The June 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Court Upholds Legal Rights of Homeless People

Hunger Rises, Food Stamps Cut

National Hunger Survey

Union Busting in El Salvador

CEO Pay Rises, Worker Pay Shrinks

CEOs Scheme to Privatize Social Security

Dee's Story: The Stigma of Being Homeless

Bush's Chronic Homeless Plan

Pepperspray and Torture

How Earth Day Was Co-opted

St. Mary's Center

Life Stories of Homeless Seniors

Hodges Jones

Jose Querdo

Jeannette Hundley

James Jermany

Ken Minor

Lynn Hoberg

Social Justice in the East Bay

100 Teachings of Gandhi

June Poetry of the Streets

Students Poetry


May 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.

Life Stories of Homeless Seniors

Oral History by Trena Cleland

Jeannette Hundley

We had a lot of medical expenses. We lost our major resources, including two homes. When he died, I was left penniless. I couldn't pay for our apartment.

My husband died about 20 months ago, when he was 60. He had diabetes, then renal failure, and was on dialysis at the end. He went on disability and lost all insurance benefits, including life insurance for me. We had a lot of medical expenses; and not everything was covered by Medicare. We lost our major resources, including two homes.

When he died, I was left penniless. I couldn't pay for our apartment.

I stayed with my cousins in Oakland for over a year, but it seemed like I was going nowhere. Finally I got a job, so I got a little low-income hotel room. But the job didn't last, so I had to move out of the hotel. I couldn't go back to my relatives. I had to find a shelter.

St. Mary's was the one shelter that answered the phone and asked me to come in. It's been great since then. St. Mary's has opened up avenues for me.

At first it was scary for me to be with all these strange people and to feel like, "Oh my God, what am I doing here?" It was a culture shock. The other ladies in the shelter were encouraging. They said, "Oh dear, we all went through that." They told me how much they had cried. I thought, "Gee, they cried, too?" That helped.

St. Mary's is a good shelter to get into, for a first-timer, and the three meals a day are good.

In the shelter, we have group meetings every day at 4 o'clock. We express ourselves and talk about our feelings. The staff checks in with how we're doing and goes over any issue that we want to discuss. Sometimes there are specific topics, like practical information on housing. Sometimes we do art. The way they do art classes at St. Mary's is like therapy.

The upbeat manner of the staff and their genuine caring are really inspiring and welcoming. I don't feel as alone, because they give us the feeling that they really sincerely care for each of us as individuals. They know our names, they keep in touch with everything we're doing, and they're very personal.

Due to my chemical imbalance, I'm seeking disability. At first, I was tormented over that. I thought, "Oh gosh, I don't want to be a decrepit, mentally ill woman." I figured that I would be labeled a crazy person with no life. But I have found out that's not it.

When I first met the psychiatrist at St. Mary's, I couldn't stop crying, I couldn't eat, and I couldn't sleep. He said, "The way you are right now, you can't work. Get on disability. If you feel better, you can go off it. In the meantime, you might do part-time or volunteer work, or study."

The psychiatrist is filing the paperwork for my disability, and my caseworker is helping me find me a place to live. In the meantime, I'm doing what I can to learn things without pressure. I see that eventually, I will be able to do more to help others, whether I get paid or not. I want to do something for society.

I'm a late bloomer. I feel like I'm just starting to live. Hopefully, the best is still to come!

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

E-mail: Spirit

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Editor : Terry Messman

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