MALIBU (CBSLA.com) — Nicole Barker seemed to be living the dream, a beautiful college graduate who capitalized on her dance talents by becoming an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader.
“Life then was really great,” said Barker. “I mean, you have your whole life ahead of you, so everything was exciting.”
So, how did someone like 35-year-old Barker go from entertaining thousands on the sidelines to living on the streets?
In her 20s, Barker, like so many others, followed her dreams to L.A. to work in entertainment.
But when those dreams fell apart, she was forced to move back home to Indiana, where she fell on hard times.
“I realized my parents weren’t going to help me out at all,” she said. “I had nowhere to go. I had no friends to go stay with.”
Out of money and options, Barker jumped in an old camper van – her only possession – and moved back to Southern California.
In desperation, she begged for money but said no one would help her because she didn’t fit the typical appearance of someone who is homeless.
“I got that at first all the time. ‘You’re too pretty!’ Because I looked way better than I do now,” said Barker. “And then after awhile, it got more derogatory. I got propositioned, solicited for jobs and things; I just was shocked.”
Desperate to restore her life, Barker wants to get out of her current situation: living in a van on a vacant lot in Malibu.
“I’ve been in my van here two and a half years, but without a job for a year, living on the street,” she said. “It has torn me down in every way possible.”
Through social media, Barker told her story and has since reconnected with former teammates like CBS2’s Stephanie Simmons.
And as always, her hope is for a better future.
“It’s not the living in the van so much, it’s to not have employment, it’s to not have friends, to not be treated by society the way that I, who I truly am,” she said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for those interested in helping Barker get back on her feet.