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Jackie S. - A Compelling Story

Jackie S. is a 42-year-old woman currently experiencing homelessness. She wants you all to know that she is "easygoing, goes with the flow, & happy." Unfortunately, Jackie has been experiencing homelessness for the majority of her life. Her mom worked 3 jobs and she & her 3 siblings had many different living arrangements growing up, depending on what was most affordable. When she was 6 years old, Jackie lived in a car with her mom and her siblings whilst still attending first grade. She shared that her mom tried to get some resources from Social Services at the time, but that she was rejected. She also mentioned that in the 80s, there were far fewer homeless resources available than there are now, so they were directed at people physically living on the streets rather than in cars.

When Jackie was around seven, her mom found a house that they lived in for a few years. Jackie shared that the house was run down and that the utilities were only on about half the time. However, people were always bringing food and supplies over from food banks, so her mom did not have to use gas to get any of those necessities. One of Jackie's neighbors bulldozed the neighborhood to grow his asphalt business when she was 10 years old, so they had to find another place to live.

Her mom could not find a house to live in so, Jackie shared that she took her & her siblings on “a very long camping trip” in Angela’s Forest, where they lived in a tent for several months. Jackie also said that she remembers asking her mom when they were going to go back to school, but that she never got a straight answer.

Jackie's mom then got remarried to a Marine which Jackie described as “a real piece of work,” & they moved into a house together. Jackie lived at that house until she was about 12. She shared that she lived with her father for only about a year when she was 13, but then she moved back in with her mother & stepfather into another run-down house. Jackie said that her father was pretty laid back because he was “drunk and high most of the time,” so his only rule was letting him know whether you’d be sleeping at home that night or not.

When Jackie was 14, she witnessed her horrible stepfather pin her 16-year-old brother by his neck off the ground onto the wall. She said that her brother was just going down to the kitchen to get a snack, but that their stepfather “looked at him wrong,” so her brother asked if he needed anything, and that caused their stepfather to become physical with him. Jackie stated that she called her mom & told her about what her stepfather was doing, but that her mom got mad because she did not believe what her husband had done. After this incident, her brother moved out with their biological father.

At the age of 15, Jackie asked her mom if she could drop out of school & start working to help pay the bills. Her mom approved and Jackie dropped out of 10th grade to start working full-time at a movie theatre. She worked there until she was 19, but then she began working a second job at Target until she was 21. She would work at the movie theatre until closing and then walk over to Target to work the night shift. Around this time, she also moved out & rented her best friend’s couch for several months. That best friend turned into her first fiance & she got pregnant with a little girl. She had her daughter when she was 21, & they got married when she was 4-6 months old. Jackie was unable to work until her daughter was around 2 because she had to stay at home and many places did not want to hire someone who had not been working for 2 years. A few years later, her husband moved them out to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where his stepmother lived. By this time they had been married for 12 years, and he kicked her out of the house onto the streets. Her daughter chose to stay with her dad because she did not know what would happen if she went with her mom.

Jackie was around 34 at this time, and she had to completely start over. She began living in her car for about 6 months before her friend let her sleep on his couch back in California. They had actually met in 1997, when she was 17 at an AA meeting, so they had been friends for quite some time. This is the man who, in 2014, she ended up dating & they are now happily engaged!

A few years later the two of them ended up staying in a “decent-sized motor home” to save money. About 4-5 months into it, Jackie & her fiance went to a friend’s house and when she got out of the motorhome, she stepped into a large, covered hole in the ground. This caused her leg to snap from her ankle all the way to the top of her shin. She had to get a small metal plate with 6 screws put in on one side of her leg, and a large plate with 9 screws put into the other. After a few months of doctor’s appointments and X-rays, the doctor noticed a large black image under the small plate on Jackie's leg. She then had to go in for another surgery and they learned that she had large bone cysts that had to be manually scraped off. Since she was not able to get out of bed for a while, she and her fiance rented a room from a friend’s mother for around 4 years.

Jackie did not get along with her friend's mother. She described her as an “evil woman.” She shared: “She would follow me around the house, cursing at me while I was just doing typical daily chores: dusting, vacuuming, making sure laundry was done. She would curse me out for being in the kitchen when I was just going to fix dinner. She would be cursing at me until my fiance came home & then she would call me by my name.” Jackie, of course, did not want to live in this environment, however, she could not find another room to rent, so she would always keep the door locked, but when Jackie would go to the kitchen, her friend’s mother would start “throwing her to-go cups and stuff from fast food places at [her].” Jackie shared: “I finally had enough, so I packed my stuff & went to my car. My fiance went in my car and pulled the fuses while I was in the bathroom, so my car wouldn’t start. He didn’t want me to leave. So, I ended up in my car, in the driveway, for about 3-4 days before he put the fuses back in so that I could leave. He made me sign paperwork that he’s releasing the car to me because it was in both of our names. So, I signed it, drove off, went to a secluded park, stayed there, and cried.”

Similar to Nick’s story, Social Services refused to provide Jackie anything, as they claimed that her living in her car was a “luxury” and that she “wasn’t homeless because [she] had a shelter.” Social Services also said that she did not qualify for any general relief because she did not “look homeless.” Jackie shared that she would go to the laundromat every week to clean her clothes and that she separated her clothes in bags so that she knew where the clean clothes were. She also said that she would brush her teeth with water to try and keep them as clean as possible whilst living in a car. With all of this being said, Social Services told her that she could sell her car & have money for a hotel. But of course, selling her car would give her money for a few nights at a hotel, which would then just put her on the streets after a few days. So, she lived in her car for 5 months. Her fiance’s family friend was kind enough to allow her in his house while he was at work. So, she would go there to shower & in return, she cleaned his house for him. He also gave her gas money after her visits so that she could sustain living in her car with the rising gas prices.

Fortunately, another family friend volunteered at a police station, where they had a huge booklet of all of the homeless resources available in the area. Jackie shared: “I called every single one, kept leaving messages & didn’t hear anything back… and then she (her family friend) told me about Grandma's House of Hope and how it has several houses, or more than one, anyway. And she gave me that phone number and said: “Leave a message, they will get back to you.” So I left, I think it was two messages, and someone finally called me back and interviewed me over the phone and for about 30 to 45 minutes on a Friday. And… she was waiting until Monday to tell me that I was accepted and there was an open bed.” Jackie stayed at the original GHOH house for 4 months until she was moved into her current GHOH home on July 5th, 2022.

Jackie is still living in one of GHOH's houses and is still happily engaged to her fiancé! She shared that her daughter is now 21 with her own baby girl that Jackie has never met. She said that she tries to see her daughter as often as possible, but that they have started to lose contact over time.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me Jackie! You are making such a difference in the world by just telling people about your experience with homelessness. I am so happy that you are now with GHOH, and I hope that you continue to be happy & supported there :)

If you would like to learn more about Grandma's House of Hope, click here.

Donate to Project WHY today so that we can continue to interview these amazing people! Project WHY is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation registered with the State of California & the United States government. 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness! :)

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