Catherine died sleeping outside last night

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homelessnessCourtesy of The Huffington Post & Mark Horvath

I am mad! I AM REALLY MAD! I have a whole mix of emotions right now and I have gone from crying uncontrollably to punching walls since I heard the news! Besides losing a friend, what’s got me so stinking mad is that this all could have been preventable!

Catherine shared her story with Invisible People last month, and last night she died sleeping outside — homeless!

Catherine was an RN. Because of a bad marriage and lack of jobs, she found herself trying to survive on welfare. GR, or general relief, barely pays for food much less housing, so she ended up in a homeless shelter.

Catherine’s death could have been avoided!

I first met Catherine while I was working at a winter shelter four years ago. She is brutally honest, and I like people that “tell it like it is!” Catherine is one of those people who just slipped through what are called “gaps in the safety net.”

A former outreach partner of mine worked very hard to get Catherine into housing, and that alone was nothing short of a miracle since Catherine keeps getting turned down by SSI. She was housed by a partner agency and all seemed to be going well. I wish I had a photo of her apartment to show you. Not sure where Catherine found everything, but she decked her apartment out good! She made it a home!

Then the building owner sold the building and everyone had to move. This partner agency relocated Catherine into a nonsmoking building, which is kind of dumb since Catherine is a long-term smoker, and quitting smoking seems like it might be harder than quitting heroin. Let’s be real here: homeless people smoke, so housing a homeless person that smokes in a nonsmoking building is “dumb in a no dumb zone.” I remember the day Catherine was placed back out into the streets. She left all the cool stuff she acquired to make a home and just walked out. And people wonder why some homeless people have attitudes. For all she has been through, Catherine has earned a lot of grace.

For a while she stayed in a temporary shelter, and then was ‘transferred’ to the winter shelter, and now she sleeps outside! Well, that was until she died last night!

Truth is, Catherine should not have been homeless. It’s just ridiculous that she was housed in an apartment that clearly didn’t fit her needs. Just like in so many other people’s situations, the “system” failed.

Sadly, pretty much everyone had given up on Catherine. Several times in the past, people havefound housing after I posted their video. Communities rallied behind the video of a person in their neighborhood and took action to get that person off the streets. I was hoping that is exactly what would happen when I posted Catherine’s story. I even emailed a link to the CEO of the partner agency asking for help. Since they housed her in a bad situation and then just removed her back to the streets, you would think they would care enough to get her new housing!

Some homeless people are said to be “service resistant,” but the real truth is, the current homeless services system fails people! Catherine should have never been placed back onto the streets. And no homeless services agency should use a winter shelter program as a dumping ground, knowing that after the program closes, people are back out in the streets!

Catherine died last night sleeping outside homeless and alone. No one should die that way! NO ONE!

Catherine, I will miss you. I believe you’re in a far better place than homelessness and I pray you will finally get some restful peace. I promise I will never forget you!

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