The April 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

US Government Created Housing Shortages

Hate Crimes in S.F. and Boston

Urban Removal in S.F. Bayview

Stop Bulldozers of Gentrification

The Death of Two Eloquent Homeless Voices

Grandmother Is Left Homeless by Car Wreck

Building Strong Unions on U.S./ Mexico Border

Transit Justice Is Derailed

Poor People Use the Internet to Organize

Just Wage for All

Ruling Class Runs Economy into the Ground

Art & Altruism: The Paintings of Elizabeth King

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Writers

April Poetry of the Streets


March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Car Wreck Plunges a Grandmother into Homelessness

"What I have gone through should not happen to anyone. Poverty should not exist. It must not exist. Food, housing and clothing are rights, not privileges."

by Rosie Kreidler

Rosie Kreidler survived a car crash only to be plunged into homelessness. Tom Lowe photo

In 2002, in New Mexico on Interstate 40, Melvin, my grandson, and I ran into a thick fog with zero visibility. Then a huge Fed-Ex 18-wheeler transport truck ran into the back of us, rolling us over several times. Bones broken, glass cutting us up, and the uncontrollable fear that life would be ending here and now were terrifying beyond comprehension.

Somehow we were located by a passing truck and transported to the nearest hospital. We were terrified and bleeding, and my grandson, out of fear, had urinated over his clothing. Melvin's face was covered in blood and I couldn't move my body. The most terrifying part was that when the truck hit, it sounded like a bomb had been dropped. I never heard anything sound so loud and frightful in my life.

Once a nurse, now homeless

Prior to the accident, I worked as a licensed nurse. As a matter of fact, I worked the day before the accident without ever anticipating this. Released from the hospital with multiple injuries and severe pain, I did not know what I was to do next. I had no car: everything valuable, both inside and outside, was destroyed.

My brother heard of this, and transported us back to my state of residence, California, where I was to receive treatment. The insurance companies did not pay for the hospital stay and moved us out to find other means of treatment.

I ended up sleeping in my car after several months of attempting to get adequate care. The pain and broken bones limited my search for help. Eventually someone saw me in my auto, and suggested I go to St. Mary's Senior Center at 635 22nd Street in Oakland. There I could receive food and direction. I stayed at the shelter on a cot which was terrible for my back and neck, but that was it. And thank God I wasn't forced to live in my car, cold and exposed to the elements.

Is this how my life will end?

Where am I going from here? Is this the way my life will end? Looking for food, housing, and living with this constant pain? These questions scared me. I couldn't manage my activities of daily living.

Every agency had a delay mechanism installed in its policy. I had to wait months to get help and then papers from these agencies were lost, or as one eligibility worker put it: "I have vacation coming and retraining, so I don't know when I will have your need for food stamps, emergency housing vouchers, or MediCal finished." When she returned from vacation, she simply closed my case.

The depression had become so severe that I didn't want to continue living. I had some dignity with my work, and the ability to take care of myself. This was constantly attacked; and eventually, I felt helpless and hopeless and suicidal. I had worked all my life, and had taken care of my aging parents and raised a family, and now there was no one for me. The state budget was cutting back its services to the poor, and I was poor. This made me feel that help WAS NOT ON THE WAY!

St. Mary's saved my life

At St. Mary's Center, I received hands-on help from my case manager, Sister Mary Nolan, which literally kept me from killing myself. She offered alternatives and encouragement to fight back for my meager rights to life. Her direction was God-sent, and without it, I know I would not be alive today.

St. Mary's Center is a senior center and, as a senior, I have noticed that people overlook you. When people do manage to see your existence, they express it in bothersome, disposable ways, saying that "you must have brought this on yourself." What I have learned is that this is not true.

I learned that any one of us could become homeless and stuck in poverty without our input or consent. My tunnel of pain became a way of death. I learned that hopelessness reinforces uncontrolled stress which eventually makes you mentally ill. My dignity left and I am now a victim.

Life is a visit and not a stay. But when you are thrust into a world without housing, food, clothing, and love, there is no living. You have begun your journey, regardless of pace, toward death. All of my life I have given to my country, the United States of America. I have been in many countries as a national and international athlete. I have competed for the U.S. in the Olympics. I have seen poverty around the world, but I never thought I would be sitting here asking each country to reverse this tragic way of existence.

The children are our future, and as a senior, I am the past. But what I feel and have gone through should not happen to anyone. Each country can and should reverse poverty. Poverty should not exist. It must not exist. Housing, food, and clothing are a right, and not privileges.

Hope is part of human existence and should never be taken away from anyone. Loving in all its varied degrees belongs to each of us, to be shared and given as our almighty God has ordained.

The question is, are profits more important than food? Are having books, yet not being able to read, the answer to a child's future? When we realize that any one of us can become disabled, do we turn our heads and not see what that disabled individual is going through? Do we help or do we hurt those in need?

We are human beings, and all that life gives is the opportunity to enjoy its many wonders, to protect our planet, to save our environment, to not place profits before people. I want my heart to stop crying for the many that I now share pain with, both mentally and spiritually. Help me to help them.

Support organizations like St. Mary's Center for seniors by whatever you can do. This effort might just keep someone alive. I implore everyone to make the eradication of poverty and homelessness a top priority and help me end this indignation forever. I know this is possible and I offer my help along with yours.

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

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