DOWNEY — I saw Julie standing outside the post office again, so that means she is “all right.” But not really.
“I don’t mind talking about being homeless,” she said, so I asked what had happened to her. “I lived with my mother and sister in my mother’s apartment here in Downey,” Julie said, “and I was their caretaker.”
“But my sister’s cancer got worse,” Julie said. “I was with her, to her last gasp.”
“That was a year and let’s see,” and she counted the months off on her fingers, “It was July. A year and four months ago.”
“Then my mother started feeling bad,” Julie said, “and one night she had a real sharp back pain. They took her to the hospital, and it was cancer too.” Julie paused. “She died within a week.”
“The manager let me stay for two weeks. And then I had to go.”
“Where will you sleep tonight?” I asked her. “I don’t know,” Julie replied.
“There’s a church group,” she said, “and if I get enough for a motel room and show them the key, they’ll pay for three more nights.”
When Julie’s story, brief as it was, went from the Patriot in November to Facebook, people wrote to say they had seen Julie, or someone like her, and had contributed something to her. But that’s a temporary fix. Complex social problems always have many sides, and the City of Downey has been studying the issue. But that’s not going to help Julie this December.
How old is she? Older, but not elderly. It is hard to tell. What kind of work could she do? “Cleaning. I could clean,” she said. But Julie has macular degeneration, and can’t read any more, let alone see dirt.
“I don’t mind talking about it,” Julie said. “But if you want to write it down, I’d like to see it. So I can be sure it’s gotten down properly.”
Let’s hope a proper ending comes soon.