This is contributor Jessica Hall’s weekly column, in which she interviews the street and homeless people she meets around the city.
I met Francina when I was walking down Broadway and she was sitting on a milk crate trying to sell some duct tape and a body stocking. She was weeping and shivering. She said that she got those items out of the garbage and was just trying to make a little money so she could get something to eat. She is very lonely and tired.
Francina Jones, 48
I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I just want to die. I want to cry and cry. I don’t have no friends in the world.
Where are you staying now?
I’m stayin’ in the Williams Shelter for Women, it’s on Williams Ave right off Pennsylvania. Get them, and get them real good. They keep takin’ away my Medicaid and everything. I want my teeth and to go back to school and make something of my life, be a nurse’s aid, like my mother, she took care of people, but I gotta get my teeth fixed ’cause nobody can understand me.
The beds are messed up with bugs, bedbugs, the showers are dirty, there’s bugs in there too, with fleas and bugs. It’s nasty, somebody need to do something about it. It’s not right. They don’t help nobody get into no place. They don’t do nothin’ right. How do they expect somebody to do something right when they’re not guiding them right?
I’m tired, I’m so tired.
How long have you been at Williams?
I been the system 14 years, it’s too long, and I’ve been eligible ever since and I ain’t got no place yet. They keep lying and they get caught up in their lies. All the papers they need they’re getting from me and they’re still lying saying I don’t have this or that. I made copies and gave it to them and I got copies myself. I keep getting my welfare cut. They gotta take care of people. We get washed up again and gotta start over, and that’s not right.
If I had a place with a bathroom and a little piece of kitchen I could go to school and I want that.
Where were you before Williams?
I was in Prospect, that’s in the Bronx, same thing, bugs and rat infested. Yes it was.
How many women are in a room where you are now?
At Prospect it was about 20 beds on one floor and they steal and they’re nasty and don’t clean up after themselves. They don’t care about people that wanna go somewhere. They’re backwards; they’re doing things backward. I’m tired of it, I’m sick of it, I’m fed up with it. I’m so sick and tired of that place. Sometimes in the wintertime you don’t got no heat or hot water.
Please tell them about that, the milk be sour, the juice is rotten, and, believe it or not, people have died in there, yes they have, died from food poisoning and bacteria. It’s a health hazard. That’s what happens to homeless people, it ain’t worth it. People go there, they get sick, that’s why they’d rather sleep on the street.
The rats are as big as cats, and they’re inside, yes they are. At night when I was in there I thought one of those rats was gonna crawl into my bed and bite me.
I just wanna die. I do. I don’t have any friends, no family. They cut me with a knife, here, on my face, my hands. I tried to kill myself two times. I drank a whole lotta liquor, and I got hepatitis A, B and C. I got half a liver. I got diabetes. I got no teeth. They say, “I’m sorry, we can’t do nothin’ for you.” I used to play clarinet. I was so happy.
All they do is take our welfare money and cut us off and I’m sick of it.
Do you have any family?
I came here from when I was 14 from Columbia, South Carolina. I came by myself. My mother sent me to stay with my auntie. She was diabetic too. She died when I was 23. My family is deceased and my cousins and whatever, I don’t know where anybody’s at. I can’t function right now and find out where my family is. I can’t even function. I’m half dead and I ain’t got no help.
Did you ever have a job?
I went to Wilfred, Adelphi. I went to hairdressing school and computer school. Nobody’s giving me credit for these things. They’re putting me down and pushing me down. Nobody takes time out to hear me out. They’re always cutting me off. They never hear what I want to say, until this day I never got to say what I really, really want, and I thank you so much.