SAN JOSE -- He's trying to take one day at a time. But Clayton "Nikk" Jones can't stop worrying about where their next home will be, or if they will even have one.

"It's consuming me," said Jones, glancing over at his 11-year-old daughter. "I can't think about anything else. I'm always wondering, 'Where are we going to go? What are we going to do?' But we're probably going back on the bus again."

Last November, this newspaper wrote about how the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 22 bus becomes a mobile homeless shelter in the overnight hours. Jones and his daughter, Mariah, were among them.

After the story was published, drawing response across the world, Jaime Angulo organized friends to get them off the bus.

But Tuesday, Jones -- who has gone by the nickname of Nikk since high school -- and his daughter have to move out of the house where they have been living temporarily. Their small nest egg evaporated when he recently went six weeks between jobs -- a situation that shows how difficult it can be for people in Silicon Valley to get back onto their feet after they've become homeless.

"I think Nikk is doing everything he can," said Angulo, a program manager for the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley. "But even though he had this support of people helping, it's still so easy to fall through the cracks again. One problem and bang, it's a disaster."

Jones feels resigned to the inevitable.


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"Nothing short of a miracle would have to happen now," he said. "Maybe winning the lottery? But I don't play, so I'll never win."

Sanctuary on a bus

Sitting in a conference room at Angulo's office, Jones spoke for the first time at length about their lives before and after they were pictured on the newspaper's front page. That night, they were trying to sleep on the jostling bus as it shuttled between San Jose and Palo Alto.

They had been spending nights this way for about five months, Jones said, because it provided a relatively safe and warm place for Mariah. Each morning, she then would board another bus to the elementary school where she recently completed the fifth grade.

Jones was born in the South Bay and raised in Idaho. He returned here after a short stint in the Navy. Their plight began when he lost his job and had no family or friends who could help. Mariah's mother, he said, has left the state.

"The hardest part is just trying to live a normal life while riding the bus," said Jones, 41. "It's not easy. It's not good for Mariah's schoolwork."

When the article appeared, Angulo and his wife recognized them from the school bus stop where they brought their 6-year-old son. After talking with Jones, Angulo was persuaded that he deserved a helping hand.

"My wife and I had the perception that he's a good dad," said Angulo, whose job is helping first-time home buyers. "These two are a team. They are inseparable. I've told him that I think she is his lifeboat. He does everything for her. She is all that he has."

Homeless advocates worked to find space at the Family Supportive Housing shelter, where they spent 90 days. From the nearly $2,200 in donations collected, Angulo arranged for them to live for four months in a downtown bungalow that a friend was willing to rent at $800 -- far below the market rate.

"You never know when a total stranger will be your best friend," Jones said. "That would be Jaime for me."

An unexpected setback

Jones was accepted at a Goodwill training program for auto detailing. But when it ended in mid-April, Jones was unemployed again for six weeks before landing a full-time job working in a Goodwill warehouse. The last of their savings went to pay the June rent.

They can't return to Family Supportive Housing -- the only local facility that accepts single fathers -- because residents must wait a calendar year before returning. That's because there is such a demand for the facility's 35 rooms.

"The reality is there's simply just not enough beds for everyone," said Beth Leary, the executive director. "We just don't have the affordable housing we need in our community."

Leary added that this is not an uncommon story.

"When you're living paycheck to paycheck, you can have one catastrophe -- a sickness, your car breaking down -- and then you're back on the streets."

Throughout the interview, Mariah happily chatted with Angulo. But she became shy when asked questions by a reporter, answering most with a small shrug of her shoulders.

"She really doesn't say anything about going back to the bus," Jones said.

Sometimes, he added, she will complain about being bored in the house. He will tell her to enjoy the roof over their heads. Soon, she might be wishing they were back there.

Follow Mark Emmons at Twitter.com/markedwinemmons.