At one time, I knew just about every Vietnamese person in this area. I met C**** a long time ago, back when she was still in high school. She had very bright eyes and was actually quite pretty. I remember that, but not much else.
I would have forgotten her completely except that I began seeing her rather frequently at the courthouse. It turns out she dropped out of high school in 10th grade, bounced around between low-paying jobs, had two children and was embroiled in custody disputes and PFAs. She was even at war with her own family. Obviously, she had made some bad choices, and even seemed to sense it deep down, but was unable to help herself.
Every now and then, I'd give C**** $20 so she could get some food or pay off a ticket. Maybe that was a mistake. I did not do it out od any sense of altruism, but because I was afraid that I would jinx myself by refusing to help her. So it was really pretty selfish. As I think about it now, it enabled me to feel good about myself while getting rid of her. Periodically, she'd also call and ask to stay with me for a few days. I've always said No. I live in a very tiny apartment and am set in my ways. Although I am much older than her, I still don't like to put myself in situations where I'd be tempted to do something stupid or put myself in a situation where she could make accusations about me.
I had not seen or heard from her for several years until the last two weeks, when she began calling again. I resolved to blow her off, even when she told me she was sleeping in the streets.
That changed Tuesday. She called to tell me she had recently been raped while with some homeless group, and I went to see her. When I arrived in downtown Easton, she was literally running from some guy who was quite angry. I later learned he is one of her ex-boyfriends and she has been sleeping in his car. He backed away when he saw me, but that's only because an Easton police cruiser was right behind me. They know this guy.
She won't report any sexual assault to the police because she has no "marks" and thinks they'd never believe her anyway. She may even be right. But she couldn't stop talking about it. Something clearly happened. The brightness is gone from her eyes, and she's no longer the pretty young girl I remember from years ago. Instead, she has a hard look, and this small woman is dwarfed even more by several bags she totes with her meager belongings.
I felt pretty shitty after listening to her story, so I let her stay with me. One night. I slept on a chair. I also fed her at a Vietnamese restaurant, and she ate pretty well. She had been carrying two hard-boiled eggs in her purse for a day. One of her fingers is obviously broken, bent completely out of whack, the result of a tussle a few weeks ago with one of her boyfriends.
This woman, the mother of two children, is penniless and homeless.
No question, she's made some terrible decisions in her life. So have I. I'm no shrink and can't fix her, but can't help but think her background is at least partially responsible for her mess.
Today, I dropped her off in town. Then I began making lots of calls to see about getting her help. It turns out two homeless shelters have already kicked her out and won't let her stay there because she won't follow their rules. The Third Street Alliance would not even return my call. But even if they did, there is no room for her. Anywhere. Not one shelter in the Lehigh Valley has an open bed for a woman. Not even a woman who was just raped and is a victim of domestic violence.
Fortunately, the caseworker at Safe Harbor knows all about her. He was crushed when I told him she may have been raped. Turns out he found a live-in job for her somewhere in Easton a few days ago, starting immediately, but could not find her. He told me he'd leave all the information at the desk for her.
Last night, when she called from somewhere to ask to stay just one more day, I passed along the good news.
Whether she takes this job is anyone's guess.
In the meantime, it's raining.