A weekend of San Diego rain flushed homeless folks to the temporary shelter behind Petco Park in East Village. A visitor could see the bunk beds piled high with assorted belongings. Standing outside the big tent was Rosemary, a woman with no home who's been flitting from shelter to shelter for decades.
“The shelters are a place for me to reflect on myself,” she said.
Born in Dover, N.H., roughly 69 years ago, but raised in Massachusetts, Rosemary married at 19 to an ex-Marine with drug and alcohol problems and a penchant for psychological domination and wife-beating. For 18 years she endured what she terms “his brainwashing,” during which he used his size to intimidate her into doing things she didn't want to do. Even as she got older and began to look for an escape hatch, he tried to scare her into dependence, insisting that she could never survive without him, and that he'd turn her five kids against her. She left anyway.
“I ran. My life every day was threatened while I lived there,” she said.
She went straight to Anaheim, where her parents had retired, and away from the ice and wind of New England. She worked office jobs, but she could never get her personal life under control. Though she's neither a drinker nor drug user, she kept finding herself in the wrong crowd, surrounded by addicts or dating them. The cycle of bad relationships kept her on the move: up and down the state and all over the country. The last job she held was as a dispatcher for a Baltimore hotel in 1999.
These days, she survives on her Social Security checks and charitable shelters. She's applying now for single-room-occupancy housing here in San Diego.