Sometimes the problems are so overwhelming that Robert Cordero steps away from his children for a few minutes to pull himself together.
While two sons and three daughters play in a cluttered Cherry Hill, N.J., motel room, he turns up the radio, closes the bathroom door, and cries.
“I can’t let them see me that way. … Who will they look up to?” said the 40-year-old single father. “I have to go back and try to raise five kids.”
Cordero’s family has lived at the Hillside Inn for more than five months, along with a couple dozen other homeless people surviving on public assistance.
He and his children — ages 8 to 16 — moved there after Cordero lost his home-remodeling job and they were evicted from a Woodlynne, N.J., apartment.
The Hillside guests are among untold thousands nationwide who have been laid off during the economic downturn, then forced from houses and apartments to motels, officials said.
Unseen by motorists speeding by on Route 38, the men, women and children live in single rooms at the motel, where beds double as dinner tables, and folded clothes, food and toys are stacked high along the walls.
They’re trying to hold families together while looking for work — “on or off the books” — and getting by on welfare, food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid.
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