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The Gastons

In less than six months, Xavier and March Gaston will be celebrating the birth of their first child.

“I’m happy,” says March, 26, in between drags from her cigarette. “I can’t wait.”

After spending their first night on the streets of South Los Angeles, the couple are searching for shelter. Xavier has spent the morning panhandling on Avalon Boulevard, though he is well short of the $45 he needs for a hotel.

“I should have been more prepared for a situation like that, and I wasn’t,” the 28-year-old says of the previous night. “Instead of me saving or keeping funds set aside for myself, I wasn’t expecting something like that to happen. I should have been better prepared.”

Xavier and March moved from Fresno to LA three weeks ago for a construction job. Xavier’s boss let the couple stay in a house next to his own, but kicked the Gastons out after they accused his son of sexually assaulting March while she slept.

“[We] got into a fight over . . . his son disrespecting my wife,” Xavier says. “When she was asleep, [he] was trying to touch on her . . . and got caught. He didn’t believe it, so he said, ‘Hey, you gotta get out of here,’ and didn’t want to pay me my money, talking about he’ll send it to me. I doubt that seriously. It put us in the situation that we are in.”

According to Xavier, this isn’t the first time the couple have been homeless. Three years ago, the Gastons survived by panhandling and selling crack cocaine in Las Vegas. The profits allowed them to support their own habits and occasionally pay for an apartment until March served a seven-month stint in prison for possession charges.

After a few years of stability in Fresno, they again find themselves vulnerable on the streets.

“I can’t believe I’m out here,” March says. “Where are we going to sleep at? Is somebody going to come and attack us when we sleep?”

Xavier says his family will send him bus tickets to Fresno in the morning. When he gets home, he will look for work while March starts preparing for the baby.

“I’ll explain to the . . . child that this is not the way to go — there’s a better way,” says Xavier. “You don’t have to end up like this all the time.”

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