Joan's Story

“Joan is not my real name, it is an alias that I use. I am 23. I became homeless in October of this year. What happened was I became very depressed, manic, and couldn’t hold a job. My rent was too much money and I ended up leaving. Right now I live in the shelter, the Armory. I get my food from the Lord’s Table and from the Compassion Center here in Gilroy. I have medical problems and no insurance. So I use the clinics that roll around here. I have lived in Gilroy for about three years now and I don’t have any family out here. Being a girl out here sucks. You don’t know who you can trust. One guy will tell you you can trust him - you’ll turn around and meet another and they’ll start biting at each other next for your attention, and it’s like, what am I going to do. You trust someone and they’ll either make you or break you. I’ve been on the wrong end of it already, and I’ve been on the right end of it already. But you become very distrusting of men in my position. I was living in a tent under a bridge for about a week or two weeks until the shelter opened. Since then I’ve been at the shelter - the shelter is nice, its warm, you can change your stuff and have good food. I haven’t wanted for food in this situation, which is pretty nice. I know that other people do, but I just happen to know where the resources are.

A lot of women keep to themselves. I happen to be one of those people who like to be around other people. I hate being by myself. I have mental trouble sometimes diagnosed as bipolar. My best advice is that you have to be careful with who you trust.

All of the people who volunteer at the Compassion Center care, or I think they care. I hear a lot of dirt talking. They care, but the resources around here aren’t meant for younger people. It’s meant for older people who know what they’re doing on the streets, but for younger people who don't have too many resources it can be really tough, because you're like well I want to get a job, I want to work, but then you think back to when you had a house. I couldn’t keep a job for a year . Seven jobs in a year I lost and I ended up losing my room. It’s like get a job, stay at the shelter, it seems hopeless sometimes, but you just have to keep moving forward.

I’m not currently working. I’m actually broke right now. I’m terrified of getting a job right now because seven jobs in the past didn’t work out. Right now I’m looking into mental health services and things like that.

I was almost run over by someone I knew. Jealous over a guy. It’s one of the reasons that I carry a knife around. It’s really dangerous out here, and I’m only beginning to realize the magnitude of what’s going on. There’s very little protection for people like me, the youth. There’s not really many of them around here and I’m realizing why. There’s a lot of people who take advantage of our age, innocence, naivety. It’s been a difficult time. The shelter can be safe as long as the right people are there. As soon as somebody you know that has a beef with you walks in, its best to get out of there and stay at a park, because someone like me who who doesn’t have strength, even though I have the knife, people know that I can’t fight very well. So, it’s worrisome.

People have threatened me physically, they’ve threatened sexual assault. Thankfully I have people on my side who are much bigger than they are. If I didn’t have them, I don’t know where it would have gone.

In San Jose I was connected with the Bill Wilson Center - they help youth between the ages of 18 and 25.. Hopefully I will get in, it’s a much safer place. They’ll help me get the mental health that I need, and schooling. They’ve connected me with Gavilan Community College. I’m hopeful. It was arranged by the Compassion Center.”