About a actor retail jobs are absent about 2010.

And afresh afterwards that, retail jobs alpha to animation aback to the aforementioned levels as afore the recession, but not in administration stores. Hundreds of bags of administration abundance jobs are absent and never appear back. Macy’s has bankrupt 200 aliment — a division of its absolute — in the aftermost four years, which absolutely isn’t as bad as some added chains.

Karleen concluded up accepting a new job abroad from Landmark — at a Target store.

KARLEEN: We alleged it “Target”. Yes we did. I abiding did.

DB: “Target.” So there was added actuality to acquisition there than at Macy’s for you?

KARLEEN: Yes. Affordable. Yes. I wouldn’t say more, it was added affordable in my amount range.

DB: Akin afterwards all this time she kept activity aback to Landmark aloof like she had aback she was a little kid.

KARLEEN: I shopped there until it closed.

DB: The Macy’s went out in 2017. Afresh the blow of the capital bankrupt for acceptable a few weeks later. There was aloof one exception: Sears. It’s still accessible somehow. It’s the alone boutique larboard there.

KARLEEN: I chock-full activity aback it was no best a mall, and I’m not activity to Sears.

DB: She never admired that Sears, akin aback her dad took her there as a kid.

Obviously, it wasn’t aloof Karleen who’s been afflicted in one way or addition by the capital closing. This abode was the aspect of the city’s retail abridgement for so abounding decades. So what happens aback a capital goes bust, and how does a Macy’s become a shelter?

That’s in a minute.


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DB: We’re back.

So, if you’re like me and you were cerebration retail is tanking because of online shopping, able-bodied let me alpha this articulation by adage — you’re wrong. Walmart is accomplishing great. So are affluence malls. But I still capital to apperceive why administration aliment like Macy’s are disturbing and why boilerplate chic malls like Landmark are disappearing.

And the actuality with the answers is Business Insider chief correspondent, Hayley Peterson.

DB: Hi Hayley.

HAYLEY PETERSON: Hi, acknowledgment for accepting me. There are a cardinal of factors that are accidental to the abatement of these mid-tier retailers. You had the recession breadth a lot of consumers started arcade at abatement retailers like TJ Maxx and Dollar Aliment and a growing cardinal of bodies that would accept shopped at these mid bank retailers like Macy’s and Sears are now affective to dollar aliment and a lot of them as the abridgement bigger never went aback to arcade abounding price, so these mid bank retailers did a lot of promotions. Macy’s and Sears and JC Penney, they did bags of promotions —

DB: 40% off, 70% off.

HP: And bodies got acclimated to that and they aloof didn’t go aback to arcade abounding price. And so you abide to see these discounters accomplishing absolutely able-bodied and as the abridgement has bigger and the assets brackets accept array of bifurcated, these lower bank abatement aliment are accomplishing abundant bigger than the mid bank retailers. At the aforementioned time, at the added end of the assets spectrum, you’ve got these aerial end affluence malls accomplishing appealing well.

DB: So you said that assets is bifurcated, what happened exactly?

HP: The boilerplate chic in America is shrinking. Added and added people, either by choice, by absent to save money from what they abstruse during the recession, are additionally accepting to absorb a beyond allotment of their wallets on ascent healthcare costs, ancestry costs, and technology. They’re spending beneath on accoutrement and that’s all arch to a downturn, a abatement in arcade malls.

DB: Are bodies additionally beneath absorbed in shopping?

HP: You could absolutely accomplish that argument. What you’re seeing now in malls that are accomplishing renovations, that are aggravating to survive, are that they are bringing grocery, retailers, and experiences. We’ve apparent trampoline parks and cine theaters, all kinds of empiric retail, as against to artlessly affairs things like accoutrement and accessories and shoes.

NEWS: Among the aliment closing: the Macy’s at Landmark Capital in Alexandria…

DB: I asked Hayley how important those ballast administration stores, like JC Penney and Macy’s — how important they are to the shelf activity of a capital like Landmark.

HP: Aback an ballast addressee like Macy’s closes, it can advance to a decades continued abatement for a arcade mall. It can booty a absolutely continued time for these arcade malls to close. What happens is Macy’s and Sears and JC Penney, these are huge cartage drivers for arcade malls. And so aback one of them closes, that loses hire for the buyer of the arcade capital and that additionally leads to a abatement in cartage not aloof for those ballast tenants but additionally for those boilerplate of the capital aliment like J Crew and American Apparel, apparently shouldn’t use that archetype aback American Accoutrement no best exists. But so a abatement in traffic, a abatement in hire for the arcade capital owners, and arcade capital owners will try to acquisition a backup tenant. If that doesn’t happen, addition ballast addressee could close, and if you’ve got two ballast tenants bankrupt at a arcade mall, that’s about like a afterlife knell. It’s a afterlife circling for these arcade malls.

NEWS: So a bounded arcade centermost is on its way out.

NEWS: Landmark Capital on Duke St in Alexandria is shutting its doors to accomplish way…

DB: Abounding Macy’s locations bankrupt in aboriginal 2017, including the one at the Landmark Mall. About 120 workers there were affected.

After talking to Hayley, I got the faculty that afterwards a capital closes, it can accept this crazy ripple aftereffect on the absolute community. Already a capital closes it can set off a alternation reaction. Baby businesses adjacent abutting too.

And what’s larboard is aloof a behemothic alone architecture in the boilerplate of a all-inclusive parking lot. No added abatement furniture, no added dating in the aliment courts, no added Christmas spirit.

And for a lot of disturbing malls, afterlife comes slowly. I didn’t apprehend how boring until our ambassador Anna Mazarakis showed me something.

DB: Wait, wait, wait, so there’s a deadmalls.com? Hold on, I charge to Google this. Deadmall.com.

ANNA MAZARAKIS: Search for the Landmark Mall, there’s an annal there.

DB: Actuality it is. Oh there’s commentary. User submitted in March of 2005. So this is a continued time ago. And it says here: like abounding added DC breadth malls, Landmark Capital is in a absolute pickle.

DB: So Anna, this is the alpha of the adventure that leads to the Macy’s acceptable a alone shelter.

AM: Yeah I begin out it’s been a continued time in the authoritative — for both the accommodation and for the Macy’s.

MARK BULMASH: Aback you appearance up on deadmalls.com, apparently a decade afore you close, it absolutely is affectionate of the exchange cogent you you should get a altered use there.

DB: Who is this?

AM: This is Mark Bulmash. He’s a chief carnality admiral at the Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns the Landmark Capital . And he told me Howard Hughes has big affairs for the mall, but those affairs are still a few years from happening. So at the alpha of 2017, he heard from addition who had a big new abstraction for what could appear in the Macy’s in the meantime.

SHANNON STEENE: I don’t apperceive what Mark’s antecedent acknowledgment was.

AM: This is that someone. His name is Shannon Steene and he runs the Carpenter’s Accommodation in Alexandria. But aback in 2017, they had a little bit of a problem. Because they had lived in an old DMV for about 20 years, and they accomplished that DMV was accepting a little bit too old. So they absitively that they had to accommodate it, but that would beggarly that they would be alone for a little bit. So it was up to Shannon and the agents to acquisition a new abode to alive while that architecture was activity on.

SS: We all awash in a appointment allowance and talked about: so breadth do we go temporarily? Carpenter’s had a history of actuality in warehouses, and so we knew that ability be in the branch of possibility. We anticipation about…

AM: OK, maybe a warehouse, maybe a church, maybe an old school.

SS: And afresh addition said ‘you know, the ideal abode would be the Landmark Mall.’ And afresh there was array of a abeyance in the chat and abounding bodies chuckled. But the berry had been planted.

MB: It was a abruptness and I bare to mull it over.

AM: This is Mark again.

MB: It’s an out of the box idea, right? We bare to anticipate about it. I bare to argue our alignment that we could do it, right? That we had the time amid accepting the – accomplishing the planning and accepting the entitlements that we could put them in and not adjournment our starting architecture on our project. But in the end, it was an accessible accommodation because it was the appropriate affair to do.

DB: So, afresh what happened?

AM: Ok so Howard Hughes was on board, but afresh Shannon Steene had to go to the burghal of Alexandria to accomplish abiding that they would assurance off on it.

NEWS: In the meantime, there’s a arguable plan that would advance the alone amplitude as a acting alone shelter…

AM: So he went to their planning agency affair and they waited the accomplished night through this actual advancing schools affair until assuredly – at 11 o’clock — it was their turn. And so Shannon’s sitting there worried, animating himself for what he thinks these afraid Alexandrians ability say about alone bodies active in an old mall.

SS: And so brainstorm abundant to my surprise, that there was alone one actuality who had registered to allege and affirm at that audition and so she stood up and she said, ‘this is absolutely the activity we appetite to see in our community.’ It puts a agglomeration in your throat aback you anticipate about what I had expected.

AM: So that’s how a Macy’s angry into a alone shelter.

AM: Ok I aloof pulled up to the Macy’s, to the Carpenter’s Accommodation in Alexandria, Virginia, and let’s go on inside.

AM: I pulled up into this huge parking lot that surrounds Landmark. There are hundreds of alone spaces. It’s so alone I could do huge U-turns. It’s so empty, there’s sometimes an absolute carnival in the parking lot. It’s so empty, they attempt allotment of the abutting Wonder Woman cine in the lot.

I saw the Sears that’s still accessible — somehow — at the end of the mall, but I headed in the added direction…

AM: Walking up to the shelter, you can see the outline of breadth it acclimated to say Macy’s and it now has a little assurance that says Carpenter Accommodation on top of it.

AM: So I went inside. Karleen wasn’t there aback I visited because she was at assignment – best days, she is at work. So instead, I met Blair Copeland, she’s the administrator of programming at the Carpenter Shelter.

BLAIR COPELAND: Ok, we’re back.

AM: Hi! Anna.

BC: Nice to accommodated you.

AM: Nice to accommodated you.

BC: There are bodies who still appear in and anticipate this is a Macy’s, that occasionally there’ll be somebody that says, I appetite to acknowledgment something, and I’m like how could you? There – stop. Aboriginal of all, the capital has been bankrupt for like 2 years. And secondly, it doesn’t attending like Macy’s anymore.

AM: So Blair took me about and aggregate was actual clean, actual sanitized, actual new. The walls were absolutely white. And you couldn’t absolutely acquaint that there had been abundant of a activity beforehand, except for aback you looked bottomward at the ground.

BC: It’s the floor. The carpeting is acutely retail carpet.

AM: So you attending at the carpeting and you can acquaint you’re in a Macy’s. But afresh you attending at the appliance and the chairs attending like they could accord in a academy cafeteria. The tables are aboveboard and small. And as you’re walking around, there’s a attenuated hallway, and you canyon a doctors appointment – a accurate doctors appointment – on the appropriate side. There’s a appointment allowance for affairs on the left, there’s a little atelier on the larboard appropriate abutting to that appointment room. And afresh there are two continued hallways off of that that go – one goes against the women’s accommodation and the ancestors rooms, and the added hallways goes appear the men’s rooms. I saw two of the bigger accommodation that had 6 beds. Best of them are bunked, and they accept huge dressers, as well. But in the accommodation breadth bodies are absolutely living, they absolutely accomplish it their own.

I was there in the afternoon and there aren’t abounding bodies around. Best of the association were at their jobs. They accept to accept jobs or attending for assignment to alive here. And as we’re walking around, Blair and I appear beyond some boys in the hallway.

BC: Hello gentlemen, breadth is your mother?

BOYS: In the laundromat.

AM: About a division of the association are kids —

BC: Can you aloof adhere out there and adjournment for her?

BOYS: Yeah.

AM: So this is a aphorism that is appealing deeply enforced: they accept to break with their parents. And these boys’ mother said that it’s been affectionate of adamantine for them.

SS: You know, they feel like they’re 16, they shouldn’t accept to chase mommy everywhere they go. But are they ambidextrous with it? Yeah, they’re ambidextrous with it because they apperceive this is alone temporary, it’s not abounding time.

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AM: The accommodation is actuality temporarily, too. The Carpenter’s Shelter’s charter at the old Macy’s is up at the end of 2019, and at that time, they’re activity to move into a cast new architecture that has a accommodation on the aboriginal floor, and afresh on the aloft floors, they’re activity to accept 97 new affordable accommodation units. Article that Alexandria could use a lot added of.

DB: Is it absolutely bad there?

AM: Yeah, the burghal absent 90% of its affordable accommodation banal aback 2000. And at the aforementioned time, hire for a one bedchamber has gone up added than 90%.

BC: So aback bodies ask us, why are bodies homeless? It’s because they accept boilerplate to alive that they can afford. And you fix that by creating added affordable housing. I aloof acquaint residents, you apperceive there are about 15 abounding time agents actuality – absolutely now that I anticipate about it, there’s alone two bodies who can allow to alive actuality in the burghal of Alexandria and we get paid, you know, appealing appropriate salaries.

DB: Wait, wait, wait. So let me get this straight: akin the accommodation staff, with abounding time jobs, they can’t allow to alive in Alexandria?

AM: Exactly, it’s crazy. But as for the Landmark Mall, the Howard Hughes Corporation affairs to breach it bottomward and body one of those adorned arcade centers that you’ve apparently apparent that has a cine amphitheater and retail aliment and restaurants and some offices and residences, too.

DB: Alright, thanks, Anna. And, in a moment: what Karleen’s activity is like now in the Macy’s… and what it will booty for her to get aback into a home of her own.


KARLEEN: Acceptable morning. Acceptable morning.

DB: We’re back.

KARLEEN: This is breadth everybody meets, out actuality for your leisure time, smoke cigarettes, bang the bubble.

DB: We met Karleen on a altered day at Carpenter’s.

KARLEEN: This is breadth we smoke and do whatever we do out actuality and get cancer.

DB: And I got the faculty audition her airing through these corridors, she can still account what this architecture looked like as a Macy’s about Christmastime. The clothes and Christmas lights she’d see as a kid or as a melancholia worker.

KARLEEN: And as I advance through there, was the kid’s administration on the side, the boys department, afresh I accumulate activity bottomward through the aisle, it was the breed department, and afresh there was escalators that you would go up to the actuality and that was the accomplished apple up there, the men’s, the women’s, all kinds of actuality upstairs.

DB: And now as you airing through, what does it attending like? It charge attending actual different.

KARLEEN: It looks like an old alone warehouse, but new. That’s what it attending like to me. With chairs and tables and bodies activity through what they’re activity through.

DB: So breadth are you sitting appropriate now?

KARLEEN: I’m sitting in the kids department.

DB: This won’t appear as a surprise, but it acquainted actual altered aback she aboriginal absolved through those aforementioned Macy’s doors aback in June… this time as her acting home. She said she felt…

KARLEEN: Confused. Sorry for myself, or how did I get here. Depressed.

DB: Did you acclimated to allocution to bodies about how you acclimated to assignment in the store?

KARLEEN: Yeah, I abiding did. The bodies that I allocution to was close, I abiding did. And let them know, I said ‘can you accept this was a Macy’s banausic banausic blah.’ And we would beam it off, yes.

DB: She’s been in shelters for seven months now. The aftermost four here. Bouncing about anytime aback she larboard her daughter’s home.

KARLEEN: I acclimated to alive with my babe who’s practicing, who’s drugging now.

DB: They had a above falling out. Whenever her babe couldn’t get drugs, Karleen said she’d booty it out on her.

KARLEEN: And it came to a time breadth she was disrespecting me and so abundant that I couldn’t booty it.

DB: Karleen can’t go aback to her daughter’s. She said it’d be like suicide to go aback there. Her added kids, she said, don’t affliction abundant to analysis what happened to her. So for now, she’s here.

KARLEEN: This is breadth we go to the bathroom, booty a battery here. Sometimes we booty the chairs and put them up actuality and aloof talk. It’s added adequate in the bath than befitting addition up. So that’s what we do.

DB: What’s your allowance like?

KARLEEN: Oh boy. I beggarly it consists of six beds. It’s like a cubicle, but I account it. It took a minute to get acclimated to, it’s like applesauce to bunk. You can’t move all at one time accomplished anniversary other. It’s been some asperous times. You accept to account people’s space. Some bodies don’t appetite you to aerosol perfume. Some bodies don’t appetite you about-face the ablaze on. Some bodies don’t appetite you to about-face the ablaze off. I lay in the applesauce bed at the bottom. I booty a big anhydrate and awning the basal of my bed and I’m in my own world.

DB: What do you anticipate about aback you lie there?

KARLEEN: Aback I’m gonna leave. My day is off today, unbelievable. Afterwards 6 days, alive from 3 to 10, 11 straight.

DB: The day we batten to Karleen, she was tired. She’d had had a continued anniversary alive at a deli. It was appropriate afore Hurricane Florence.

KARLEEN: Oh, how was my anniversary was going? It was terrible. It was like the bodies was panicking as if the day was ending. And every time I about-face about the bodies was aloof activity in and bought all the water, all the cafeteria meat, because it’s like, beneath perishable, and it was a active work. I formed 38 hours straight. Today, I’m absolutely off, and I am exhausted.

DB: The cafeteria is the best job she could find. It’s adamantine aback you’re in your backward 50s to acquisition work. It pays $12 an hour. She’s belief phlebotomy so she can get a job cartoon claret at doctor’s offices. There are a lot added healthcare jobs these days.

KARLEEN: Phlebotomy jobs, medical jobs, coding jobs, that’s what I’m acceptable at. I’m acceptable at numbers, so.

DB: She said she needs a job that pays at atomic $40,000 a year. Hire prices boilerplate about $1400 for a one bedchamber in Alexandria. So akin on that salary, she’d be spending about bisected her assets on rent.

The city’s affordable accommodation appointment akin says you’d accept to be alive four abounding time jobs at minimum allowance to be able to allow a one bedroom.

Until then, Karleen said she had boilerplate to go. Won’t go aback to her daughter’s, can’t allow to alive in Alexandria, and doesn’t accept a car so can’t alive alfresco the city. She dreams of affairs a acclimated Honda Accord.

But some things are happening. Karleen met someone! At the mall! In a sense…

KARLEEN: Actuality in the shelter. His name is M. Green, Mr. Green. He was in actuality for a minute, actual educated. He had became an alcoholic for a minute and didn’t let his ancestors know. He was alone actuality a brace of weeks, I don’t apperceive and I bare to get on the internet to do resume and he knew all about the computers. And from afresh on we aloof talked.

DB: And would you alarm him your boyfriend?

KARLEEN: I abiding would. We alarm this actuality nowadays it’s friends. Admirer is for kids. We alarm him my acquaintance or my bush other. Yes.

DB: Sorry. So aback you get out, you anticipate you ability alive together?

KARLEEN: No, unless I get affiliated I ain’t active no man. Excuse me. Excuse me.

DB: He has to adjournment then.

KARLEEN: You never know, you never know. He’s a nice guy.

DB: I was acquisitive this would be this story’s blessed ending, but the day Karleen and I talked was absolutely appointed to be her aftermost day at Carpenter’s Shelter. She didn’t appetite to leave.

KARLEEN: Afterwards I allocution to you, I accept to go to an address to see if I can stay.

DB: A few canicule later, we alleged her back. She said the accommodation gave her a two anniversary extension. She was depressed. Afraid — maybe akin accommodated — that she’ll end up on the streets again. Maybe application drugs, she said, to addled the pain. She said she can’t alive with Mr. Green she said because she doesn’t appetite to be with a man aloof to accept a abode to live. They hadn’t talked in four days.

But for now, she looks through the aperture in the sheetrock in her bedroom, analytical into the alone Macy’s breadth she already worked, and dreams about a acceptable job, a one bedchamber apartment, and that acclimated Honda Accord.

And maybe by abutting Christmas, afterwards she’s confused out of the old Macy’s, she’ll accept a home of her own.


DB: Special acknowledgment to Michael Corkery of the New York Times who alien us to Karleen.

This adventure was produced by Anna Mazarakis, Clare Rawlinson and me with Sarah Wyman and Amy Pedulla.

Our editor is Gianna Palmer.

Sound architecture and aboriginal music by Casey Holford and John DeLore.

Our controlling producers are Chris Bannon, Jenny Radelet, Laura Mayer, and me.

Before you go – I appetite to acquaint you about a new appearance additionally from Stitcher that launched this week. It’s alleged The Dream, and it’s a 12-part analysis into the apple of multilevel business and pyramid schemes. You can acquisition it wherever you accept to podcast now.

And abutting week, we’re absolutely activity to accompany you allotment of The Dream’s investigation, in an adventure about Amway.Here’s a bastard peek:

THE DREAM CLIP: It seemed as admitting the government had absitively that multilevel business was a counterfeit business model. And they were accomplishing great, for about 10 years, they were demography bottomward some of the better companies, actual aerial contour cases. And afresh it afflicted with that Amway case.

Tune in abutting week. And aback we’re about at the end of Season 1, why not amount and analysis us on Apple Podcasts – it’ll advice us accumulate authoritative the show, and ability new people. Acknowledgment for your support!

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