Naked Lady

I don’t think I’ve told you the story of Naked Lady yet, which is both unfair and strange, as she made such a huge impression on me, in the throes of post Gabriel Grief.

The story goes like this: Not quite a month after Gabe died, I was on the phone with a friend, who called to see how I was doing. Suddenly Mr. Spit called out to get off the phone – that he needed me.

There was a mostly naked lady on our front porch. She was wearing a short jacket, and nothing else. Yes, I really do mean nothing else, not shoes. Not anything. It was, for the record, January in Alberta, and it was about -18Celcius (about 0F for the Americans). Which is cold. Very cold.

So in she came, and we found her some clothes and I hauled out the first aid kit, and splinted her hand (her fingers had been dislocated from their joints by an angry John.) We called someone for her, and they came to get her. I tried to ask some gentle questions about if this person was safe, when she had last eaten, if there was someone else to call. As it turns out, it was her mother we called, and things were, I guess ok.

I think I’m remembering this today, as we did the follow up from a United Way training session, and someone commented that the United Way presenter was depressing. Homelessness in Edmonton was depressing. The thought of children being homeless was “sad”. They didn’t like hearing about the root causes of homelessness, and they thought those addicts should just get off drugs. You could see the disquiet when one of the speakers talked about providing addicts housing, without making it contingent to get off the drugs, off the booze. You could see our middle class sensibilities offended at the thought we would house, without requiring someone to kick the addiction.

Naked Lady was on my porch because of a “bad date”. A bad date, for those of you who don’t spend a lot of time around street level sex trade workers, is a john that picks up a prostitute to hurt her. It’s not that something goes sideways, it’s that there are men, extremely violent men, who pick up women to beat them. To leave marks and scars that I have now seen, that I’m not going to discuss with you, but that I remember still, and cringe. Something small and female in me whimpers on her behalf.

I phoned a friend after this, because it occurred to me, that if she hadn’t had someone to call, I didn’t know where to take her. I didn’t know which shelter to bring her too, what to do, who to call. She wouldn’t let me call the police, and I didn’t know what to do next.

My friend’s answer was and is nowhere. At that time of night, in that weather, the shelter beds are all full. There are no places for her. Moreover, my friend pointed out, given the choice, between the john who hit her and the pimp who beat her, because she didn’t bring in enough money, she’d take the john.

So, when I head how depressing homelessness is, I thought of Naked Lady. I thought about what it was to be stuck between two, terrible worlds.

It is not sad and depressing that there is homelessness. Naked Lady is not a sob story, she is a stunning and powerful indictment of our callousness. Our unwillingness to hear. Our desire not to be “sad”.

What’s depressing is thoughtlessness.
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17 Responses to Naked Lady

  1. Mr. Spit says:

    Yeah, that was a weird one.

    Though, you forgot that she thanked you for the assistance by stealing from your purse. Unfortunately, the habits ingrained on the street don't leave even when you're desperate and getting assistance.

  2. areyoukiddingme says:

    Hmmm…not everyone has a heart of gold. I like to think I'd have done something for a mostly naked person who showed up at my door, but it would probably have been more along the lines of calling an ambulance or the police.

    I guess I just don't believe that everyone can be helped. That's not to say that I'm not willing to try. I think there's a fine line between expecting capable people to help themselves and being callous.

  3. Sigrun says:

    Pardon the pun, but there is a lot of "food" for thought in your post. I don't know what I would have done in that situation. Check out my reply to your helpful comment.

  4. Martha says:

    Indifference, apathy is lethal, not only for others, but also to a person's spirit, soul.
    There but for the Grace of God go I.

  5. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I was thinking how lucky she was to find herself on your porch.

    I also think it is just like you to leave off the bit about her stealing from you.

  6. Bluebird says:

    What a powerful story, for so many reasons.

    I particularly nodded my head at this, my grandfather and I discuss this often:

    "You could see our middle class sensibilities offended at the thought we would house, without requiring someone to kick the addiction."

    The fact that we as a society can't just care for people because, well, because they need cared for. . . unbelievable.

    Although, all that said, I'd like to think that B and I would have reacted as you and Mr. Spit did. But of course I can't be sure.

  7. Virginia says:

    Wow. I'm glad you helped her, even though she stole from you. Maybe your little act of kindness made a difference. I don't know. I can understand why she did, though I don't condone it.

    If I lived on the streets, I'm pretty sure I'd be on something to make me forget what landed me there, and where I was. Not everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps–apathy is lethal, and I hate it.

  8. Brown Owl says:

    Powerful stuff. It makes me angry. Let them be uncomfortable, maybe they will get off their behinds and try to make a difference – even a small difference. So some time, hopefully sooner than later, there will be safe places for our naked ladies to find warmth, acceptance, understanding, to re-create their lives.
    Thank you for being their for her and her mom, and for being a safe and caring place.

  9. Sam says:

    hmmm – I am not entirely certain what I would do if someone appeared on my doorstep like that. Being alone (and deaf) I do feel slightly vulnerable sometimes.

    I'd like to think that I would help them. But as you say, it is sad that we (as a society) prefer to bury our heads in the sand and ignore such problems – the "I'm ok Jack" syndrome!

  10. Aunt Becky says:

    Sometimes, there is just no right answer and you simply cannot win. I hate those times.

  11. Debby says:

    I live in Podunk, Pennsylvania (slang for 'the woods' 'middle of nowhere', etc. I once sat in a Sunday School Class. The general topic was that as long as the darn foreigners did not speak English, we didn't owe them anything. No help, no kindness, no nuthin'. I was astonished, and said, "I've got to tell you, if Jesus came back right this minute, I can tell you where he'd be doing his work: where the poor are, the hungry, the desperate. He wouldn't give a rat's butt about the language they spoke. I don't know what the right answer is. You can (and you did) get 'bit' doing the right thing. But doing nothing is not an option.

  12. Debby says:

    Didn't close the parenthesis or the quote.

    Don't let the grammar police get me, Mrs. Spit!

  13. Kristin says:

    She was lucky to have found your porch.

  14. B says:

    It is hard to believe that anyone can live in such circumstances.

    How does she live? How could that be survived?

    Stealing from your purse – it seems so offensive but I guess it's kinda naive to expect gratitude in such circumstances.

    It's a disturbingly uncomfortable story and I admit that I am a person who struggles to hear it. I don't know what to do with that knowledge.

    You gave her a moment of warmth, shelter and dignity. And a few years later you have told a tiny piece of her story.

    I hope that moment stays with her.

  15. ModernMom says:

    This is a very powerful post and story. Thanks for sharing.

  16. meinsideout says:

    ((HUGS))

  17. Sue says:

    One of the things I try to instill in my students is to keep asking "Why?" like a 5-year old. To try to get to the root of the problem, instead of blaming the victims. Individual responsibility is important, but there are other, big influences that shape the way we live our lives.

    Thank you for writing this.

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