On Being Evicted Recently from a Weekly
When we caught up with her, Jody and her teenage daughter had been living without housing for three weeks.
“I tried to do the weekly thing. I had a job, but I was two days late on rent. They wouldn't let me stay for two days and here I am … Shelters are currently full. Domestic violence shelters are full and have a waiting list. Section 8 has been down closed for a year….The family shelter is also full and also has a waiting list and they told me to check back once a week. This is the biggest homeless population they've had in history here… I was lucky enough to find this place called the Prayer House. And we're just kind of winging it here you know. But here I am lugging all my stuff around down to two bags for my daughter and I. And this is my life. I don't do drugs and you know I don't gamble and we're just good people, just got put on the street you know.”
The Exhaustion of Living on the Streets
“My daughter collapsed two nights ago in front of the shelter while waiting for dinner at the shelter. That broke my heart. She's a beautiful girl too. It was just exhaustion you know. And you cannot realize how much you're out. You know they put you out, there's nowhere to stay during the day and my daughter collapsed from exhaustion in a panic attack … So I took her to the hospital. We almost missed getting indoor shelter that night because of that. But, yeah, it's exhaustion. I had actually collapsed about three days before that right over there. Out here, nobody helps you. I'm on Medicaid and I get food stamps…”
Past Abuse and Fears for Her Daughter
“I lost my virginity to a rapist when I was 15. And you know I got over it. But for my daughter who is 15 now it really worries me about her having something like that happen to her. Out here, I've also slept on the river once and you know I had a knife aimed up this way and a pepper spray around my head you know.”
She says other homeless have rescued her from attacks. But she fears she won’t be able to stay at the Prayer House too long, as usually, she’s been told, it’s only for a short time you are allowed to stay. You have to be in before five p.m., and out and about the rest of the day, which she says complicates her logistics with her daughter and finding work hours.
Dealing with Social Services, Fights and Pimps
Jody was hoping to get back to school, but says she missed registration. She says she plays music, but recently had her guitar stolen. She used to work warehouse jobs for $14 an hour, but with Prayer House required hours and not having a place to store her belongings during the day, she’s had a hard time figuring out her new logistics.
Often she says people who are homeless get blamed for everything bad that happens on the streets.
“A lot of times you get people fighting, yelling. And some want to fight each other. You know it's just hard for the regular people that are homeless to deal with that and we get mixed into that crowd. They want to corner you here into having a problem. If you go into social services they will corner you literally into what they think your problem is so they can get you in somewhere. And if you don't have a problem, they are like aaargh... Because they have tons of resources for drug addicts, tons of resources or places to go for kids with moms or dads that have drug problems. Their kids can get taken care of in a nanosecond. There's are some people that just go to drugs just because they know there's more resources.”
Because of her situation, she says she’s been approached to be a prostitute.
“I've been accosted by people that want to be my pimp. And are chasing me asking me for my name and I'm like I decline to answer and then they follow me for a block or two calling me names because I won't tell them my name. There are people out here that they see a homeless woman who looks semi decent and they wanna take them in and destroy them you know. So I'm trying to stay away from all that stuff. You know because I don't need that and my daughter doesn't need that.”
A Chicken and Egg Situation
Jody says she can’t figure out how to get her life back on track now without a room to get sorted, and be able to get ready to go look for a job again.
”If even somebody had a house with a bedroom…. I would have rent in a week. That's my situation. I've got food stamps coming tomorrow, so I have that, but I just don't have the income…I just need a room for my daughter and I. That's all I need. Just a stable place where I can say she's going to school. Everyday we have a routine, she's safe and going to school, I can go to work and then help myself out of the situation.”
She says she used to look down on the homeless but not anymore.
“When I was in my 20s, I used to mock the homeless people all the time. And that's because you're in your 20s, you don't know any better, right? But I grew and my view changed for the homeless people … Because you start realizing that you know sometimes you are meeting people on the streets and they're shaking your hand and being polite to you and they're homeless … “
She says she used to cook for people in dire situations and that now she is in a situation where she is the one in need of assistance.
She concludes our interview by saying she is dismayed by the affordable housing crisis.
“With the amount of low income people that we have here why they keep jacking up the rent is beyond me. It's just a bunch of greedy people and a lot of these people already have money. People are just greedy, greedy, greedy …. Walk along this river, go back and donate some money. I hate to say it but money is what we need out here.”
Reporting by Prince Nesta and Photography by Jordan Blevins for Our Town Reno