December 19, 2014
By Sister Margretta, therapist and volunteer at the Peace House
I am a volunteer at Peace House Community, a day shelter in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for those who are without a home as well as the economically poor. Last month I shared two stories from women who wanted to share what it’s like to be a woman living on the streets. I took their words and wrote them up to share. A third woman, Katherine (name has been changed), approached me as well. This is her story, in her own words.
I chose Katherine (not my real name) for my identification for this story. It is my grandma’s name.
I lived for a while on the reservation as a kid. My mother was killed by a drunk driver. My dad was alcoholic. He died sober. I miss my daddy so much. He was everything to me; he passed two years ago.
As a child, I was moved around to different places to live. I was even sent to group homes. I was troubled and was sent to seven different places/schools. I was bullied a lot at school and ran away from my placements. My first experience in a prisonlike setting occurred when I was 16 years of age.
Now I sleep in places where at night I tie my shoes together and put them under my head to sleep on so no one can steal my shoes. I have been on the streets for 20 years. I am now 39 years old. I am kicked out of places because I drink and get very drunk. I went to Kateri house [a safe house for American Indian woman recovering from addictions] and tried again to be sober. I met my husband there and we both started drinking…[got] kicked out….[it was my] first time [being] homeless. I was 19. I got into crazy predicaments by drinking.
Right now, I have not drunk for four years, but every day I think about it. In the past, I never wanted to be homeless. Now I try hard to be sober.
I frequently spend my days in the library or wander the street. I wish my mind were not always on the street and what might happen. I want peace of mind. I do nothing worthwhile with my time. I get depressed and want to drink, but I know I cannot. Twice I have been taken to a hospital, and they saved my life. I was bleeding internally from alcohol use. They said if it happened again they would not be able to save me. I still have a husband. He is in federal prison.
I remain depressed and scared. In general I feel I cannot trust doctors. I have some money to pay privately. Once I was given 80 Percocet by a medical person. Before I even got to the place I was supposed to be, people were waiting at the door to buy them at $10 apiece. I did not sell them. Something is suspicious.
There is one doctor who hires me to show him where the homeless campsites are, so he can attend to them medically. He is a good doctor and I trust him. He tries to get me to take medicine for my depression. As of yet, I do not take it.
I would like to reconnect with my daughter, who is 16. I am not sure how.
Right now, money is an issue. Some kids are doing signing on the streets. They take our corners. I sometimes collect $100 a day; sometimes only $30, not enough to pay for my night on the couch. I took some $900 I had and spent it on other homeless people at a hotel, so I am broke today. I wanted to help other homeless people.
Presently I am staying on a couch in a man’s house and pay him $33 a night. It is colder in the house than on the street. Sometimes he wants sex. I tell him “no” and I can be mean.
I still want to get into Kateri house, if they will have me back.
This is my life.