Stacy – Voices from Sr Jose Women’s Center.
These days Stacy sleeps on our porch during Operation Deep Freeze so she can be with her dogs who do not like to be kept inside. But she hopes for a permanent home where she can have her freedom and personal space. This is the key, she says, to getting back into the mainstream of life. Living on the streets means worrying everyday about meals and where you will sleep the next night as well as safekeeping possessions.
On a sunny January afternoon in the backyard of Sister Jose Women’s Center I sat with Stacy to hear about her life. We laughed together and shared our experiences as women. Though Stacy has only three years of schooling she is smart; she is a free spirit who loves people and maintains a positive attitude that she expresses by “loving everybody”. Stacy first came to SJWC in October 2015 at the urging of a few of our regular guests whom she met while camping at Safe Park. She loves it here and says it is the longest time she has ever spent at a center because she feels like this is home.
Stacy is easily recognized by her bicycle, trailer, and two dogs and best friends Pancho and Sissy. Her bicycle journey back to Tucson began in Eugene, Oregon. For years Stacy lived in Tucson with her husband who worked as a maintenance man at the apartment building inwhich they lived. Stacy’s mother was ill and when she died things started to fall apart. Her husband lost his job and a good friend was killed. They decided to leave Tucson and headed to North Carolina and then northwest to Oregon.
Eventually Stacy left her husband in Oregon and returned to Tucson, her hometown. Stacy’s journey’s tale is punctuated with kind and generous acts by strangers who gave her lifts, fixed her bicycle, and offered her motel rooms, meals, friendship, and sometimes cash. “I was handed from one person to another” is how she describes her journey back to Tucson. She told me that people are always kind to her and want to help; she thinks this is because she is a free spirit who never asks for anything and that her love for people just comes through. Also, as a 64-year-old homeless woman she is a reminder to others that our sisters on the street could be our mother, aunt, or old friend and people respond to that with kindness. Her experience is that people are generous, and interesting; she has nothing to fear and can take care of herself.
These days Stacy sleeps on our porch during Operation Deep Freeze so she can be with her dogs who do not like to be kept inside. But she hopes for a permanent home where she can have her freedom and personal space. This is the key, she says, to getting back into the mainstream of life. Living on the streets means worrying everyday about meals and where you will sleep the next night as well as safekeeping possessions –her bicycle and trailer, bedding, clothes, important papers and keepsakes – which can easily be stolen. She knows that change doesn’t happen overnight and is grateful that at Sister Jose she is able to take care of everyday things like meals, showers, and laundry. She is especially thankful for the friendship and community that she has found. Stacy doesn’t like to be inside with too many people; even though Sister Jose’s is a small house, she says it feels like home and she is comfortable here.
Though there are sometimes difficult personalities at the center, she knows how to stay out of the drama and build relationships based on respect and kindness. She told me that on the street people have to take care of each other and not push people away. “People who live in houses push us away” she told me, “on the street we need to join together.”
It didn’t surprise me when a few days later Stacy came up to me with a big grin. She was excited because a friend had offered her a job as a caretaker of some property nearby and she would have a place to live with her dogs. Though I was thrilled for her news I felt a little sad that she would not be a regular guest at Sister Jose. Stacy assured me with her generous smile that she would be coming by to see her friends and remain part of our community. Joyfully we hugged each other and the day was just a little bit sweeter for both of us.
Penny Buckley – January 2016