The Tale of Violet

18 Jan

After yesterday’s post, instead of bloviating about my theories of homelessness in America, I thought it would be better to tell a story that happened to me. This involves a nice lady I’m going to call Violet.

Violet is somewhere in her 50’s and spent her life off and on homeless. The times when she has not been homeless, she has always lived with someone else–her boyfriend, husband, girlfriend–never on her own. Apart from being VERY fat and needing a scooter to get around (only in the West are poor people fat), she has never held a job in the five years I have known her, possibly because of her multiple medical conditions, but possibly because it would endanger her social security benefits.

Violet is a very nice gal, but simultaneously, she is also the most infuriating person I have ever met. It seems hard to balance the two, but the best definition for her I’ve heard is “needy.” Violet is “needy,” not just financially, but emotionally. You can teach her how to do something and it won’t stick. I don’t think she does it on purpose, but she would rather have you do it, so she would have someone to talk to while you do it. And she loves to talk... God, does she love to talk.

I never asked her history, but you couldn’t avoid most of it, since she loved to talk. She grew up in rural Oklahoma and claimed to be descended from a Cherokee princess. Of course, being half-Irish, she also claimed descent from the fairies, so if you can be one princess, why not two? She got pregnant rather young, and ended up having three kids, of which I only ever met one. At some point, she moved to Texas, possibly with husband number two, where she raised kid number two… who doesn’t talk to her. I have no idea what happened to kid number one, and she never mentioned them, so I’m guessing adoption.

Somewhere between husband two and three, she lost custody of her kids, and moved to Phoenix where her sister lives. Then she ended up on the street. Then after a year, she found a program to get her off the streets, which may or may not have been instituted by the LDS church (she is a Mormon, I’m guessing mostly because missionaries love to talk). However, the moment I finally understood Violet was when her daughter moved to town.

Violet asked me to pick her her daughter, let’s call her Periwinkle, at the bus station along with all her worldly possessions and her toddler daughter. No problem. When I picked up Peri, she was very grateful, and I loaded her into my car. Instead of going to her mom’s house, she asked to stop downtown, because it had been years since she been there. Okay, sure. After checking out the fountains, she asked if she could just stop and register at the county shelter, so she could get her benefits started in this state. Okay, I dropped her off and waited… for two #(*$*$@ hours! Peri didn’t call me to explain the delay and I didn’t have her number. Nor did her mom. So I’m steaming, but I keep my calm when she finally arrives, and she asked to be dropped off at her aunt’s house. Not her mom’s house, her aunt’s house. So I did and never saw her again, even when Peri called me to ask for an additional ride later, because I was done with her.

For me, that explained everything about Violet. She and her daughter didn’t talk to each other. Peri turned to her aunt first, and after a couple months exhausting her, moved in with her baby daddy. When he got exhausted after a couple months, Peri moved in with Violet and her husband. And when they got exhausted, she moved in with a new boyfriend. This I heard from Violet and her husband later–and that relationship broke up after a year and a half. Violet is living with a girlfriend who seems about as needy as she is.

What does this have to do with homelessness? Well, if you’re in a jam, and need help getting back to your feet, you can count on your family/friends/church. But if you exhaust your resources, and you’re not getting back to your feet, you end up on the street. To me, that explains about a third of the homeless population–people who have exhausted their resources and have no one to take care of them. Another third is crazy–mental illness or drug abuse, take your pick–but they simply can’t function in normal society. The final third have not exhausted them and are simply transitioning back to low-income.

It’s the final third you can help; the ones who want to be helped. Not taken care of, helped back to a normal life. I personally support Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, because they help homeless families. Shelters are segregated by gender, so if you have a teenage boy with his mom, they have to be separated… and boy, is that scary. They also provide programs to get them back on their feet, and having visited their building, I’m confident they are doing a great job.

What do you think? Do you think my theory of homelessness is way off? Do you have a similar story? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “The Tale of Violet”

  1. myrelar January 18, 2021 at 8:44 am #

    Amazing! 🙂

  2. Silk Cords January 23, 2021 at 12:30 am #

    A little late to the party, so I’ll keep my comments brief. 🙂

    When I lived in Sacramento, it had a massive homeless problem. All of California does. I’ve posted a few articles about it in my blog, but that’s a side note. Mainly I just wanted to confirm your analysis.

    A local homeless advocate did his own informal study of the makeup of Sacramento’s homeless population. His conclusion was that 1/3 was homeless temporarily and legitimately working to get back on their feet. Most would probably be homeless 6 months or less also. 1/3 were permanently homeless. They burned bridges, felt the world owed them a living and / or didn’t want to answer to anybody, etc… Sometimes they were harmless, sometimes not. The last 1/3 were mentally ill to varying degrees. Again, sometimes (usually actually) harmless, sometimes definitely not.

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