My Story

By: SherryJo Crandall

Word on the Street Issue 43, May 2024

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To tell my story is a review of a timeline filled with frustration and anger. It’s a journey to success but not without heartbreak. I watched people die around me because they couldn’t get help for their addictions or housing. This is about my battle not to be one of those people. It is hard to write this story because the shelters were not able to meet my needs. They were overworked, undertrained and burned out and the results were people camping outside. Not everyone can help the homeless if they haven’t experienced the temptations of being homeless unless you have walked in the shoes of a homeless person. You never feel totally safe because you are always harassed by the cops, fellow homeless and people in general.

There are many reasons people become homeless. For my experience I became homeless to escape familial abuse. My first time being homeless was in 2008 when I was being abused mentally by my brothers. They believed that I was mentally ill and should be committed involuntarily to a mental hospital. I chose to become homeless to escape mental abuse. I ended up being homeless from 2008 to 2012 when I moved into a dump of a trailer bought by my brother.

It was mold infested and not fit for anyone to live in. Yet I did it for nine years. This is where I got my first taste of law. The property manager and property owner were trying to evict me and most of my other neighbors so he could build fancy, high-cost houses. When I felt I could not find a lawyer to help me, I read and studied all the laws on property and tenancy I could find and as a result, I lived in that dump for four more years. It totaled 9 years. When I did find a lawyer, he was impressed with my knowledge of the law concerning rentals. I was not going to give up without a fight. In 2021, I was homeless with cats in a car. All I will say about the cats is they ended up going to the humane society after I got hit by a drunk driver. I was fighting to keep my head above water. For a while I had a bit of finances but that ended after a while. Twenty-one ended with me participating in a protest to bring attention to homeless issues.

I became the face of the protest when my car was hit by a drunk driver. I was in the security detail. I parked my car on Jefferson and watched for people wanting to cause trouble. I fell asleep while watching. Before I knew it, I was jolted awake, wrenching my back. I cried because my back hurt and I was confused. Tristan told me I was hit by a car and that the guy tried to do a hit and run. He informed me that everyone had stopped him, and Tristan took his keys. It was during that time, I learned that I am more of a leader than I thought I was.

I learned to speak in 30 second spots and get across to the people the importance of what we were trying to do. You see we were trying to show that with housing, people can get out of homelessness. Many people view all the homeless as drug addicts and nut jobs. That is far from the truth. Many are just released from prison and jail but that is not the whole population. Many people are educated and have worked hard their whole lives. They lived paycheck to paycheck. So many people suffered.

I became the face of a protest that affects me to this very day. You see, we had trouble with a group called the Liberty Dogs. They are a group of individuals that believe that the homeless should not be getting access to their tax dollars through social programs. We sought to educate them on the flaws of their thinking. Their response was to call in the Proud Boys. They are a bunch of republicans who carry AR15s. I still deal with them to this day. To this day I suffer with PTSD as a result. My counselor says that most homeless people are in fight and flight mode.

Trying to survive day to day and get everything I need to be alive. I struggled through stays at shelters and getting nowhere and ended up spending my evenings in Julia Davis Park. It was, after staying at one shelter and getting nowhere, that I decided to enroll at College of Western Idaho. I decided to get a degree in Criminal Justice. My goal was to go to law school and come back and provide legal services to the homeless. Finally getting sick of being stigmatized because of not having four walls and a roof, I fought to find a way out. Feeling like the system failed me and even took away resources because of who I am. I spent my summer taking a criminal justice course. I did my homework under a pavilion at a local park until it closed at midnight. The cops, once they learned I was going to school, left me alone.