A Look Into the Lives of the Homeless – Reinta


Saagar Sanghavi and Caroline Gee


        It’s a nightmare walking in a storm with no coat on that’s how I feel, how homelessness has been for me. Walking outside with no coat on in a storm. You can have a coat but it’s cold out there. You need the [indoors], especially [for] the bathroom. Squatting down in the bushes, oh my God, I have nightmares I tell you. From what I’ve walked through, I’ve seen a lot of death, I’ve seen a lot of sickness, I’ve seen a lot of domestic [abuse], and very little love out here on the streets, very little love.

        I like to keep myself up. I’m like Oprah Winfrey; when you walk outside your door, always try to look your best. I always cared about keeping my appearances up, no matter what. You got to maintain yourself, keep your mind strong. You can’t let the homelessness get you. Some people out there let go of life to where they don’t care. You gotta want to care. And that’s where these programs come out here and try to get them off the streets. I wasn’t one of them. And I just got through fighting mouth cancer, and I was like, where were you guys when I needed you? I had to have all my teeth removed, and I had my upper denture removed [from] being homeless sleeping out in St. James Park. I lost my dentures; someone stole my purse [while I was] sleeping on the bus. There’s a lot of loss out there, but you gotta stay strong.

        You got to keep your dignity. I’m trying right now to be a productive member of society. No matter what, they can’t take that away from me, I won’t let them take me there. I know where I come from and I know who I am, and [even] if you got a lot of money you can still fall you can still hit rock bottom.

        My husband abandoned me when I was fighting cancer. I can’t have sex I’m having too much pain so he leaves me and dumps me, and I’m out here. I hit rock bottom, trying to fight for my life, and then I get a notice from my apartment that when I was out doing chemoradiation, the neighbors next door broke into my apartment and partied in there. When I came home, I saw that somebody had sat on my couch, that somebody had been in my refrigerator. I mean, I can’t trust my food. I was worried that if I slept and took heavy pain medicine, is anyone going to come in on me while I sleep?

        I moved in with my friend. You can only stay with them for so long, right? Then I moved into a motel, then I stayed with a friend who helped me out. But I tell you, he’s a friend, because I had to have all my teeth removed they had to do me one tooth at a time. They were scared I would hemorrhage because I had chemoradiation, and then it took four months for them to get all my teeth out. I had infections, and this and that but I tell you, I lost my housing. How can I go look for an apartment? I needed a social worker; I didn’t have nobody. No social worker came and took me and drove me by the hand, and I lost my housing.

        They say you need to go do this and that. I say, “Lady I’m in no shape. I’m in too much pain.” I say, “You know what, I choose my life, than that housing.” So I had to forget the housing and choose my life and keep on moving.
        And now I look back and I say, “Wow, I’m alive and I lost and I came out here on the streets, but I’m alive.”