As you know I work at a little indie bookstore in SF.
We have this regular customer. Let’s call her Natalie. She’s absolutely beloved on Haight street - they know her in every store. She comes in to the bookstore 6 nights a week, and I imagine that’s how often she visits her other haunts, too.
She’s in her 50’s. She’s developmentally disabled. She lives around the corner with a caretaker. She’s lived there for years, and she’s lived in San Francisco all her life.
Natalie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She brings us candy every time she comes in, and even if you’re wearing pajamas, she’ll tell you you look beautiful and mean it. Her favorite things in the world are buttons, like, the pins you put on your lapel or your messenger bag. If you mention you like a band, the next time she sees you, she’ll have a little baggy full of pins with that band’s logo and album covers. I probably have 50 pins from Natalie over the years I’ve worked here. She remembers every birthday she’s ever heard, including both of my parents. She came to my birthday party last week.
Basically, she’s a dear friend, and she’s in dire straits.
Her caretaker was diagnosed with liver cancer. Then, the next week, he had a heart attack. He’s been in the hospital since October 1, which means he neglected to pay their rent. Natalie informed us last week that she’d be evicted today if they couldn’t come up with the money.
Since then, everyone here has been pitching in. Calling landlords in Berlin, contacting social workers at the VA, visiting the hospital to try to understand what’s going on with her caretaker. Everything we could possibly do. The most we’ve been able to accomplish is to get them one extra day. Now, they get evicted tomorrow. And even if they don’t, November is coming.
Here’s the thing. Natalie can’t handle this. She’s in a frenzy, because she’d rather run away than move in with her parents, from whom she’s estranged. When we ask her direct questions about how much money she has, or how much stuff she has, she just starts saying things like HE’S GOING TO DIE, over and over again, or, I SHOULD JUST MOVE TO JAPAN. So the little bit of information we’ve been able to obtain has been pieced together when she’s calmer and accidentally admits things.
Of course, social workers and hospital workers can’t tell us anything, because we’re not family. And her caretaker isn’t coherent right now. He’s on lots of medication and doesn’t really understand what’s going on.
What we’ve gleaned so far is that her caretaker gets money every month for Natalie when he fills out a form, which he couldn’t do for October, because he was sick. So, the form was never submitted, the money never came, the rent didn’t get paid.
And that’s where we are. But like I said, November is coming.
We’re all really stressed out about this, and I’m sick to my stomach that this is our so-called safety net. Oh, you have cancer and a heart attack? Welp, you’re being evicted, and so is your dependent, who can’t get a place on her own. If it wasn’t for the bookstore, Natalie would be on the street, no question.
I started a ChipIn page. If you have anything you can throw our way, we’d all appreciate it. We have through tomorrow to get to $1500, and then until November 1st to get to $3000. Right now, the most important thing we can buy is time, and $1500 buys us a week to figure this out. If you can’t donate, a signal boost would be awesome.
Have a good weekend tumblr. And keep a good thought.