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Amy - Homeless in Salida

Written by Megan Juba 

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“I felt I was headed for a mental breakdown,” says Amy matter of factly. Details about all the events that led up to when she first became homeless eight years ago are sometimes blurry. There is an endless series of temporary places to sleep, miscommunications, impossible situations and choices. Amy pulls her shoulders up scrunching her face and holds her hands up in exasperation. She directs this to the many people who’ve taken advantage of her, but also seems to be asking the universe. “Screw me over…. Why?” hangs with irritation.

 

Her biggest challenge is her mental and physical health. She deals with depression and anxiety and has three compressed discs in her neck that have caused nerve issues in her hands and arms. After being misdiagnosed several times she hit a low point and found herself “curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor, tears pouring out of my eyes and hurting so bad I could barely even squeak.” She thought, “I’m hurting so bad and I need to work. If I can’t work I am…out of everything.” She works at Safeway, but working long hours exacerbates her health issues and making too much money disqualifies her from Section 8 or affordable housing.

 

Currently, Amy has been sleeping across the railroad tracks tucked under an umbrella-like tree in a tent with all of her belongings. Sleep is elusive–the weather is unpredictable, lots of noise, a bear pillages through food left out or she has nightmares. Each morning she packs up everything she can. Her arms are mapped with bruises from the bags that hang there. Under a tarp, the rest of her belongings are left exposed to the elements and theft (which is plenty). She goes to the Resource Center every day for food. On different days, in various places, she gets grocery gift cards, clothing, a shower or assistance filing paperwork for housing or food. Then, she goes to work ‘til 9pm and back to her tent. Day in, day out.

 

“I need to really get to where I’m taking care of myself first and then helping others, instead of helping others with literally everything I have then not having anything. That is one of the reasons that I got into so much trouble and wound up homeless. I don’t want to lose that [generosity].” Tears catch on the edge of her lids, she rubs them with the back bend of her knuckles. Her heart is big. “I think, how am I going to take care of you if I don’t take care of myself first?”