Dec 2, 2019
“Get a job!’ roared out as the east-bound driver whizzes by, is the hardest part of begging.
She lives in the corner of a 2-sided cement-block dumpster-bunker in back of a gas station in Santa Rosa, surrounded on the two open sides by 3 ranks of 5 or 6 dozen paper grocery bags with a little recycling in each, an outer ring of bike, chair, rusty shopping carts to deflect attention, sleeping on two worn bath-towels, covered by thin blankets and a large garbage bag in rain.
For weeks, Sally-Anne had been standing on the Hwy 12 median just east of a two street junction, soliciting money from cars stopped at the light.
Hoping to raise enough to buy a camper-van before the rains set in, she seems to have no practical idea of what can be gotten for $2000 or how to know if she’s getting something that will hold up.
She saves enough from begging to rent a motel room about once a month so she can shower and sleep warm in a bed.
Sally-Anne is about 40, trim, initially articulate, pretty, moved to SR with her family after HS in San Jose, where she was voted “Most Artistic” in her senior class and seems to have had many friends and a reasonably good childhood. She has an AA from SRJC.
Her mother earned in real estate double Dad’s wage at a grocery store, was the nurturer, daily decision-maker. Sally-Anne took care of Mom as she died of cancer at home near the Flamingo. Her father is remarried and his new wife didn’t want Sally around.
Sally-Anne says she has had depression for many years and at about 20 was deemed eligible for SSI, but dropped that support and made a living as a therapeutic masseuse who worked in client’s homes. She now gets $118 a month in food stamps and says she intends to reapply for SSI. She also says she has PTSD, though not from any specific source.
When I visited, she repeatedly apologized for "the messiness" of her space (though it looked orderly to me), spent time seeming to tidy, arrange, picking up little pieces of detritus and brushing non-evident dirt into a pile. We stood and talked for some time while she ruefully cleaned hands and arm-pits with paper towels dampened at a spigot in back of the station.
Sally-Anne worried that when water splashed on the concrete, it created problems for insects that lived there. She is deeply despondent over the death of a favorite cat she was nursing.
She allows no touching and is apologetic about that. “I never know when someone might be sticky."
My legs were giving out. I said I needed to move to lean against a wall about 10 feet away. She suggested we sit in my car and talk. We did for a couple of hours. Sally-Anne brought along a very large piece of heavy paper and a paper towel. She carefully covered the seat, saying she could never be sure if there would be something sticky where she was going to sit, and laid the paper towel on the arm-rest.
She knows my car well. It’s new and clean.
Sally-Anne answers questions by telling convoluted stories that have no apparent connection to the questions, stories filled with irrelevant details internally debated as she goes along.
When I began to leave at about 10:00, she said she needed to go to Ross, that they are open until midnight and asked me to take her. I said I would be glad to. She needed to get something from her camp spot. She rummaged and bobbed up and down, turned around many times over about ten minutes.
A disabled friend came along on an electric scooter, could see Sally-Anne was searching, and shined a light on the refuge. Sally-Anne continued. I was weary, got out, greeted the friend who lives nearby, and said I needed to go. There was a great rush of apologizing, explaining, wondering if I might still be game for a Ross trip. Sally-Anne continued cleaning, looking, but there were only the recycle sacks, towels and blankets. I said I had to go.
I called tonight, didn’t get an answer, left a message that, if she wished, we’d meet again and I’d take her to Taco Bell, her daily meal. “They have a $1meal you can’t beat.” she assures me.
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