Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homeless, by Annette Skarin

I wrote this a shortly before my sister got in touch with me after she had been living on the streets for years.
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Her shoulders were stooped and her head hung low, while her eyes continually scanned the ground. Her dull and unkempt hair had at one time held a beautiful golden sheen. Not long ago her skin had been as smooth and delicate as a porcelain doll. The pitted scars she now had were caused by staff infections after years of alcohol and drug abuse and exposure from living on the streets. Her hands trembled as she dug through the trash looking for a scrap of food like an old starving cur.

She wore an old stained and torn dress, two sizes too large, retrieved from a thrift store trash bin. Her belly was bloated from malnutrition, causing it to protrude. An old wool cap donned her head with its threads unraveling down her back. She wore combat boots with one sole separated from the shoe, causing it to make a slap-slap sound as she walked.

Her sunken eyes were dull and glazed over, not in touch with the reality around her. They had at one time been bright with twinkling humor and filled with intelligent alertness. Her lips were now constantly twitching rigid lines, when once they had been soft and pliable, often opening to reveal gleaming white teeth. She mumbled aloud to herself as she continued her journey through the alley. Her conversation was rambling and nonsensical, accentuated with an occasional sniffle or grunt.

I went to visit my sister on the streets of Oceanside. She showed me the homeless community and told me their stories. She told me horror stories that broke my heart because she talked so casually about the incidents. I wanted to take her back to that innocent child, who was desperately seeking to be loved.

My sister called me months later and said she was tired of living on the streets and wanted to quit drinking and doing drugs. I said she could live with me, but on the condition that she get into rehab. She never did.

One particular incident which had pushed her over the edge was when she eavesdropped on a conversation with my mother in which she was saying, “Why doesn't she just get it over with and kill herself?” She got high and tried to kill me that evening. I had the paramedics take her away; then three days later, I had to put her back on the streets.

One day I received a notice to appear in court on a theft charge. I had to prove it was not me. I appeared in court twice before finally signing the papers to have my sister prosecuted. I love my sister too much to enable her.

My sister has been off the streets now for ten years and is living with a care-taker. She has cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis C. I pray for her every day.

See more at: Annette's Blog


  1. Annett The pain you must have endured seeing your sister living on the streets, and writing this story was like reliving it again I'm sure. You described so well the destruction of drugs and alcohol. It is sad indeed to see the road some choose to take in their life's journeys. Very Sad!

  2. Annette, your story was extremely touching when you read it to us in class but even more so in writing. Your visual description of such a sad, desperate individual (who, to our surprise, turned out to be your sister) was powerful. Your writing is always terrific!

  3. Dear Annette, I'm currently reading a book that I want to give to you when I'm finished with it, called the The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. The contents of her story and her style of writing reminds me of yours, compelling,and riveting.
    Your story should be published as well!
    Love, Yolanda

  4. Annette,
    This would be a heartbreaking story were it fiction but it is doubly tragic when it concerns your own sister. What beautiful memories you have of her as a child. You did all you could to save her and it is admirable that you continue to pray for her every day.