Taking a smoke break in a parking garage on 4th street in downtown Reno, Karizma Washington, a recent Hug High graduate who loved taking English classes, is dreaming of making an impact in a world in which she's suffered so much cruelty.
From Foster Care to the Streets
Karizma, now 20, says she grew up in foster care, and that she's been living on and off the streets since she was 16, sometimes skipping meals as she tries to figure out where she'll be sleeping on any given night, sometimes getting robbed by people she thought were her friends. Her family has never been a safety blanket.
"My family struggled with major depression and I’ve (got) an addictive family, with drug addictions, alcohol abuse, physical, sexual ... almost everything so everyone kind of split up and went their own separate ways. I kind of had to figure it out myself and graduated from school and just didn’t know where to go from there. I’m kind of like I’m not doing too good but I’m not doing too bad you know, so I’m kind of stuck in life where it’s like I’m reaching out for help and trying to figure out where I want to go next."
She says she's worked in warehouses and caregiving as well. She's gotten help from groups such as Awaken Reno and the Eddy House, but would like more members of the community to be understanding of people in similar predicaments to hers.
"It’s like (if) you pass somebody, you see them going through a hard day, you never know what they are going through or what they’ve been through (so) just smile, talk to them like say hi, if you were to run into me just have a conversation just like even that small thing is important," she said.
Anti Vagrancy Rules
Karizma says she doesn't understand the anti vagrancy rules currently being pushed by the Reno City Council and Reno police.
"It’s like once you don't have (a) roof over your head, what do you expect ... and you can’t even...like I don't even know what to say about that.. That's like heart failing it's just like ..it doesn’t make sense."
She avoids shelters, and many nights roams around.
"It’s a struggle, it’s like …. you can be up one day and like down the next day, you worry about things that you never thought you’d worry about, like things we take for granted like 'where you gonna lay your head', 'where you gonna take your next shower'? 'What's gonna be your next meal'? 'What you are running from', 'what you are not running from'? It’s not really the struggle that's like hard it's just like getting out of it."
Emotions but No Regrets
Karizma says she has no regrets, even as she goes from place to place, and spends daytimes figuring out her nights. Sometimes she'll stay with her mom, other times with friends, but there are no guarantees in her life.
"Each day, it just like makes me stronger and I know like once I do get the opportunity to live right, I’m gonna like actually take it and go with it."
Photos and Reporting by Prince Nesta for Our Town Reno