Emails from a Newly Homeless Woman: ‘I Think We Do Take Care of Each Other’

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Emails from a Newly Homeless Woman: ‘I Think We Do Take Care of Each Other’

Updates from Liz Hirsch on her sickness and avoiding the streets.

 

It’s been a few weeks since I last shared some emails from Liz Hirsch, a woman we met last month who became homeless a short time ago. She’s continued to send me her observations and experiences as she navigates homelessness. She sleeps most nights in the San Diego Rescue Mission, a shelter downtown.

Here are some highlights from Hirsch’s emails over the last couple of weeks:

Sickness

The last time I shared emails from Hirsch she described her difficulty recovering from a cold. She mentioned she was sleeping at an inexpensive motel to try to rest and get better. Someone called that hotel and paid for Hirsch to stay there for four more nights, she said.

When I lived on 35th St. I had neighbors from Ethiopia and they said that they didn’t think americans took care of each other. That we were too independent, but I think we do take care of each other. I surely have seen it not just in the past months, but most of my life. It just isn’t as organized. Like the woman who just called in and donated this time for me to stay here. She read about me on VOSD and decided to help.

Hirsch said last week she’s been feeling better.

Environment

Earlier this month Hirsch grew sick of sleeping at the shelter and decided to go back to one of her earlier routines: staying up all night at Lestat’s, an open-all-night coffee shop.

She was excited to be back:

why can’t a shelter look like the inside of Lestat’s instead of a psych. ward? I think it would even cost a lot less. Just a room filled with Salvation army donated rejects. CHEAP and the homeless would flock to it?????!!!!!!

She wrote the next morning to say she’d gone outside to sleep for a bit. But she was feeling the effects of the all-nighter:

I have to remember I am not 25 any more. But, I made it. At about 4 am I went to the back of Lestat’s where there are some stairs, right behind the fire station and I tried to snooze, but I just rested and closed my eyes.

I was trying so hard to stay away that I don’t think it was profitable to stay up all night and now I am trying, still to stay awake. I have to work this out. Sleeping at the shelter would be the best idea.

She considered the winter tent shelter, but ultimately didn’t stay:

We’re back to paradise weather!!! Last night I went to the Winter Shelter, or like those of us on the inside call it, “the tent”. I got there at 4:30 and they didn’t have any beds, but if I wanted to stick around until 7:30 they would see if anyone didn’t return for the night and auction off their bed. But it would be dark by 7:30 and in that area it’s just downright dangerous and I had no guarantee of a bed. So I walked the five or so blocks back to the bus at 12th and Imperial and caught the #11 back to the Mission. I passed a group of people dividing up a bag of medicines they had “discovered” and seeing what they’d found and if it would sell. That’s the neighborhood. Not good for an old lady after dark.

The Mission was full, but they made room for me and about a dozen new single women. The hallways were full. It’s neat though because every age, “race”, ethnic group was represented and everyone got along, except a young girl who was “tweaking” and they made her leave or found somewhere for her to go and get help, I don’ t know which.

Giving Back

One interesting point Hirsch has raised in our correspondence is her fear of falling into “homeless think.” She elaborated more on that.

 

Hirsch came up with one way to pitch in, connected to this year’s annual homeless count:

She also shared her interaction with a couple of police officers earlier this week, after she contemplated sleeping on the street.

This echoes a conversation I had with departing SDPD Assistant Chief Boyd Long last week. Boyd said he believes it’s misguided to feed people sleeping on the street without also connecting them with a broader set of services.

What’s Next

Hirsch wrote to say a few of the friends she made in the shelter have found homes. A mother and her son found an apartment through a government group. A friend who’s a female veteran found a home at Father Joe’s. Two others were chosen in the lottery for beds at Rachel’s House.

So, progress. Two people got their checks, don’t know from whom, and left town, one to New York, one to we don’t know where. So sometimes people are homeless between government checks.

Here’s an email she wrote a couple of weeks ago. Though she’s had many bad days over the last few weeks, the help Hirsch is getting often prompts her to be optimistic:

Meanwhile, she’s been applying for a transitional housing program through Catholic Charities. She promised to keep us posted.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

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