Joy, 40, says she’s previously lived in many other states, including Texas, Colorado, Florida, New York, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Illinois and California.
”I was on my way back to California and kinda got stuck here,” she said when we met her by the Truckee River in downtown Reno and offered her a cup of coffee. “Well, I just didn't get my stuff together. Because I was overwhelmed with what I felt my potential was and how many different directions that drew me, not wanting to find specialties and trying to figure out just how many specialties I could have,” she said as a way of introduction.
She’s worked many jobs, include office jobs, filing paperwork and doing mail deliveries, or working as a barista at a vegetarian restaurant and coffee shop. Her favorite job was when she was a ceramics assistant while going to college in Colorado.
“It is something you really have to have a studio setup as well and it can be thousands and thousands of dollars. You can build one technically speaking, out of a barrel or a trash can. I like to make hand sculpted objects, like coil pots. I am really good at coil pots, actually. You just roll out a coil. It's like a Native American method that they do. I learned all this stuff at a small private college in Denver but I didn't stay there for long,” she said.
On Being Homeless in Reno
Joy says she’s been homeless for about a year now. She says she fled the threat of violence elsewhere, and also got her ID and bank card stolen. She says she usually sleeps outside next to friends, for protection, but avoids the shelter, where she says she has had bad experiences.
“I'm fed up with it and I am really looking to find my landing spot,” she said. “It's rough out here if you ask me, because I am not used to this climate and environment and I don't have the physical habits of adapting that quickly. I didn't embark on my journey planning on just camping out or being homeless per say… I had planned well enough that I should have been able to get rooms along the way but then all my stuff got stolen.”
Joy says she hasn’t figured out how to find a purpose in society, and that others also create setbacks for her. “Someone did threaten to kill me once and it terrified me but that's a totally different story. I just meant the circumstances I was in, I was just feeling so miserable and despite all my best efforts to work on my goals, to do something meaningful, it just wasn't working.”
Looking for Intelligent Conversation
”Coffee, cigarettes, pot, food, water, money, intelligent conversation, music for dancing too. These are things that will enable me to put my skills to work and to get money and make some for myself, to build a career for myself and express my talents. The things I mentioned first, some people think of them as drugs but I think of them as medicine and drugs to be used,” she said when asked what passersby could offer if they wanted to help her.
She says she has newfound respect for those living on the streets for a long time.
“It’s rough out here and I respect and admire anyone who has done it for a long time…. It is also hard to get work or respect sometimes or even what you need without people trying to wrangle you into their weird schemes. Or manipulate you in some way …” she said of how those without housing often become a prey for others.
Nicotine, Experimenting with Drugs and Hoping for Brighter Days
When we first asked to do this interview, she hesitated, and then said she needed to find a cigarette first. “It picks you up and calms you down at the same time and there is almost nothing else on the planet quite like it for that and I like to be in that state. I like to be alert and calm. The things that help me do that are coffee, marijuana and cigarettes. And I feel like I have been forced to give up on those various things and I have found I am on my peak performance using all three,” she said.
“I have experimented with some other things, mainly psychedelics, like mushrooms, acid... I don't look at myself as addicted to drugs. I look at myself as an experimenter in consciousness finding adaptogens that make my life better,” she added.
Any regrets? “I have a few and it’s mostly to do with what I have done which felt necessary that has hurt anyone in any way. My future is brightening. I feel like I am figuring out what I can do to start something. I hope to leave a legacy. No kids yet. I do still want to get married someday,” she said as we parted ways.
Reporting by Prince Nesta with photography by Jordan Blevins for Our Town Reno