Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TAMMY RODRIGUEZ - "My life is not really that bad.  I just don't have a roof."

     Tammy Rodriguez is David Elliott’s girlfriend. She is thirty-seven years old.
     David is only twenty-four.
     But they are both old souls.
     They are wiser than most other people that I’ve met. And when I say that, I’m not just talking about the homeless people I’ve met. I’m talking about everybody I’ve met.
     Tammy has been homeless for about seven months.
     I interviewed Tammy’s boyfriend, David, just before interviewing Tammy. So I knew that Tammy and David both became homeless at the same time.
     I told Tammy that I have interviewed a number of homeless women who voluntarily became homeless to follow their boyfriends out onto the streets when their boyfriends became homeless.
     But Tammy tells me that is not what happened in her case.
     She didn’t follow David into homelessness. In fact, it was David who followed Tammy into homelessness.
     Tammy had been in an abusive relationship with another man. She became homeless when she left that abusive relationship.
     When Tammy left the abusive man and became homeless, David followed her into homelessness.
     I ask Tammy what is the hardest part about being homeless for her.
     "Not being able to spend more time with my daughter," she says.
     Tammy has a twelve-year-old daughter, who lives with her father.
     I ask Tammy if her daughter’s father is the same man who had been abusive to Tammy.
Tammy tells me no. The abusive relationship that she was in was with a different man, and occurred after she separated from her daughter’s father.
     "I see my daughter all the time," Tammy says. "But not as much as I’d like."
     Tammy tells me that she and David have been friends for about five years.
     I ask Tammy if it is difficult to hold a romantic relationship together, while struggling to survive all of the stresses of being homeless.
     Tammy says, "Not really. Once you accept the fact that you’re homeless, it’s not as hard."
     If Tammy had a magic wand, so that she could be or do absolutely anything, what would she be, or be doing?
     "Just a job," Tammy says. "Any job.
     "I’d like to be working.
     "I’ve done fast food, or retail in the past."
     But... if Tammy could have her choice of any kind of work, what kind of work would she prefer to be doing?
     "I’d be working with people who have psychiatric problems," she says.
     Why people who have psychiatric problems?
     "Because, even when my life seems bad, there’s always someone else who has it worse.
     "My own life is not really that bad. I just don’t have a roof."
     I ask Tammy if she has a message for the world.
     "Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Tammy says.
     I wait for a moment, to see if Tammy has anything more to add to that.
     She says nothing more.
     "That’s a very powerful statement," I tell her. "I don’t think that I’ve heard a statement like that from any other homeless person that I’ve interviewed. And it seems to me to be a statement that everyone needs to hear."
     I am thinking about all of the bitching and whining and moaning that I have been hearing, lately, (not just from my homeless friends, but from nearly everyone around me) and I can’t help wondering how two people like David and Tammy, who have such powerful positive attitudes, can end up being homeless.
     I tell Tammy that I have a great deal of admiration for her, and for the powerful things that she says.
     Tammy smiles. "Well, as I got older, I gained some wisdom.
     "Being out there, I’ve seen a lot of people crying and whining about it. And when you’re just crying and whining about it, nothing’s going to get done.
     "You know, the day’s going to end, and everything will still be the same, unless you actually do something."
     I ask Tammy if there is anything else that she wants people to know, before we complete our interview.
     "They shouldn’t look at all homeless people as bad," she says.
     "Homeless doesn’t mean that we are not human."

     This is the one-hundred-and-tenth article 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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