Life on streets reveals a different reality


Anna Smith has been living on the streets for the last five years. Her last memories of a home come from the day she fled with her now 13-year old daughter in Yuba City, where she said she lived a life of domestic abuse and dejection.

“He weighs like 700 pounds so it was easy for him to choke me,” Smith said of her ex-husband.

Smith alleges her ex treated her with such cruelty she felt her only choice was to run away from everything she had known – her home, her seed.

The San Joaquin County Continuum of Care reported 487 unsheltered adults in 2015. This number increased by 13 percent to 549 adults in 2017.

Homeless advocates believe that number is certainly higher than the reported count. Smith is one of at least 549 adults in San Joaquin County living out on the streets in places that do not serve the purpose of human habitation. This is an example of everyday life for those people.

Smith now resides 93 miles away in Stockton where she lives a new life.

Her new home is on a sidewalk, under a freeway ramp next to a McDonald’s. She has a new boyfriend now, one she refers to as her “honey,” who wants to know her every move out of fear that something horrific will happen to her.

Her new honey’s paranoia may seem controlling, but it is justified.

Smith said her introduction to Stockton was grim. She was greeted by a man carrying a pistol, who proceeded to rob her of all her possessions. At this point in her life she was bare, stripped of all joy and comfort.

No roof over her head, no companionship, no money and no food.

Smith found her way to a nearby motel, claiming an area of litter and dumpsters as her bed.

She was met by a fellow homeless man who, like her, was also enduring the depths of life. This man excited her, his presence and comparability made her feel like a normal person and gave her some sense of community.

This feeling of bliss was short-lived.

“He raped me behind that motel, and I walk by it every day,” Smith said. She and her honey watch each other’s backs.

“At least now I have a lover,” she said in slight of her husband. Her optimistic nature is especially captivating given her current life’s circumstances.

Smith wakes up every morning below the vibrating racket of I-5 traffic with her daughter on her mind. “I can’t imagine what she thinks of me,” she said. She is shooed like a dog by the local liquor store owner whenever she walks near.

By passers avoid eye contact with her and ignore her hellos.

She feels dehumanized.

“We are all on different steps of the ladder when it comes to improving ourselves. Everyone is on their own step trying to get better,” she said.

Smith dreams to one day obtain a trailer with her honey. She desires a place where she doesn’t have to hide from rainfall. One where she can have an actual closet as opposed to the plastic bags she currently carries her clothes in.