She has been a hobo woman living in her car the entire six months I have known her. When she is calm she has an easy way about her. With a good sense of humor she knows a lot of stuff and is a delight to talk to. High cheek bones, olive skin, dark, curly hair and a flirty personality. She can even leave me blushing every now and again.
The flight aspect of ‘fight or flight’ has a big hold on Cathy. When you don’t ever feel safe, sometimes living in a car can feel safer than a house. A quick get away is just a step out the door. You will be talking to her, look around for a minute, then look back to say something, and she is gone.
As a hobo, she finds ways to keep clean, if she can’t use someone’s shower, the river works just fine. She eats well and seems willing and able to take care of herself. PTSD can leave trauma victims in an permanent state of ‘fight or flight’ which can exhaust the body and makes them unreliable employees, believe it or not. Many can give up caring about themselves emotionally and this leads them not to care about themselves physically; that’s if you wondering why some homeless folks don’t smell so good.
Cathy is at the Sunday community feed quite a bit and once in a while she will ask me to get her some hygiene products or clothing. Our feed is at a homeless day center which I volunteer at on occasion. I have access to the clothing room. But I got in trouble for being, “too generous” with all that second hand clothing and they asked me not to give anyone anything any more. But I will sneak her a few things now and again.
I treat homeless people just like they were not even homeless at all. Back in my social work days I was keen on appearing professional, but acting professional buries any natural human response, like giving a hug or telling someone you love them. That is why many “professional,” social workers have clients who don’t trust them. Would you trust another human that was trying to help you without ever trying to know you as a human being?
If you are prone to flight, what happens when your horse throws a shoe?
Cathy was at the feed Sunday smiling as usual, but I could see some tension in the moments between smiles. I mentioned this and she started to cry. The starter in her car had gone out, finding a new one takes money she does not have. In her unsafe world, being without mobility is a dire situation.
I have developed a kind male presence in my 53 years and have noticed this can help calm women, especially hobo women. Just as a kind, nurturing female presence can calm the overwrought masculine.
So I could feel her release some tension when I gave her a hug. I don’t talk about God much at all, but I told her to surrender as much as possible. Being around a lot of people without an escape route was very rough for her.
She said, “Trust me I do, if I didn’t there would be dead people all around me.”
As a hobo woman, she is tough and cagey enough that I don’t worry too much about her, but some prayers in her direction would be helpful.