Enzo Gelestino lies awake at night worrying if he is doing enough for his children.

“I always wonder if I’m doing right by them,” Enzo said.

At 51 years old, he is an older single dad to an elementary school-age boy and a middle school-age girl. The family has been homeless for over a year.

Before school started this fall, he and the children moved into a school bus that he parks at a boat launch on the Androscoggin River.

Enzo Gelestino, right, stands outside a school bus he has been converting into a home for his two children. He has been using his disability income to buy materials for the conversion. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

He has been converting the bus into a home when he’s been able to scrape together the money. Before he was able to purchase a small propane heater, he got up every couple of hours to turn on the bus, to keep the space warm while his children slept.

He made a private sleeping area for the children but he sleeps on the floor. “That’s pretty cold. I don’t have carpet on the floor yet,” Enzo said. “It’s the money thing”


“At night, if it’s cold, I’m up checking on the heater all night long,” he said.

The shower in their last apartment had been leaking for over a year. Enzo tried to fix it. He begged the landlord to fix it.

He eventually called the city’s code enforcement office to report the conditions. A short time later, his landlord began the eviction process. One year ago, Enzo and his children were left without a place to call home.

Enzo is an Army veteran from the Desert Shield era in 1990. He was discharged with a medical condition that included uncontrolled seizures.

“My kids are proud to be the children of a veteran,” he said. “When they were at Walton (Elementary) School, they had me come in for Veterans Day.”

After being evicted from their apartment, the family ended up at a Super 8 motel, which quickly drained his $1,500 monthly disability check. In a bit of irony, their room had a leaky sink. This time Enzo was able to make the repair.


“I’m a fix-it guy,” he said.

Enzo came to the realization that on his fixed income, living long-term at the motel was not possible. “I didn’t want to fail my kids again. School was coming up,” he said.

He looked into buying a motor home but he encountered some scams, and the motor homes that were being sold legally were too expensive due to pandemic pressures and a tight housing situation.

“And so I said the hell with it. I took the money I had and I put it into a bus,” he said.

Little by little, he has been buying the materials he needs to make the bus into a home.

He is piecing together a life for his family, in the best way he knows how.


“I’ve tried to make it homey,” Enzo said. “I’ve got a couple of spider plants in there.”

When he first got the bus, he drove the kids to school in it. His young son loves it. Enzo has to take the bus through the bus lane because it won’t fit in the car lane.

Now, the school bus picks the kids up at a stop close to their camping spot.

“They find it unique,” Enzo said of his children’s feelings about living in the bus. “They call it The Bunker because I was a combat medic in the Army.”

Enzo feels other passersby are not so enchanted. He has covered and insulated all the windows to keep the heat in, and the effect is off-putting at first glance.

“I get a lot of dirty looks from it, but I’m a father who cares about my kids,” he said.


He had a tough time finding a place to park the bus.

He had some struggles with the Police Department, despite parking in an area that allows camping.

When he tried to spend the night in the Walmart parking lot, he was chased away.

“Why?” he asks, “because I’m in an ugly bus? I’m not sex trafficking. I’m not drug dealing.”

Eventually, Enzo said, someone from Public Works assessed their situation. They were recognized as a family, not troublemakers. Public Works told the family they were welcome to camp long term. “(They) brought us breakfast sandwiches that morning.”

It hasn’t been easy for the children to be homeless. “People call them a hobo or a homeless bum,” their father said.


One day on her way home from school, his daughter got jumped by some bullies. Enzo was not happy about that, and he spoke to the children, threatening them with legal consequences.

The bus has a camp stove, a propane fridge, and a propane heater. Enzo has a toilet in the bus and is working on getting a shower installed. He has a few solar panels for minor electrical uses.

“It’s all progress in the work,” he said. “It’s not like I don’t know how to do it. It’s the money.”

With winter coming, Enzo is concerned about keeping the propane tanks filled. He’s not sure if heating assistance programs will cover the fuel for the propane heater.

Enzo’s Army-style combat boots have holes worn straight through them. “It’s the only kind of boot I wear,” he said. “It’s the same combat boots that I was issued in the military in 1989.

“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Enzo said. “I’ll go without food.”

“As long as the kids stay warm, they got food, they stay dry. I’m happy,” he said.

But still, he beats himself up about the life he is providing for his children. “I feel like a failure nonstop to them,” he said.

“People look down on us,” Enzo said. “You can’t get any help and everybody wants to look down on you.”

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