“Hey, how come you look all right?”
“I get criticized for not looking so homeless. I guess we should all be dirty and smelly. People ask me all the time, ‘Hey, how come you look all right?’”
She fondly recalls her fixer-upper home in El Cajon where she raised her three children.
“You cook, clean, pray, go to church, take care of your kids…”
“I came to work every day to do my job, pay the mortgage, buy groceries…I didn’t think anything of it. I figured that’s just what you do.”
Mrs. P. explains how, as a budding professional, she worked with officials in Washington, D.C., to develop a national tutoring program based off of a pilot project she started at her alma mater, where she was on the dean’s list. At the height of her career, she was one of the only female oil executives in the world. She got married and had children. She would later get divorced and purchase her home as a single mother of three—certainly a hardship, but a far cry from being on the streets. She got a job working for the state.
“How did you lose your last job?”
Her response is elaborate. Slowly, it boils down to a disconcerting incident—one that left her severely injured.
“I tore muscles, ligaments, tendons,” she says, running the back of her hand along her flank. “I asked for two weeks off to recover, thinking I would be able to go back to work once my back got better—and then I received a mimeographed letter saying I was dismissed.”
She didn’t get to talk to a supervisor. She couldn’t start an appeal, because she hadn’t technically been fired. Meanwhile, the pain became unbearable, leaving her unable to walk or talk, much less fight a legal battle. Mrs. P. had no income and no work.
When her home was foreclosed on, she had nowhere to go.