• Smiling in the cold wind

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— For 24 years Nancy got to work among the very rich—among the golf courses and hotels of Pebble Beach.

    And during those years, the very richest in America, and the multi-national corporations and corrupt politicians shipped jobs overseas and sucked up the money and resources of America.

    As the middle class disappeared and the economy faltered, so did Pebble Beach to a certain extent. Despite all her years with the company, and working herself up to supervisor in housekeeping, Nancy was laid off with other Pebble Beach workers over the past year.

    She thought she’d be able to find work right away, but that didn’t happen. Suddenly—at 60 years of age—she was without an income and without a home.

    Today she was seated on a plastic crate behind Whole Foods, smiling with a bad tooth protruding from one side of her mouth and her long grey hair tied back in a ponytail. Like all the others here, she sleeps in a tent up in the hills by Monterey, coming into town for food and friendship.

    Nancy admits homelessness was scary at first. She was looking for a job in Monterey one day when a homeless couple standing behind her asked if she had a place to stay, and she said no. “You can stay with us,” they offered. And so she did.

    The former Pebble Beach boss was grateful for a tent in the hills. Now her bed is a sleeping bag covered with two blankets. And she knows all the spots where food is given to the homeless. But she has no bike.

    “They have a drawing for two bikes every Saturday and there are always 40 people there. Always new people,” she said. So Nancy does a lot of walking.

    The daughter of an Army man, Nancy was born in Sacramento and lived many places the first five years of her life. Eventually the family landed at Ft. Ord, where her father was involved in construction and later retired. Nancy was graduated from Pacific Grove High School and spent two years at Monterey Peninsula College in a pre-nursing program.

    “But I ran out of money. I went to work to pay for the school and never went back,” she said. After working as a nurse’s aide for years, she was laid off and finally got the job at Pebble Beach.

    Nancy smiles and laughs a lot. I asked how she could be so happy in her current situation. “It could be worse,” she said. “Like not even having a campsite and not even having a tent to live in.”

    When Nancy lost her home, she went to a social service agency in Seaside and was given a list of agencies to call about housing. Of course she had no phone. Luckily, she was able to borrow a phone from another homeless person. But “the housing was all filled up,” she said.

    “The most difficult part of being homeless is night time,” Nancy said. “Because it’s so cold.” While her sleeping bag and blankets keep her warm, getting up in the cold isn’t easy.

    And finding a job won’t be easy either—at her age, without a phone or a car or a place to live. “I only have two outfits,” she said. “And both are not the type for going to an interview.”

    I stood up to leave— freezing in the cold wind. Nancy smiled from her plastic crate, and said good-bye.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on November 30, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles


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