• Sandy: Sometimes you just give up

    by Erika Fiske

    (This encounter took place in February.)

    I almost drove by her. She looked just like all the other homeless, pushing her stroller full of belongings, carrying a small dog and holding another by its leash.

    Sandy also looked like she needed a bath, and her clothes needed washing. Her hair could have used a comb. She looked tired.

    In her 50s now, Sandy has spent the past two years on the streets, just trying to stay alive. The comfortable in society may think our safety nets work just fine—but they don’t. More and more people are winding up like Sandy. And they’re not alcoholics or drug addicts. They’re people who were barely making it and suddenly found they weren’t making it. But there was a time when she considered herself part of the middle class.

    In Sandy’s case, her husband died five years ago of lung cancer. Things just went downhill from there, until she lost everything—except her rescue dogs. Leonardo, the Chihuahua, rested in her arms as she spoke. Yoshi, a shaggy mixed breed, sat quietly at her feet. A bag of food awaited them in the stroller, given to Sandy by a passerby. Sometimes she gets a five dollar bill from someone. Perhaps it makes the giver feel less guilty about what our society has become.

    On this weekday in Seaside, Sandy was visiting businesses along Del Monte, hoping to find her lost wallet and two pieces of family jewelry. But she had little hope. She thought a homeless man who’d been threatening her life, and left her 50 notes over the months, took the wallet while she was sleeping. Sandy has complained to police, but the man continues to bother her.

    The gentle, well-spoken woman explained that she earned her BA in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1997. She really doesn’t have the energy or means to do any art these days. Even get- ting a shower is a challenge. “You’re better off staying dirty than going to the Salvation Army for a shower,” she said. “There’s too much fighting and drugs there.”

    Sandy’s tired eyes turned from her dogs to me. “Sometimes you just give up,” she said. The artist believes she’s dying of hepatitis. She’s not receiving any medical treatment, and wasn’t aware of the free clinic offered weekly in Seaside for people such as her.

    As a car pulled up, Sandy picked up her belongings from a grassy area in an alley near a church. She was going to Dorothy’s Place tonight. At least that’s what she hopes.

    And this is life in one of the wealthiest areas of the world. That world, of course, doesn’t include Sandy, her dogs, or people like her.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 29, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles


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