Tiffany Evans is a middle-aged woman who was homeless for 10 years. She is currently housed through Bay Area First Step, an agency that provides alcohol- and drug-free housing and peer-delivered services designed to support individuals and families in recovery from addiction. She is married and works at Taco Bell. Tiffany is a member of Coos County Homeless Solutions (contact email@example.com if interested).
How long have you been homeless? About 10 years. I was on meth pretty bad. I met my husband through AA, and we had a home for 7 years. Then we relapsed and lost everything. Then we got a trailer and it burned down. We were homeless for 2 years. We went to the Devereux Center and The People's Place but could not maintain our sobriety. So we went to Bay Area First Step and have been in stable housing for about a year now.
Why are you homeless? I was completely lost really. At 23 it was easier for me to find meth than a place to stay. I would say that my homelessness stems from my addiction. Both my mom and father were alcoholics.
What did you do before you became homeless? I married at 18. I was a fast food manager. My ex-husband and I moved every 6 months from state to state. I never really had that sense of feet on the ground. As a child I went to 13 schools in 11 grades. I think that has a lot to do with it.
Where did you sleep? I have a home now. When it was just me on the streets, I didn't sleep. I had slept on park benches a little, but avoided sleep as much as I could. I was afraid to go to sleep during the day or night. People would steal your stuff — take advantage of you. When my husband and I were homeless, we slept on the sidewalk in the area of Ninth and Anderson. For 3 nights in a row we did that and we had our cat. We went to the mission for a short period of time.
Did you ever go without food? I've always had food stamps and whatnot. I could go to a food bank. There's lunch at the mission. Meals at the Devereux Center.
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What was your biggest worry? My biggest worry was where I was going to lay my head. When we were homeless, it was, "Who's going to let us in and who's going to kick us out?" If we stayed with someone who was drinking or using, we would have to participate, and that caused problems. Also, because of having lost everything, I hoarded a lot. I'm at the point now that I've been stable for a year that I'm trying to give it all back.
What did you need when you were homeless? Blankets and toiletries mostly. I never thought about a safe place to stay as much as I thought about the material things.
Now I need to continue with my stability. I need my sobriety. Without my sobriety, I won't have what I have now. I live at Bay Area First Step apartments and go to AA. I run a Wednesday night meeting at AA and I'm working toward sponsorship. My husband and I do AA in a big way. But without Bay Area First Step, I wouldn't have anything today. I don't think people give them credit for what they do.
What do you want people to know about being homeless? I want people to know that having compassion can help someone else. To have a sense that we're all human beings. There has been so much controversy about the Bastendorff camps. My husband and I went out there to speak with them, and it helped. Instead of condemning them, I went to each camp and offered my knowledge and assistance. I asked them to please clean up their camps. We actually moved three campers to the mission because of what we did. We took Little Caesars Pizza out to them, making sure they had food. Canned food isn't the greatest when you're homeless. Making donations is good and all that, but the one-on-one attention is really good.
I work at Taco Bell. Quite a few people sit outside on the bench to smoke and carry a sign. I know a lot of people come in and notice them. In the beginning I had this persona like the rest of the world, like, "What are you doing here?" Now if I see them I will buy them a cup of coffee or food.
But it's important for other people to know that homeless people are human beings. And anyone can be down on their luck — in a second.