I did not choose to become homeless. In fact, I never envisioned that it would happen to me. I worked hard all of my life since starting school. I got my first job at 17 years old, and worked ever since. Despite all of this, I found myself in exactly that situation. I do not know what I would have done had it not been for the help of two generous souls, and Santa Muerte.
First, I would like to give my back story. After I graduated high school in 2010, I decided to move up to San Francisco. I was accepted at San Francisco State University and was all set to enter as a freshman. I decided to major in philosophy, and hoped to eventually become a lawyer. I move into a small bedroom in a house in the Visitacion Valley district, which I shared with 5 other roommates. I also applied for a job as a dishwasher at a sushi restaurant in the Mission District, which I promptly received. The rent, while expensive, was manageable as long as I put in the hours. I had no car payment or car insurance to worry about, as I either rode my bicycle or took the Muni (public bus) whenever I needed to go somewhere. All in all, everything seemed to be promising. I fell into a nice routine. I would go to school Monday Wednesday and Friday, and did two eight hour shifts on Tuesday and Thursday, and a twelve hour shift on Saturday. My classes were fun and interesting enough, and I had good marks in all of them. I would hang out with my classmates or roommates whenever I had free time. We would party, go out to concerts, and do whatever else any other college student in a big city would do.
During my second semester, I met a girl in my English class named Katie. We hit it off immediately, and started becoming really good friends. She had gone to an all-girls Catholic school through her entire childhood. The cliché about sheltered kids going absolutely wild rang true with Katie. Her family was also very wealthy. She lived in a large house in the Sunset District. Her access to seemingly limitless funds meant that she had no proper system of checks and balances that the rest of us had. Nonetheless, she was very interesting and fun to talk to. I tried to steer our outings in a healthier way, but inevitably we would always wind up drinking or partying somewhere. We eventually hooked up one night, in her car, at the top of Twin Peaks. I don’t really remember too much about it, and I doubt she does either. I remember waking up, hours later, as the sun was rising. Such was the start of our long and tumultuous relationship.
We continued this way for the next semester. Summer in between semesters was filled with nights of this chaos and mayhem. We would go from house to house, constantly partying. I always felt okay doing this because we would catch a late bus back to my place, or walk if we had so had the desire. At one point, one of my roommates, Jess, started to act a little catty towards Katie. She told me she did not like the way Katie acted, as if she was entitled to whatever she wanted. I brushed it off and said she was just drinking a little too much lately, that’s all. Jess then warned me that I should be careful, and that Katie was going to be the downfall of me. How right she was.
Once summer ended, things slowed down quite a bit as the new semester had started. I was a bit relieved that we were unable to go out as much. That all changed about two months into the new semester. It was a Friday night, and I had just finished up at the library and had started making my way to the sushi restaurant to begin my shift. I glanced at my phone, and saw a text message from Katie. She wanted to meet me at the restaurant immediately to show me what she had. I said of course. Twenty minutes later, she shows me a pair of immaculate fake drivers licenses.
Now the stakes were raised. We could go party anywhere, anytime, and we did. We tried out many of the bars and clubs in the Tenderloin and in downtown San Francisco. We went to EDM shows and raves. Katie’s credit card easily paid for all of this, while I had started to dwindle down my savings. Somehow I was still able to maintain my grades and I had even received a small $.25 per hour raise at work.
On the nights I absolutely could not go out, I started to receive drunken phone calls from Katie, asking if she could come over. At first, I always said yes, of course. She would come over, sleep it off, and we would be happy in each other’s company. It started to get old though, not just for me but my roommates as well. It got to the point where I would not answer her calls, but she would still show up and bang on the door at all hours of the night. She even got into a yelling match with Jess, who was rightfully irritated at this late-night interruption. I had to, embarrassingly, calm Jess down and try and mend any bad feelings or ill will. Drunk Katie took this as me choosing Jess over her, and from there things became progressively worse.
A week or two later, the owner of the sushi shop told me that I no longer have a job because he has to shut the business down. This is actually kind of normal in San Francisco, no matter how popular a place seems to be. None of us saw it coming. I grabbed my final paycheck, and walked out. Feeling pretty down on my luck, I decide I need to call Katie and party a little bit. We linkup downtown, and go to our favorite club. We progressively became more and more drunk, and decide to take a cab home instead of waiting an hour for the next bus. As we walked up to the door, Katie suddenly starts becoming angry. This is an odd shift, as we had a pretty good night thus far. I ask what she was upset about, and she tells me that she knows I have a thing for Jess (I don’t), that we hooked up (we didn’t), and that she hates her. I deny these accusations, and tell her she needs to go to bed. She starts yelling more and more. Next thing I know, she hurls my television in my computer through the window, breaking the glass and shattering both. I stood there in total shock. I tell her she needs to get the heck out of here. My roommates at this point, hearing the commotion, open the door and also tell her to leave, or they are calling the cops.
Katie flips them off, and stumbles down the street. I quickly throw away the broken electronics and glass, and head to sleep. The next morning, I wake up to find Jess sitting at the table. She tells me to come with her outside. She has been visibly crying. I go outside and see her Toyota Corolla’s smashed windshield, hood, and bumper. I already knew right then and there what had happened, and who did it. I tell Jess that I’d go ahead and pay for all of it, and that I was truly sorry. Not only was I upset that Katie had done this to Jess, but I was also pretty worried about how I was going to be able to pay for it. I only had a couple thousand in the bank left, and I had no job. Not only that, but I would also have to pay for a new window. To top it off I had rent due in five days.
Well, try as I might I decided to break my lease, rather than risk embarrassment for asking for an extension, or putting my roommates in a bind. I lost my security deposit, and found myself moving what little possessions I had into storage. Katie kept blowing up my phone, and would call over and over again. I was done with her, and determined to find a way out of this situation. I bought a sleeping bag, and set out to a secluded spot out under the freeway.
The next day I woke up and went to classes as normal. I was determined to at least make it through this semester before asked my parents if I could return home. I figured I could scavenge some food, and take a shower at the gym on campus. As far as laundry I could wash my clothes in the sink every couple of days. Having kept up this routine for a week or two, I felt pretty confident that I could at least finish my classes. I also actively looked for work, but I had no address and no means to interview correctly. Frankly it took all of my time scavenging for food, keeping up appearances and finding safe shelter anyway.
After about three weeks of doing this, I was sitting on the bus headed towards the Haight-Ashbury/Golden Gate Park, where I planned to stay the night. A middle aged Mexican guy starts chatting with me, asking what I’m up to, what I do, etc. I eventually explain to him my situation. He listened intently, and told me I was too young and had too much potential to be in a situation like this. He told me he could help me, and to visit him and his wife at a specific address the next night. I said thank you very much, I appreciate the gesture, but I think I’ll be ok. He said I understand you have pride, but everyone needs to ask for help at some point in their life. Besides, it wouldn’t be me that would help you, it would be the lady that helps me. Come by if you change your mind. With that, he exited the bus.
At this point I recognized that this must be a religious thing, rather than some creepy guy trying to kidnap me or something. I figured what the heck, I’ll go check it out as I really did not have anything better to do. So the next day, I went over to his house. He and his wife came to the door, and introduced themselves as George and Allie. I noticed they were dressed very nicely, and had nice cars in their driveway. George told me to come in, and that Allie would have dinner ready in a few minutes. He also asked if I wanted a shower, which I respectfully declined. We talked a little bit about miscellaneous topics, and then ate an awesome home cooked dinner.
George then told me and Allie to follow him into his office, where he said I must ask for help. I was a little confused, until he opened the closet door. What I saw next really startled me. There was a table covered with a white table cloth about 3 feet high. On top of it, were a bunch of various herbs, pictures, trinkets, candles, and other items. What stood out was the imposing statue situated right in the middle of it. A grim reaper looking figure was standing right in the middle. At this point I was a little freaked out, but George calmly told me that this figure of death was there to help me, and that she had my best interests at heart. He then told me a little bit about how culturally Mexico views death versus how Americans view it, and that the figure in question went by the name Santa Muerte. He told me to recite a prayer, and that both him and Allie would ask for help for me as well. He told me that Santa Muerte would take care of any challenges and obstacles that would come my way. In a grand gesture of generosity, he insisted that I sleep in his garage, and that he would have work for me the next day.
Morning came, and he drove me to his cousin’s house in Daly City, who happened to run a landscaping business. The work was tough and grueling, but after a few days I grew accustomed to it. I worked for his cousin for about five months before I moved out of George and Allie’s house. While I had taken the semester off, I decided to go back to school the following semester and find a job that I could fit with my school schedule. Once again, George’s cousin Francisco showed his enormous generosity by allowing me to work part time. I continued working with him all throughout college, and finally graduated a couple years later. I still appeal to Santa Muerte during challenging times and give thanks regularly. I now work as an IT professional, have a wonderful fiancée, and most importantly have friends and family that mean the world to me. I couldn’t have done it without Santa Muerte.