Mom Accused of Leaving Kids in Storage Unit Says They Were Living There


storage unitYou almost have to feel for this woman. On Wednesday, New Jersey mom Sheena Johnson was charged with child endangerment for leaving her two children in a storage unit -- alone. The kids are ages 5 and 10 -- oddly enough, those are the dimensions of the unheated storage unit as well, 5 by 10 feet. Johnson says they'd been living in the unit for a month because they had no other options.

That sounds awful for the family, doesn't it? Well, it gets worse. Here's how the police found out about the kids in the storage unit in the first place: They had arrested Johnson for supposedly slashing her boyfriend's tires and couldn't get a straight answer from her about who was taking care of her children. 

Oh Lord, what a mess. The one non-depressing detail in this story is that Johnson's $50,000 bail was raised by community members. It sounds like maybe someone had her back after all. You can only imagine what must have led her to 1) slash her boyfriend's tires and 2) move into a storage unit. It sounds like she was in trouble -- maybe she was fleeing an abusive situation.

But what I keep wondering is if her community could raise $50,000 for bail, why couldn't they help her find a better living situation before all of this happened? And was this really Johnson's best option? Couldn't someone have taken her to a women's shelter? Maybe someone tried and it just didn't work out.

At any rate, obviously a storage unit is no place to raise a family -- and definitely a terrifying place to leave your children unattended. She clearly showed poor judgment (hello, slashing tires, not a great example for your kids, mom!). But don't people with poor judgment still deserve help -- especially when there are innocent kids involved? I think so. I hope someone can help her find a better home for herself and her children.

Do you think there are enough safe options for homeless mothers and their kids?


Image via Stefan Andrej Sambora/Flickr

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Laine... Lainey0468

I pray they all get some help and a decent place to live.  sometimes in situations you can be so stressed out that you do not make proper choices.

Jespren Jespren

Depending upon the temperature I don't see why a storage unit would necessarily be a 'bad' place to stay over in an emergency. Illegal since they aren't rated for 'dwellings', but could totally see how it would in fact work in a pinch. That being said, 5 and 10? Most kids the world over have jobs and stay hours by themselves in much most potentially dangerous situations than a storage unit by those ages. A 5 and 10 year old are perfectly capable of staying home alone, and it's perfectly legal to leave them home alone in pretty much any state. This is either just a helicopter-worst first thinking overstep of authority to arrest a women who in no reasonable way put her kids in danger, or a required arrest because a storage unit isn't 'legally' habitable.

nonmember avatar J

10% of bail is $5,000...the community didn't come up with $50k.

etcet... etcettera

Jespren, you cannot seriously think that a 5 year old is mature enough to be left alone? Have you met a 5 year old? They are impulsive and reckless even if they seem mature. A ten year old is iffy depending on their maturity level, but I wouldn't expect a 10 year old to be a good babysitter. The storage unit has no ventilation, no kitchen, and no bathroom. If it was a hot day those kids would roast in there, and what if some pervert found them while visiting a neighboring stall?

Jespren Jespren

I was babysitting 5 year olds by the time I was 10. A 10 year old sibling is perfectly capable of handling a 5 year old sibling. Try looking at kids outside of the panic-stricken, compariably rich, 1st world, western society, you'll find huge swathes of 5 year olds caring for 2 year old siblings, 7 year olds taking care of the house, and 10 year olds holding down jobs. As for ventilation, that's why I started with 'depending upon temperature'. And, seriously?, some creepy old man whose slipping through the storage yard on his way to his stash of kiddy porn is going to randomly start knocking on storage units hoping that maybe, just maybe he'll find a kid to his likings unguarded hiding out nearby that he can lure into his waiting car?? Do you fear astroids colliding with your car on the way to work? Almost all molestations are carried out by people the family and children know well, they are friends, family, peers, they are *more* likely, by far, to be molested if they were in a daycare than hiding in a storage unit. Moreover, if they were actually living there, one assumes they had some form of temporary facilities set up. And, again, in nearly every state it's perfectly legal to leave a 10 year old and a 5 year old at home.

Lasha... LashaTumbai

I work at a storage facility. Many storage are just slapped up quickly. There are many gaps for cold or vermin to get in, which they WILL if there is food in the unit. I am an adult and would not want to sit alone in a unit even with a light, and I work there. It would be a scary place for two young kids after dark. The buildings make noise and creak. I am honestly surprised the staff didn't notice they were living there. We usually find out within a couple days and issue an eviction notice. I do understand why people choose to do this, as rent on a unit is cheaper than an apartment or motel, but I feel for the kids.

Green... GreenEyesMom

J's got that right. 5K. Anyways shelters arent always the best places for women and children. I hope things get better for this family.

Daniel Gomez

Why is it that if a mother and two kids are homeless, its "ok" for them to sleep on the streets but not in a type of secure shelter? All beacause its not techinically a "residence". Shelters get full and all the time have to turn women and childen away. If i was ever in the situation, id most definately turn to a storage unit over a park bench. At least the unit providrs a shelter away from the elements.

nonmember avatar Katie

Jespren, I can only pray that you dont and never will have children. Even though a 10 year old may be capable of helping care for a 5 year old in structured situation that they are used to, 5 year olds are unpredictable and situations are unpredictable. A 10 year old does not have the comprehension to react to an emergency in all situations. Also it is highly illegal in most states to leave your children under 12 home alone for hours at a time.

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