Sunday, November 18, 2012

CAROLYN HUDGINS - "I help people."

     Carolyn Hudgins is obsessed with protecting children from abuse. She has approached me several times to talk to me about various aspects of protecting children from sexual abuse and abduction. One time, when she spoke to me about this, she was in tears.
     I have known Carolyn for several months now. She was always willing to talk to me, and often approached me to tell me about events that were occurring in the lives of the homeless people around her.      
     But she was never willing to be interviewed.
     Until now.
     Today, Carolyn was willing to be interviewed because she needed some money to resolve a problem with her storage unit.
     The mystery about Carolyn is why a woman who is obsessed with the protection of children would spend so much of her time hanging out with registered sex offenders.
     Carolyn is forty-six years old. She has been homeless, off and on, for the past five years.
     The first time she became homeless, she gave up her apartment to "hang out" with a homeless registered sex offender by the name of Matty Templeton. She says that Matty was a very smart man, and that his parents were rich.
     During that time, Carolyn used to get so depressed that she’d go down to the irrigation canal and just sit by the water, because it seemed to be peaceful near the water.
     She was paying $1,200 a month for an apartment that she had to share with two other people.
     Also, she felt stuck in the little town of Colfax.
     So, she moved out of her apartment, to hang out with Matty Templeton.
     Her first experiences with being homeless caused her to be afraid a lot of the time.
     When she couldn’t handle being homeless any more, she managed to get together a little bit of money, and rent a room at the Foothills Hotel.
     After a month, she ran out of money, and she became homeless again.
     She went back to her old haunts, looking for Matty.
     But the other homeless people told her that Matty was dead. His body was found floating in the irrigation canal.
     Carolyn changed the subject, and tells me about another homeless friend who recently died... a man named Shilo. Shilo died two months ago, after along struggle with prostate cancer.
     Shilo used to work with kids. But he went to prison after he stabbed a man.
     Shilo died right by the Raley’s... where the tree used to be. He was about 76 years old.
     Carolyn says that Shilo taught her a lot.
     "He taught me how to just sit there, and be quiet, and watch people," Carolyn says.
     "We help a lot of kids get free," she says. "We work with Amber Alert.
     We find a lot of kids who have been abducted, but then run away from their captors.
     Any child who has been abducted will run away from their abductors the first chance they get.
     "We all have kids. We always have to remember these kids."
     Carolyn says that the hardest part about being homeless is the winter.
     "Being wet. Being cold. Being harassed by the cops. I don’t set up a tent. Because as soon as you set up a tent, the cops run you out."
     "But... if you don’t even have a tent," I ask Carolyn, "Then, where do you stay during the times like today, when it’s pouring down rain?"
     "Anyplace where I can stay dry," Carolyn answers.
     "I don’t recommend being homeless to anyone."
     If Carolyn had a magic wand, so that she could be or do absolutely anything, what would she be doing?
     "I’d go back to school," Carolyn says.
     "First, I’d get my G.E.D.
     "Then, if I could afford it, I’d learn a trade, and I’d get a better-paying job.
     "I’d like to have a job that paid five to ten thousand dollars a month."
     As I hear her say this, I am thinking to myself that five to ten thousand dollars a month is a lot of money.
     But my thinking must have shown on my face, because next, Carolyn asks me,
     "That’s not being too unreasonable, is it? To ask for a job that pays five to ten thousand a month?"
     I shake my head. "No. It’s not unreasonable. And you know that you could do it, if you really wanted too. You’re one of the toughest people out here. And I’ve seen you demonstrate your natural leadership abilities with the other homeless people."
     Carolyn looks a bit surprised for a moment. But then, she nods. She knows that she can do it.
     "I’ve learned a lot from all these people out here," she says. "When I first came out here, I had never even camped out before. I had never cooked on a wood fire. I used to burn a lot of the things that I tried to cook.
     "Now, I’ve learned how to camp, and how to survive. I’ve become a pretty good cook, and I know how to cook on a wood fire. We have barbeques in the park. I cook all kinds of delicious things that the other people just love to eat. Sometimes, I come over here to the garden, and pick up some zuchini, and combine it with some garlic, and an onion. It’s really delicious.
     "I’ve had a lot of good times out here.
     "But you know... once I got back inside, I’d never go back out again."
     I ask Carolyn if she has a message for the world.
     "Yes. Always trust in the Lord.
     "Be good to one another.
     "Don’t be stupid. Don’t do stupid things.
     "There’s always somebody out there who cares, and who wants to help. So, don’t be afraid, or too proud to look for and to accept a little help, now and then.
     I ask Carolyn what makes her special and unique in the world.
     "I’m a helper," she says. "I’ve got to help. I love to help people. Just... helping people."
     I ask Carolyn if there is anything else that she would want people to know about her life.
     "Yes. Here’s the reason why I want to get off the street so badly right now: this last Summer, we took a little vacation. We went to Stinson Beach. And I just loved it.
     "Later, we took another vacation. We went to San Francisco, to Pier 39, and then to Petaluma. It’s so pretty there. While we were there, we drove way out to this place where you can see a lighthouse. And it was so pretty. It made me so happy.
     "I told my friend,’I’m going to get off the street."
     "Next month, my friend and I will pool our money and we’ll get a room. And I intend to stay off the street for as long as I possibly can.
     "Have faith," Carolyn says.
     "Take a little vacation. Go and do something that makes you happy, and remember what it’s like to be happy.
     "I used to do little things that made me happy like that all the time.
     "Remembering what it’s like to be happy gives you the incentive to get your life going again, and to get off the street."

     This is the ninety-eighth in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.

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