Sally and Dennis' Story

Dennis: The smoke was in the air and choking me out last night. My knees were bothering me so badly, I was trying to smoke some weed. I couldn’t even get through a bowl. I needed it. Its my painkiller. I haven’t messed with narcotics in at least a decade. It’s my medication, i don't do it recreationally.

Sally: I’m coughing a lot more, especially in the mornings.

Dennis: We had the police come over the other day and they just ran ID checks, you know what I mean. “Oh, you know you're trespassing?” The sweeps are bs. They come thru and take your stuff. They bring a garbage truck. They have these tags, that say you can get your stuff from such and such and we’ll hold it for 90 days. But how are they holding your stuff, when they bring a garbage truck thru and compact it as they’re going? I’ve lost three tents in these sweeps.

Sally: they try to keep the sweeps at different times, to keep us guessing, so they’re not on a schedule. Sometimes they’ll do two weeks in a row, sometimes they’ll wait three or four weeks. They always want us to be on edge and unsure.

Dennis: Usually we have an inside word and we know they’re coming. So we can take our stuff down, so they don’t destroy it. I have a hiding spot where I put my stuff. Here is kind of cramped. There’s just a little trailer that they let us put stuff in, but everybody is using it, so I’ve got my own spot. What I would like to see happen is: either allow us to pay rent for that camping space and put out some porta potties or find us stable housing. Most of us, we’re not looking for a hand out. We’re looking for a hand up. We help ourselves. I have a disability. Out here it’s hard to get my medication because you have to deal with the police and they say, “Oh you’re intoxicated in public,” and its like “No, I’m just taking my medication.” We have no running water, nowhere to shower, nowhere to charge out phones, so that we can be in contact with the world and take care of things. Or make an emergency call. I would be more than willing to pay for rent on the spot like I got right now. Its a nice spot, nobody bothers me.

Sally: there’s plenty of empty parking lots where they could do that.

Dennis: they could set up a tent city or something like that. In Gilroy we have a couple of vacant lots that we could fill. People could have a safe place where they’re allowed to be. So that’s the message. Help us find housing! Give us a safe place to be! I just got on the section 8 list for affordable housing, so hopefully I know what my number is soon.

Dennis: The problem with working is IDs, addresses to where you can send your check.

Sally: It’s hard to get clean and presentable for work every day when you’re in a tent.

Dennis: It’s hard to dress up for an interview, when you’re living in a dirt field.

Sally: And you don't even have a mirror!

Dennis: The shower truck comes here every Thursday. We’re allowed to use the Compassion Center as an address. As long as you have a mailing address and not a PO box you can renew your license. We all have our own little mailbox in their files.

Sally: Another thing that needs to be said is that a lot of people do have jobs. They have more than one job and it still isn’t enough money to get in anywhere.

Dennis: I’m on disability. I make a fixed income every month and it’s not enough to find a place around here.

Sally: And now they want triple the rent and how are we supposed to get that? It needs to be said, people just give up and don’t try anymore, thinking, “That’s going to be my life forever.” That’s just not the major percentage of us. The world doesn't ever see the regular people like us…….

Dennis: The people that are working hard trying to do the right thing. We’re in the shadows, while the people that are doing things for the wrong reason are ….

Sally ... attracting attention!

Dennis: Right, they’re trying to get money for their habit. That’s what people see. They don't see us in the shadows - the people that are trying to make a living, the people that are trying to make a life for themselves like us.

Sally: Most men are just looking for one thing. When you get old you feel like you can’t count on most of them for anything, except for a few good friends (points to Dennis) and that’s a fraction of them.

Dennis: Thank you!

Sally: Basics you get used to not having. But the safety and always being alone, that wears on you.