|HAYLEY LEGENDRY - So sweet, and so young, to be homeless|
"I TRY TO SMILE AT EVERYONE"
But I can’t be fully objective about that. Because she reminds me of someone else... of a dark-haired, young, hippy girl that I loved and lost, a long time ago.
She has that same youthful innocence... that same fresh, young, soft, sweet naive way about her... even though I know that after being homeless three different times, she isn’t really that naive any more.
Hayley is twenty-one years old. But she seems more like an eighteen-year-old.
She tells me that she moved from one group home to another when she was younger.
Her parents went through one divorce, then remarried each other, but then divorced again.
Hayley ended up in a group home because her mother took too much percoset and oxycontin.
When Hayley turned eighteen, she moved to Pahoa, Hawaii. She loved Hawaii.
But she moved back to the mainland when she was twenty. She moved because she had a boyfriend at that time who had substance abuse issues. Her boyfriend kept falling in with the wrong crowd in Hawaii. So, they moved to Blue Ridge, Georgia.
Hayley finally broke up with that boyfriend. He went to prison because of his drug problems. He had been on heroin, on and off, since he was thirteen years old.
"I just can’t deal with that," Hayley says.
"I told him that I’d support him anyway that I can, as long as he’s clean and sober. But...he can’t get himself sober.
"Besides, I was much younger then," Hayley says. "And I didn’t know any better than to put up with some things from him that I should never have put up with.
"For example, he used to hit me. And I’d just let him.
"But I would never put up with that from my boyfriend now."
Hayley has a new boyfriend now - a homeless young man who seems to be nice enough. He talks about setting up small booths at hippy festivals, and selling clothing made out of hemp. Hayley and her new boyfriend worked in Nevada County for the past two and a half months. But their jobs in Nevada County were only seasonal. About a week ago, when their Summer jobs ended, they moved down the hill to Auburn.
Hayley says that the hardest part about being homeless for her is being in between... in between one place and another... in between one job and another... in between one kind of life and another.
"It’s also hard to be sleeping outside when it’s raining, and to be freezing cold at night.
"But the worst part is the way that people treat you.
"When you are homeless, people give you evil looks.
"No one wants to help you.
"Last week, I had no shoes for two days.
"I was walking around barefoot. It was cold outside, and people would stare at me like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you wearing any shoes?’
"Well, I’m sorry. But my shoes broke, and I have no money. So, for two days, I had no shoes.
"It’s really sad, the way that people stare at you. Or else, they pretend not to see you at all.
"I try to smile at everybody... just because I think that’s what I should do.
"But being homeless, when I smile at people, they usually don’t smile back.
"Instead, they look at you like you’re some kind of a drug addict, or a criminal. And that really hurts.
"Everybody out here just needs some kind of help."
If Hayley had a magic wand, so that she could be or do absolutely anything, what would she be or do?
"I’d be back in Hawaii.
"When I was in Hawaii, I met a lot of young transients who really wanted to find work. But there was no work for them in Hawaii.
"So, if I could afford it, I’d buy a big, organic WOOFER farm. And I’d give all of those young transients a place where they could work in exchange for food and a place to sleep."
I ask Hayley what a WOOFER farm is, because I’ve never heard that term before.
She tells me that it’s actually an acronym for something. But she can’t remember what. She tells me that I can find it on the internet.
I ask Hayley if she has a message for the world.
"Yes. Always remember to put yourself in other peoples’ shoes, because you never know where you’re going to end up. Everyone goes through their periods of ups and downs."
I ask Hayley what she believes makes her special and unique in the world.
Hayley isn’t sure what to say, at first. So, she looks over at her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend smiles at her with loving eyes and says, "She may be crazy, but she’s got the purest heart I’ve ever seen."
Hayley smiles back at her boyfriend.
Then, she says, "Kindness. I always try to treat everybody with kindness, and not judgment. And I share what little I have with others. I think we should all be treated equal.
Hayley and her boyfriend start telling me how friendly and helpful the other homeless people in the Auburn area have been. Hayley says that she was still without shoes when they first met the homeless man who is known around here as Cowboy (Erik Parks).
Cowboy tried to take the shoes right off of his own feet and give them to Hayley.
But Hayley wouldn’t take Cowboy’s shoes.
I can see Cowboy trying to give away his shoes to this sweet young girl. The thought of it makes me smile. Chivalry of the Old West.
I ask Hayley if there is anything else that she would like to tell me before we conclude our interview.
"Yes. There is something that you can do to make homeless people feel better, even if you don’t want to give them money, or if you aren’t able to help them in any other way.
"When a homeless person smiles at you, just smile back.
"When that happens to me, it gives me a warm feeling inside. And it makes me feel better... even when I’m having a really tough day.
Before I leave Hayley and her boyfriend, I ask Hayley’s boyfriend if he would mind hearing a bit of coaching from an old man.
He smiles and says, "Sure."
"Once, for a short period of time when I was a very young man, I had a girlfriend who was a lot like Hayley.
"But I let her get away.
"Girls like Hayley are very special and very rare.
"So, you take good care of her.
"And don’t let her get away, if you can help it.
"If you manage to hold onto her, then years later, when you are an old man like me, you won’t have regrets."
The young man smiles. He wraps Hayley in his arms, and tells me that he will take good care of her.
But he is so young... and... he talks about clothing made out of hemp.
I hope that he can be strong, and smart, and gentle... and that he can take care of Hayley.
But I’ll probably never get to know how things work out between these two young lovers.
I find myself wondering, for a moment, if my Hayley is still out there, somewhere.
I haven’t seen or heard from her in many years.
I didn’t tell Hayley’s boyfriend the whole story, as the story unfolded for me.
Losing my dark-haired, hippy beauty broke my heart at the time. But it turned out to be the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. Because I later married the blond-haired love of my life - Suzi. And we have been married for almost forty-two years.
When I finish my interview with Hayley, I get in my car and drive across the K-Mart parking lot, headed toward the Bel Air Market.
I see a gray-bearded, shaggy-looking homeless man sitting on the corner curb, near the CVS Pharmacy.
Thinking about what Hayley said, I smile and wave at the old man as I drive past him.
To my surprise and delight, he gets all excited. He flashes me big, toothless smile, stands halfway up off the curb, and he waves back at me.
I can still see that smile. It makes me feel all warm inside.
This is the ninety-sixth in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.