The biggest thing I want people like me to know is that there are people in the community that are really helping. You get shut down or you get looked at in a certain way, and after a while, you just think “everybody’s full of it”, and that’s not the truth.
Once I took that little step out of the dark, I was able to take more steps one at a time. First, it was the Homeless Garden Project. I was stuck out there in an RV with nothing. I lost the keys to my car and I was stuck on one side of the tracks, and the RV was on the other side. I didn’t even know how to start it.
There was tons of stuff everywhere and I was wandering around the area and into the garden when Mike came up and asked me about the trash around my area.
I said, “I promise, I’ll clean it.” But, he said, “if you’re looking for any work, you should maybe talk to Francesca at the Homeless Garden Project.” I don’t know why, but I decided I was going to do that. I spoke with her [Francesca] a couple days later, and she said I could start work.
It’s a great program —it builds your self-confidence, and it’s a magical place because everybody there is so talented and so good at what they do and they’re all homeless. I’m in awe of my crew members, because they’re amazing people and I’m glad that I get to see them.
The homeless thing is hard. I didn’t think I’d ever be homeless as an adult. I raised my kids and now I’m raising my grandchildren. Now it’s me and my grandchildren that are homeless. My mom’s been helping me this last year because she’s housed and I’m not. But it’s been really difficult to be away from my grandchildren and hopefully starting this week, I can start earning their trust back, and that’s important to me.
I just want people to know that there is help and I want other people to know that we’re just people. We’re not all drug addicts and we’re not all alcoholics. I’m a Native American woman and I am very proud to be Native American. It saddens me that we’re born on this planet and we have nowhere to be. Everything is born here and we have the right to live, breathe, be happy, find happiness. You’re born owing rent and striving to buy a piece of something that doesn’t belong to anybody. It belongs to all of us. We talk about the coastline — the coastline’s a gift that should be accessible to everyone. But it makes me sad that there is such a divide.
I’m taking baby steps, and I know I didn’t make all the best decisions when I was younger. I still haven’t thought about what I wanna be when I grow up. But, I think the Homeless Garden Project has given me that opportunity to start thinking about that. It’s late in the game, I can still do something with my life and, and be something or do something meaningful.
When we first became homeless, I knew it was coming, so I bought an RV for $5,000. I was an in-home caregiver for eight years and the family’s son decided he was going to take over everything and he gave us 30 days to leave. I used my savings to get the RV and I bought a truck. We slowly ran out of money over time. Because I figured it’d be like camping for three months and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Three months in, the city took both my vehicles and left me on the side of the road with my PT Cruiser at three o’clock in the morning.
The police kept telling me, don’t worry, you could go back in and get your things. I was sitting there, trying to pick and choose: “what do I take?”. I had everything from my kids; their pictures and their drawings. Then I found out that, “no, you can’t go into another vehicle if it’s not registered in your name”. I didn’t get to get my Bible or my grandson’s baby bracelets. He passed away a few years ago. Those were just some of the things that meant nothing to anybody else, but meant everything to me. I found myself with nothing.
One day, someone from the RV Safe Parking program came and knocked door to door. They came and handed out flyers for the program. We kept moving around and he came and found us again and put notes on our RV. He told us it was almost time, and to get ready. Then, when it came time, he came to find us and sure enough, he made me believe that he really wanted to help us. They’ve [all] been gracious, and given us the ability to be human.
I just want everybody to know that I’m thankful. What they’ve [all] done, each person that’s pieced it together. Housing Matters, the Homeless Garden Project, RV Safe Parking — they gave me the first steps to getting my life back. This time, maybe even a better one. I’m not the same person, but I’m figuring myself out. I’m grateful and I don’t want them to go unnoticed. I don’t want people to think it’s just a program or it’s just, ‘the county’ or it’s just ‘whatever’. It’s not only for me. It’s for each person that I can come in contact with. It’s the individuals who really are pushing to make a difference.
Birds can perch and ants can dig; we should be able to breathe and stand somewhere. If we didn’t have to fight just to survive, to live somewhere, maybe we’d have time to thrive.
This story was collected in March 2023 by Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Program Manager