by Jeffrey Stockbridge
Edited Audio Transcript:
Sarah: I’m homeless… I, um… I’m 55, I have a Master’s degree in psychology but after my husband of 20 years, Mother, and Father, uh, died in a car accident two, two years ago, I uh lost my home of twenty some years in Mount Holly, New Jersey, I lost my entire family, my career, um, my health, all in one fell swoop. Uh, yeah.
JS: How long have you been down here on the ave?
Sarah: About a year and a half.
JS: What’re you doing down here?
Sarah: Nothing, uh prostituting.
JS: To, to uh?
Sarah: To eat. To eat. Well, I am on methadone maintenance for pain management, I start with, my back’s broken in five places, I have a rod in it and my knees are crushed, my pelvis is crushed. So I start with, uh, when I had my good insurance, my good job you know, I had, went to the good doctors who gave me the good, uh, medication. Now I’m on the bad, you know, uh, insurance with the bad medication and the bad doctors, that uh, that are trying to convince me that I am bad, you know, there is something wrong with me because I must be a drug addict because, uh, I became addicted to these pain medications. Well, I’m sorry, that’s, that’s not my belief. People take pain medications every day and must take them. And of course you’re addicted to them, of course you are. You know, if you take, uh, a murder a day, you’re addicted to it. That’s a joke down here.
Excuse me, I’m unhappy, I have nothing. I sleep on the ground, you know, I wake up in and, uh, this morning, in the morning and I say good morning to people “Good Morning, Good Morning” and they’re like, they look at you like they wanna say “Fuck you!” I’ve never seen a city, see I’ve been to a lot of cities, all over the world, I’ve never seen a city as miserable as this, never. And I think it must be poverty. It has to be poverty in conjunction with… What? You know what I’m saying, in this city, the problem, the problem here, I believe with drug use is what’s behind the drug use. Self-loathing and, uh, just loathing in general, you know and, why, why the f not? You know, my life sucks, no matter how I feel I ain’t giving in…
This is like my bedroom, and immediately as soon as I go to sleep here, “oh she’s fucked up on some drug” you know, “she’s high”, and they call the ambulance and they wake me up, and they jostle me and they hit me with Narcan, which is the worst feeling in the world, you know. What it does is it immediately sucks all the opiates out of your body which means not only any pain killers you may have in you, but your natural opiates too. And uh, so I’m on methadone maintenance so it sucks every, every bit of pain, um, out of my body and makes me vomit, makes me, uh, cold, uh and that and that feeling stays with you for 48 hours and they threaten me with this Narcan, everytime they see me. Yeah, you know they threaten me, you know, “Get out of, if you don’t get out of here we’re gonna give you Narcan.” You know and it it’s like ridiculous and I just wanna say, “Who the fuck are you?” You know, but you can’t, you dare not say anything…
I got uh beat up by one of the prostitutes down here. Happens all the time. She uh, her and this black prostitute… wanna beat me up all the time. And they think, they think that I think I’m better than everybody else, there’s some kinda psychosis going on there, because um I’m educated and I don’t, I’m the proper talking white girl, that’s what they call me, the proper talking white girl, and you know, I’m only who I am and I’m not gonna change that. I’m, I’ve been, all my life I’ve been told by different, countless therapists, I’m ambivalent. You’re ambivalent. What the hell does that mean, that I change my mind? Yeah of course I change my mind, I’m a human being, We’re forever fluid aren’t we? I thought we were supposed to be…
“Don’t you know about the risks?” Haha, sure, No I don’t know about the risks. Even a 5th grader knows about the risks. Haha, this stupid bureaucracy, “don’t you know about the risks?” When I go and try and get housing. “Don’t you know about the risks?” Haha. No, I don’t, I don’t know. I have a Master’s degree, but I don’t know about the risks. I did, I worked as an AIDS educator before AIDS was AIDS. In the very beginning of, the late 70s, I was in the northeast corridor. I worked there, I worked in the northeast corridor of New Jersey between New Jersey and New York. At that time every AIDS patient had to be documented with the county and when they would call for an ambulance the ambulances would not pick them up. The ambulances would not touch them, I drove, I can’t tell you how many AIDS patients I drove to the hospital in my car, because the ambulance would’nt pick them up because they had a PCP, pneumonia, or whatever. And uh, and now I’m the person they don’t wanna pick up, not because I have AIDS, but because they just don’t wanna, they just don’t wanna to pick me up. I’ve held the hand of so many dying people, who’s gonna be here to hold my hand…
JS: Here’s some photographs.
Sarah: Wow. Wow. Mary, she calls me mom. I’m her street mom. I’m everybody, I’m a lot of people’s street mom. I’m, all these young hookers, I’m their mom. They always when they see me they go “Mom, are you alright? Mom, mom, are you alright? Don’t you fuck with my Mom. Is anybody fucking with you today mom?” They need somebody.