“My childhood was really good.
I had two parents who provided for me, but they separated when I was
young so my dad wasn’t around as much. My mom made it possible for my brother and I to have a good life. I finished high school and did three years at Evergreen College. Things started to get rough when stopped being interested in school and got involved with the wrong crowd of people. I started going down a bad path and it was really tough. I experienced all sorts of life, different sorts of life than I ever thought I would encounter. I had to learn all the tricks, quickly. It’s been a hell of a life, it really has. I can’t believe the choices that I made, they were awful. I have lived with them for the rest of my life and it has been so tough. But there have been some good things as well. I had my children and I grew up. I have seen for myself what the life out there really is, which was a good experience for me.
I have three sons. Thank God my children are all adults now, they haven’t have to go through this with me. We were fortunate to always have a roof over our heads when they were young. God blessed me with a good man, but I didn’t take care of that relationship. I thought he was just like every other man, I didn’t see the goodness in him until it was too late. He raised my kids, our two children, plus my first son. He was a good Dad, so I never interfered with him raising them. I just couldn’t take the responsibility any more and so I flew the coop one day. I felt so free because all my life I had always worked so hard to please people. I didn’t know what love was when I was young, I just didn’t understand. I had a weight problem and I was very insecure. I was never happy about myself. When I did start loving me, it was too late.
I was homeless a long time before I came to this area. But I was able to work and to have a little room here, which worked out for a long time. Most recently I became unhoused because I developed a heart problem. I was just too ill to be able to keep the place I was in. It was really tough, sleeping in cars and having a tent in the bushes. It was no fun, but I couldn’t work and so there wasn’t much I could do about it. I try to make good choices and to always provide myself with a home. I just wanted a home.
“When I did start loving me,” says Camille, “it was too late.”
My experience being homeless was the pits. I had a place several times, but I was doing drugs. I wasn’t responsible and I really didn’t want to be. I had lost everything by then and I just didn’t care. It can happen to all of us. There just wasn’t anyone to pick me up and tell me they cared about me and so I made bad choices. Going to jail and being close to death were really big challenges. I was always trying to figure out what I would eat, what would happen that day. I refused to prostitute, so I sold drugs. I was always trying to save up enough money to get my own place. The money wasn’t just for drugs, but to get a place to live. In a way it was exciting, but I didn’t know where I was going to end up or what people were going to do to me.
“I always tell the young kids who come here to eat that they should ask for help. No one can take on the world alone. There are too many hyenas out there who are ready to eat you alive.”
I wish that there had been help when I needed it. I just didn’t know that help was out there. I used to shower at Innvision and sometimes got clothes. I really didn’t know about any services. By the time I found out about them, it was too late for me.
It has been really difficult for me to find and keep a job. I committed felonies, so it is really difficult to get hired. I know I put myself in this position, but it is really hard. I want to work and provide for myself. I tell people about the felonies because I want to be honest, but it’s tough. I didn’t understand how much what I was doing back then would affect me. If I could, I would take back half of the things I’ve done. Right now I work part time and live at CHAM. I have been here five years, a long time. I share a room with another woman. God knows where my heart is and he knows I’m on the right path. I’m not worried about it anymore, I know that I’ll my own place to live soon. Sooner or later.
I want you to take my story and tell the truth. Being homeless is no joke. I know that there are some people who aren’t responsible but politicians need to start having a heart for people who are really trying to help themselves. Don’t make it easy for them, but give them a chance. Don’t look at all homeless people as no good. There are good homeless people; there are educated homeless people. Their luck is just bad and things just aren’t going right for them. Don’t judge us all because of a few. Give us a chance.”
Interview conducted at CHAM under the oversight of Professor Laura Nichols from Santa Clara University.