I noticed this girl flying a sign asking for help as I was leaving the Whole Foods parking lot this past weekend. I winced with a bit of pity as I passed by her on my way to the freeway, then I turned around and headed back to the parking lot. I wanted to learn a little bit about her personal story, and how it came to be that she was out there subjecting herself to the shame, humiliation, insults, and the occasional generosity of strangers that certainly has to be a part of the whole panhandling experience. Her very brief story follows.
I didn’t get her name (I’ll call her Hope), but she was twenty-three years old with a three year old child. She was apparently newly single. I presume that the ex-husband/father was out of the picture. Hope was working as a home healthcare aid, but not making enough money to secure an apartment, so she was hotel hopping. Hope didn’t own a car. The lady she worked for owned a car, but did not drive. She let Hope use the car as she needed.
Hope grew up in the Reno area, but her mother had since moved to Alaska. She had grandparents in the area that would occasionally watch the child, but they were older and not in a position take in Hope and her child.
As far as child care was concerned, Hope had a friend who would watch the child when the friend was not in school. When I asked Hope where she thought she might be in a year from now, she said that hoped to find a full-time job or a second job so that she could afford her own place to live.
Hope needed a home – stable housing for her child and herself. I bought her a sandwich.