Monday, January 06, 2014
At the time, she "lived" in the old, abandoned house behind the Merandino brothers service station at Louise and Malcolm X Boulevard.
For several months I tried to engage her in conversation, but she was extremely non-responsive. She avoided me no matter what I did.
On more than one occasion, I observed her talking to herself--later I realized that she was discussing how to deal with me and what to make of my presence, my bottled water, and my afternoon snacks.
My preliminary judgment was that she was dealing with some sort of fairly severe mental illness and/or possibly alcohol or substance abuse.
As the months wore on, Wendy became more and more approachable. I finally figured out that Wendy wasn't severely mentally ill at all, and she wasn't addicted to anything, except food and laundry money, neither of which she had as often as needed!
She appeared to be alone on the streets (hold onto this idea and keep reading!).
Estranged from her mother and family, she had some fairly deeply rooted "trust issues" when it came to people, especially men.
She resisted shelters, mainly because submitting to their rules and routine would have meant surrendering the last vestige of dignity and self-respect that remained in her life. She was grateful for the place to sleep, even though it had no benefit of functioning utilities. At least, on most nights, she was sheltered, dry and protected from the harshest parts of street life.
To be frank, my connection to Wendy opened up for the first time after I overheard her ask a guy on the street if she could "borrow" a cigarette. After hearing the request, I walked over to the service station and purchased a pack of Kools. When I handed them to Wendy, I thought she was going to faint. The fact that I gave her what she asked for without conditions or judgment seemed to blow her away, especially coming from me.
As I got better acquainted with her, I began to provide small gifts of cash and food to help her survive. She can stretch $20 farther than anyone I think I've ever met.
Wendy now has an apartment very near my house in Old East Dallas. She's off "the Corner." Well, sort of.
On most Thursdays, when I go to "the Corner," I see Wendy. In talking with her about her new home, she always makes it clear to me that she comes back to her old neighborhood because that is where her friends remain. I've experienced this time and again. Homeless persons who work out housing, often simply cannot just walk away from their friends no matter how good their personal fortunes may have turned.
Community trumps personal progress on the streets.
Wendy is a hoot!
She is a friend.
I'm glad I know her.
I expect we'll see even more of her once CitySquare's new Opportunity Center opens later this year.