Marissa’s Story

A homeless woman reflects on her new partner, her experiences at shelters, and other tribulations and joys of her recent past.

“Let’s not judge each other.”

[Intro noise, crowd talking, fades out]

I’ve had fun experiences and then I’ve had bad experiences. I had fun making money and I’ve had bad experiences almost getting killed. It’s been an up-and-down position. It’s a give-and-take. That’s the reality of it.

I’m from Denver, Colorado. I’m part Native and Latina. I’ve had my ups and downs with my family. As I was growing up, they learned how to depend on me instead of me depending on them. It’s not a loving family. It’s not a normal one, I should say. People don’t do that to each other. I have to experience everything from my brother’s clawing and my sister wanting me to fail undercoverly. Like, she act like she’s there for me and then she robbed a piece of my SSI check and probably helped rob some of my freedom because they’re so envious of the change I made. So, it’s very rough.

Like, I’m a transgender. She thinks that I can’t be loved the same way. If it’s possible she’s gonna destroy that, because she doesn’t believe. Outside of the family I was pretty aware of social workers, doctors, people that I didn’t even know understood me more than my family. Friends. Hospitals always helped put me through therapy instead. It’s not like something’s wrong with me. It’s not what’s wrong with me, it’s what situations people can be selfish in and not see what’s wrong with them. So they’re hurting somebody but they don’t care, do you see what I’m saying?

My sister-in-law which probably is my friend now. She left my brother after she found out the truth and stuff. That’s not something I wanted to go through but she said she was done—and was there for me in the courtroom, and I appreciate that. ‘Cause my brother and my sister were saying “Let him go to jail.” Just, “We robbed him, let him go to jail—or her,” and, “We’ll get away with it,” and that seems to be what’s happening. But I’m working every step of the way to get records where they took my money. How they did it, I read about, complain, and I was just not trying to go against my family. I’ve always loved my family. I like [inaudible] a lot, but she seemed to take it to her own selfish needs: “Yeah, I have problems more than you.” But, we all got problems. You made my problem extremely hard. Now I’m homeless and doing things that I never wanted to experience, she’s making me experience. It feels every day she’s getting a thrill out of it.

I’ve had an extreme hard life. But I’m moving forward, trying to get better, even though it’s not getting better. People are putting blocks and blocks and blocks to not want me to succeed because of my – I think Native and Latina. A lot of people don’t accept that, but other cultures – some do, some don’t.

I’ve had jobs that made life positive. I have my own apartment, things like that. I grew up from an abusive mother. Everything was our fault, not hers, which made me extremely strong. Like hello, you’re the one that had us? It’s pretty gross, you’re not gonna take responsibility. My dad was never around. That was what it was. So I became independent as a child real quick.

I have gotten not a full-time job, but a job. That made a positive. It’s relaxing, soothing. It has everything to do with being homeless. They’re very accepting of me. They feed you. We get to make earrings and soap and learn how to work with these instructors.

Being homeless—I don’t really struggle what most – some people struggle with. Like, they’ve got charges. They’ve got cases that come and go away and they’ll always be labeled or rejected from a lot of companies. I would like to give them a chance to be accepted as equal because everybody sins. Do you see what I’m saying? I’ve seen a lot of good and bad things. I’ve seen a lot less many – I’ve seen a lot of people I know getting abusive. I’ve seen a lot of people get ahead because they have housing. We’ve got new buildings going up. It’s gotten so expensive I’ve seen half of my family going towards homelessness. They don’t have a heart like me, so I block that for them. Sometimes, I volunteer just to not see an old lady out there with her grandkids struggling. Like, my auntie and my mom, but my mom and my sister have a house. They just wanted more, and they’re taking what I was supposed to take like for me to build my foundation whether it was with a lover or not.

So, that has been really hard. And I think sometimes, I’m being a little ana,l but I think it’s good for them to, you know, experience that. My mom’s kids struggled, so they had to get jobs, they had to get SSI. They had to get something, panhandle or something. You cannot just be sitting there.

Now they’re seeing a taste of reality because they have always judged me. That’s what you get. Well no, I’m saying they lost their kids. They’re losing their housing for being addicted with [inaudible], and that’s karma. I didn’t do it. Somebody else did it that I know. I didn’t tell you to go that far, but I guess you kind of gave me what I wanted. But I didn’t want that, really, for them. I don’t want them to struggle. But I think if they see the struggle they’ll have to realize they need jobs, they need schooling. This living off welfare is not gonna cut it in this economy or Social Security. Got to figure out something else. I have to, so why shouldn’t she have to.

I’ve seen – now I’ve seen changes with brand new buildings accepting homeless people and then wanting them out of the street. I’ve seen harder parts and I’ve seen the lesser parts. I’ve seen the lesser parts because I haven’t dealt with the hard folks. And really, I think being homeless and felony, they need more felony-friendly, so they can start getting them out of that cycle of wanting to break the law ’cause they don’t have much options. Do you see what I’m saying?

Yes. Yes, for certain people, certain communities they’re limited. People judging all over. And I’m like you don’t know if that really happened or not. Let’s not judge each other. Some of them have spent – they’ve entered the courts but they haven’t got, like, caught. They do the same thing but worse and they haven’t experienced the court system like I have, my brother has. The commissioner, I talk to her almost every day. We’ve experienced court systems. We experience people lying on us in court systems.

I try to open to everything to see why they feel victimized on their side, and it just seems they don’t really feel like a victim. They’re just being vindictive just to see someone suffer. It makes them feel good. Or they got some kind of power. If you don’t give them that power they don’t want it.

It’d be a more peaceful world and if you’re rich or you’re homeless, they help each other out and be more accepting of this instead of putting one down or the other and the other and one’s standoffish if they’re selfish or it’s okay to be selfish but not that selfish where you’re hurting people.

I would like to see other things, like, get cleaned up and off drugs, with them being stronger within themselves and a situation around – like everybody’s dream. There’s probably a lot of options now but I think more of options now, but more of a stay-off-the-bus-stop kind of situation. Like more – I know there’s day shelters but some people sit at the bus stop on weekends and they don’t get that luxury like some others.

Where I’m at is perfectly clean because we’re all clean now. We take showers. They built this new Delores Apartment, and it just has amazing showers. You’ve got ten showers, you’ve got ten toilets, vanity mirrors. This is for a woman. So, for the men they should have – I think they have those opportunities. Just, I think they need more therapy to cope with their behavior problem.

I would like to see them all have a goal of getting their own place. I’ve wanted a space. Some people don’t like – they can’t have one now because they can’t make it on their own. I did before when I was younger, but the economy was so much lower. But you’re–again–paid lower but I can still pay it.

I think having that support system would help them achieve their self-esteem and make them know that it would be okay to do it on their own. Some people don’t want to be alone because they get lonely and depressed and need some compassion. Maybe get an animal, a lover, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, whatever floats their boat, or activities they can do.

It’s a lot of loneliness. Nobody ever thought of it that way but yeah.

I think there’s a lot of opportunity being homeless. I think there is a downfall about being homeless. Like not being able to have your own place, your own space, your own rules. So, that’s my experience about homelessness. I’ve experienced, when I was younger, when I left my family, like, sleeping on the bus stops and in a park. Stuff I shouldn’t have been doing ’cause I could have came down to these programs, but I was addicted so – I made myself super strong because nobody else would believe in me about me. Like, we have crabby ladies; we’ve got grouchy men that really don’t want you to make this so they have something to make fun of, something to feel better about. But in reality, I am who I am. And to me, God made everybody equal, and all be loved the same way. Homelessness, it’s a really hard way to stay up. You’re always tired, depressed. You’re moving around a lot more. So, that kind of – if you allow it, some people, they’ll lead you in a better path.

Homelessness been really hard. But it’s not as hard as I used to make it. But it can make you very vulnerable to certain things. You can become a drug dealer. That’s making it harder for yourself. Even though it’s easy to make the money, then you can get thrown back in jail and start the cycle all over. Or you can do the right thing — get housing, get into school, get a job, get Social Security, like I should. I’ve always been one to push and not give up. Even if I couldn’t do it, I still had try and try and try and try and get it right. But, it’s been kind of hard. Homelessness has a lot of stress and sleepiness ’cause a lot of people only give you a certain amount of hours to stay.

Like something bad happens, I got to figure I talk – people ventilate to themselves—so, “Do I want to die, do I want to stay?” I’m willing to stay, because that’s how I developed my strength, that the other person really don’t want me existing. But it’s helped me to know that I’m worth it and I can see the envy and jealousy of trying to tear somebody apart like that. You know what I mean?

Other strength that helps me is like a significant other. They help build you up and make you feel that you’re worth it. And I also build them up so it makes it super strength, you know? And I mostly build them up more and I kind of like work on myself. I work. I get my Social Security. I go see my doctors, I’m still in some kind of housing and I’m going through the struggle. That’s how I build my strength up. Reading. I do that sometimes. I work out. Eat. I just went to a movie with a friend. I haven’t been there in years. Street life’s always been my life, but I thought movies would be okay and going to a nice makeup place, treating myself. The only person who’s gonna really truly love you is yourself, and I do love myself so – it was cool. Ships, spaceships and stuff. Captain Marvel. I thought it would be a wise thing to do, than being in the street is go and enjoy a movie, have popcorn.

Yes, so what else built me up? I think reading. I go through a lot of troubles in school like most people. I just try harder and that makes me absolutely way more stronger whether they want to admit or not. Like when you don’t understand something, you keep trying until you get it. You know what I mean? Like, just, I struggled with school. Yet I passed and even if it was not the best grades, I went. I was motivated. I graduated. And the next step will be hopefully I can get in cosmetology and writing. That’s what I’m scared of. But if I can get in there and do that, I think I’ll be great with makeup and nails, and that’s a starting point to what, maybe, I’ll figure something else out that I want to be, so.

I’m in Delores. So, it’s weekly and you’ve got to come and you’ve got to call and it’s such a nice place, people want to be in there. Some people think it’s horrible, but it’s brand new. How horrible can that be, you know, [Inaudible Comment]. You’ve got a TV in there that plays fish. They have amazing things. They got computers. I don’t get on that yet [Inaudible Comment]. They got things that people need, resources. It’s a warm bed to stay in, but it’s a struggle to stay there ’cause you don’t know if you’re gonna get in every week. It’s a lotto. And then it’s a call in. And then it’s another call in and it’s another call in and then if you don’t get in with that call ins, you’re not gonna get in. And you have to go to that horrible place called Samaritan House. I’ve heard so many horror stories about that place. I was like, “Oh no!” I’ve seen it and I’ve had bad experiences down, there so I know it’s true. But if I’m not on drugs then I don’t think I’ll have any problems. Like you feel bad, like.

[On Services Used at The Gathering Place, a shelter for women]:

Oh, I use the boutique. I didn’t use much resources ’cause I’m figuring out my own resources.
I use their food bank and their hygiene, things like that. Living like this, you’ve got to be extremely strong. Which I am. I’m proud of myself because I had a friend that had caught those federal charges and committed suicide. But my goal is to break that cycle. In court, it’s not one win or two wins ’cause it’s a win is a win is a win, and then my situation will probably lose ’cause I’ve got an appeal. And so that won’t happen to another pretty transgender or I should say [Inaudible Comment] [Background Noise]

The Gathering [Place], it seems to me that it’s a very safe place for transgenders. Why is it safe? ‘Cause staff don’t tolerate that there. They’ll kick them out for they — people tend to abuse it and try to not make it feel that important. Let’s say you’re a man and they’ll start approaching you in the bathroom or directing you which way you should go in your life. Most people don’t want to get told what to do in their life. I know what I’m doing.

I’ve heard – like I’ve had men tell me I’m extremely good looking. I’ve had homeless men, highway homeless men hit on me. It was an everyday thing. I communicate with homeless women ’cause we’re all the same, so I don’t like to go outside that box unless someone is accepting of it. Like, being gay is dangerous. You know, always worried about your health and stuff, it’s not doing the right kind of sex, in a doctor’s perspective and Christian perspective. I do understand both sides of the story, but I’m more of like in one side ’cause I’m always, like I said, a risk taker. So that is what I experienced. I experienced a lot of love, a lot of respect, a lot of familiness, a lot of trauma in the gay life. A lot of people are smart and a lot of help from different people. They don’t even have to be transgenders, they could just be accepting.

So, I’m just so happy that I met all of these wonderful people and my lover right now, friends, transgender friends that I think is real funny. I mean some of them think they’re better and we just, like, have fun clowning around with each other. I don’t know, we’re just – feel something funny about it. Or like being bitchy with each other. But we’re not really bitchy with each other.

I’m a loner. I like it that way. Some of my men or women, girls, you know, but like, no, I have to be the only one around here. No, I’ve had some transgender friends when I was younger. I’ll say this is the most mature ones I’ve been around. And my drag daughters, which became transgenders, made a better life than I did ’cause they’re so pretty. They’ve got their houses, husbands and things. It’s when they first start to become trans and they wanted to become trans. I was mentoring them and I had my own place, so sheltering them and feeding them and showing them that they’re worth it and you go out there and try ’cause, like I said, some of them has been born on a silver spoon and did not realize it until they talk to me and don’t like me for it, but it’s the reality.

As being transgender, they put us out to be like we’re predators and things like that. They don’t see the real truth on the other side, so that’s what I’m going through right now, having a case I could appeal ’cause they’re trying to figure out how was that possible by federal and state law. But it shouldn’t be. You should be able to hear a person’s story or believe what a person has to say on the other hand. So it’s been really rough.

My new lover now thinks that he keeps saying, “Be stronger.” But I am stronger. There’s the difference. He’s strong. I’m basically doing the time with you and doing my own time and doing everything I have to do that’s going super strong. Some people cannot do that. They’ll break.

He’s in prison. I don’t judge it because I’ve been up in there and I get a lot of envy, a lot of misunderstanding because I’m pretty. I can do better. These people say it like that. They don’t understand that I love that person and it doesn’t matter if – I told him, “Honestly, it don’t matter if you killed somebody. If I love you, I love you. I’d be a little leery of it but I love you. But you didn’t.” So, he’ll be out in September and we’ll figure that out. It’s gonna be a struggle for him, too.

So, if we both get our ducks in order, we can pull ourselves out of this,. So, like we can get into a housing. That just shows him with my culture, these kind of people don’t really want me around, but this was my native ground before. I met him in prison. And I’ve always thought that men from prison is better lovers than men out here because they’re so free. They don’t know the reality of the rules of what they need to abide by. They don’t care about hurting your feelings.

Out here. But in prison, they learn how to be faithful and they start realizing they were fucking up in the beginning.

Yeah, so I just like – I’m happy that I met this new person and I don’t want to do drugs anymore. And I told them in order to be with me they’re gonna have to be sober. I want you to want it, not because you’re on drugs. And they agreed, of course. I said, because somebody that really loves you, wouldn’t let you do that. We’re doing bad things as nobody else is doing. Naturally that’s the laws of God. But that’s all the bad we can handle, we don’t need to add more to it.

Interviewer: What has it felt like for you to tell your story today?

I feel relieved, like a weight lifted off you. I’m tired right now. I felt like I’ve accomplished some things for some people if the story gets out there, and peiple hear the different side of the world. I would like them to see – not to be so judgmental, to see really the problem is or it might not be the problem and then the other person has a problem. I just go through what they’re going through or understand that everybody suffers no matter what situation.

[background noise, people talking]