Elizabeth has always been a caregiver. “I like to take care of people,” she says. “My mom was a nurse.”
Almost six years ago, she met the love of her life. Elizabeth and her fiancé, James, lived in a tent together. “He loved his scratch-off lottery tickets,” she laughs. “He loved to fish. We could almost finish each other’s sentences.”
James was 28 years older than Elizabeth, with a beard that made him look like Santa Claus. He did all of the cooking, using a two-burner camping stove, and Elizabeth would offer him tips she’d picked up from watching her favorite channel, the Food Network. Evenings often included competing against each other at Jeopardy. They had pots and pans, and even a mattress. “For being homeless, we were doing pretty good,” she says.
But James was fighting lung and bladder issues, and he was hospitalized early this year. When he passed away on March 7, Elizabeth was holding his hand. Roof Above’s outreach team had been working for months to find housing for the couple, and Elizabeth recently moved into Moore Place, Roof Above’s permanent supportive housing facility.
She’s now living on her own for the very first time while coping with grief and dealing with her own medical issues. At age 43, she says, “It’s time to take care of myself.” Having her own kitchenette makes it easier to follow the low-sodium diet her doctor recommends, while a bathroom of her own is a huge help in tolerating the side effects of the medications she takes.
Elizabeth says she always had a steady job until about eight years ago. She earned management responsibilities in the retail industry and spent years waitressing. Her journey into homelessness began in 2016 with the death of her mother. Elizabeth admits she “kinda lost my way,” but she says it’s been hard to experience the judgment some people have toward individuals experiencing homelessness. “Don’t look down on us. Don’t judge a book by its cover. You don’t know everybody’s story,” she says. “Most people could be a paycheck away from homelessness.”
She’s grateful for those who do try to lend a helping hand. “It’s very heartwarming to know that there are people out there that do care. And I really, really appreciate it.”