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I am enjoying the articles about Liz Hirsch as I find it gives a face and a heart to this issue and people in this plight. I think we are all ready to adopt this woman.
I started talking to a woman on a corner about a year ago. She holds a sign and I give her something from my lunch every day. Sometimes we get in a few words of chit-chat before my light turns. I have found out that she has a name and a nickname used by her friends. She worked until she lost her car about seven years ago and then she said it became too difficult. I first thought she was a woman who had run out of luck and ended up on a corner, but there is more to her story. She talks on a cell phone, smokes and often has a big bottle or cup of pop. She told me she considers herself homeless but has a trailer in the area without any water or electric. It sounded like an abandoned spot where she camps out. She mentioned she lived at the beach for a time, but the cold and the mist were too much for her. One day she mentioned that she was “not making enough” at this corner, and she was going to have to go to North County. It struck me as odd, as she talked as if she had a job, but she was referring to the money given to her by the strangers in cars. I told her one day she needed to get off of the corner where she sits in dirt and grass every day next to fumes. She told me: “It works for me.”
So I think about her a lot. She is not the down-and-out who lost their home a month ago, but a person making a sort of career out of being homeless. Has it just become comfortable in an odd sort of way? Does she think about the people in the cars going to work and providing for themselves? What makes someone sit on the corner with a sign saying, “I may be fat, but I still need to eat.” I read that sign day after day. Until she disappears for a week, and then two. Is she ok? Will she come back? Will I see her again? Did I do enough with my Ziploc bags of food I share? Once I gave her a jacket I no longer needed. She thanked me and said she needed it because she lost hers on the bus. I never saw her wear it. Did she lose it too? Or trade it? Do I even need to know? Maybe it’s more about me doing the right thing, and not worrying about what she does with it.
I have spoken to my colleagues about her as they too see her on that corner. They are torn. Is it enabling someone to give them money or food every day when they seem to have no desire to help themselves? I get that. I don’t give her money. Maybe food is easier, safer. But again, do I worry about that or just give to another human being? My mother-in-law works at a large rescue mission in another state. She notes that many of the homeless have mental health issues. So, what if I am passing a person on the street who was abused, or needs medication and I don’t give to them, care about them, just because I judge them for not getting up, doing something? Maybe she can’t do something. Maybe for whatever reason the wiring has her confused, or depressed or mentally ill. And then I think about myself. Are there areas in my life where I have just given up? Am I sitting on a street corner letting life pass me by and not doing something I should be doing? Have I allowed myself to be sad, or fat, or less than I can be because I don’t think I am worth it?
More questions than answers. She is gone again. I am worried about her. She tells me she will be gone and never leaves. And then she leaves without telling me. She makes me pipe cleaner flowers which I attach to my mirror. Did someone finally take her in? Did she go to a shelter? Did she decide to do something besides sit on this corner day after day? I hope so. I wish her the best. But I miss her, too. Maybe next time, I will do more.
Thanks for your stories and allowing me to share mine.
Heather Rose lives in Scripps Ranch.
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