Safety Issues Along the River
Being a woman is especially challenging, Jamie says, when living on the river.
“I've never stayed alone,” she said in our recent interview. “There's very few girls out here and lots of men so I always have company, always. It's pretty tough being a woman and being homeless here at the river bank. I mean, people disrespect you … sexually … They steal your stuff. It's hard.”
Men she said will offer drugs in exchange for sex. She also has to deal with constant theft.
“It's hard to keep on coming back up on blankets or jacket or shoes or like they just took milk last night. It's harder to, to leave your stuff there and try to go get a life, you know what I mean?”
She says she’s also had her ID stolen which makes it harder to get regular jobs, but she does work for cash, cleaning houses, and helping people with their chores.
Leaving Her Kids in Winnemucca and Wondering about Seeking Help
She says she isn’t allowed to talk to some of her kids, who were adopted. She says she’s suffered with drug addiction, including meth, since she was 13, but that she’s been sober now for a while.
Without her kids now though, she says she feels like her life is empty. Through phone calls and text messages, she has reconnected with her 16-year-old daughter, but would want to be closer to her kids.
She hesitates, she says, to seek out help to change her life.
“I can't really say I've been trying to find a place to stay because I've had several places to stay,” she said. “I just choose to be on my own. I think it's part of independence and dependency. I keep on trying to do it on my own, but I think that I need to just admit that I'm going to need some help. It's hard though. It's hard for me to take help or take anything from anybody.”
Still though she wants to prove to herself she can turn her life around on her own. “I would like to be helped by doing it on my own,” she said. “I just want to do it on my own because I've been married and never really did it on my own. So here I am, but I suck at it.”
Comparing Homelessness at the Shelter, on the River and in Downtown Reno
She says she felt like “a rat in a cage” at the main shelter …. “you know, because they send you back and forth, back and forth and you never really get anywhere,” she said.
She feels judged when walking around downtown. “Most people, they, they judge you if you have a backpack on, they judge you, you know. I remember two winters ago it was freezing cold and that's when I first got here. I didn't have any directions and I went into a casino and I was wanting to charge my phone and they told me I had to go or I had to gamble or whatever. And they made it like I was doing something wrong and everywhere I go, they're like that. They're just, if they think you're homeless then they just want to be on your ass and kick you out.”
Recently, she says police have been forcing people off the river banks, and with the river also getting higher, and more men finding out where she lives, making her feel unsafe, she told us it was time for her to move for a while.
“I plan on going back to Winnemucca before Christmas so I could at least see my kids for Christmas and then I'll figure it out from there…. You know, in the beginning I was a housewife but then I just played around too much and ever since I haven't had my kids. I'm lost….”
Any regrets? “I don't have any regrets because it makes me who I am today and there's some things I took for granted but if I didn't take those things for granted then I wouldn't know how special some things were,” she said.
Reporting by Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins for Our Town Reno