The bus was supposed to be temporary housing until a permanent home could be built. But prison for the parents changed all that. The mother is free now, her children are gone.
Sherrie Shorten is now back in Splendora after more than a year in a Louisiana prison, convicted of embezzlement. But it's not been the homecoming she wanted.
"What you're seeing now is the condition we left it in when we went to jail and I realize we've been gone 16 months, but I spent eight days cleaning," Sherrie said.
Two months ago, what had been a quiet existence for an 11-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother living on a converted bus, cared for at night by a 60-year-old aunt who worked to support them, was suddenly put on the public radar. It was all because of what a postal carrier reported to authorities.
"I thought they were probably abandoned," the worker said at the time.
They were not, but the living conditions were described as deplorable. Now, after scrubbing and cleaning the bus that serves as a home, Shorten said the conditions in which her children and their aunt lived were not exaggerated and she could do nothing about it from prison, giving her an empty feeling.
Now the interior is tidy. The trash in the yard will be picked up. Shorten says she isn't employed, but her job is getting her children back from CPS foster care.
"I want them back home before they go back to school in September so there's an easy transition," she said.
Shorten wants to go to work, generate an income, find an apartment -- anything she says she needs to do to win custody. Next week, for the first time in more than a year she'll see her children, rather than talking to them by phone. The first thing she expects to do...
"Probably cry... Probably cry," she said.
Shorten's legal problems have not ended. Recently a relative accused her of stealing a tax refund check -- something she denies.