Life has been anything but easy for Pauline, a new vendor who joined The Contributor a few weeks ago.
Right now, she's sleeping in the back of an old semi-truck in East Nashville. She doesn’t get any government assistance, so she started selling The Contributor when she’s not working her job as a label maker for department stores in an effort to make more money.
“I just want to make enough money to get off the streets,” Pauline said. “I haven’t had a decent shower or bath for months. I steal water just so I can wash my hair or bathe."
Pauline came to Nashville from Chattanooga about seven years ago; she found a job with health insurance and benefits, and secured a room at a hotel, where she lived for seven years, paying her rent on time. Then, four months ago, her longtime boyfriend began using drugs, and his addiction unraveled her world.
“He decides he wants to do drugs. It kept me up all night and I couldn’t go to work,” Pauline said. She soon lost her job, then her housing. “I got behind $800 in rent, and I got kicked out within four months.”
Pauline experienced homelessness before when she lived in Chattanooga. She repeatedly said that she can’t believe she’s back on the streets – and because of her boyfriend’s drug use.
“I want to succeed in life, and right now I can’t. Every time I turn around, someone is putting you down or doesn’t want to help you,” she said. “I’m so depressed."
Pauline’s past is riddled with heartbreak: she was sexually abused as a minor by both her mom’s husband and her own father; she battled alcoholism at the age of 21; she later suffered physical abuse by her former husband.
“I’ve never found anyone I could trust. When you have a mom and dad who are supposed to protect you and they don’t, you don’t trust anyone,” she said.
While Pauline is honest that her life has been anything but easy or ideal, she continues to look ahead and hopes that soon she will be back in housing, in a healthy relationship and have the opportunity to reconnect with her family.
She has five sons, plus 22 grandchildren who she’s never met. She speaks with most of her sons and many of her grandchildren via Facebook and on the phone, but she hopes one day she can get her driver's license reinstated and buy a car so she can see her family in person.
"I’m family oriented. I wish to God I had my family with me,” she said. “It hurts me. I would do anything in the world to be with my family."
After becoming homeless in Nashville, Pauline heard about The Contributor from a vendor who sells downtown. She started selling a few weeks ago in East Nashville on Dickerson Pike and Trinity Lane, but she admitted that it’s been hard to find customers in that area.
“There’s other people who panhandle. They don’t look at someone who is actually selling something; (drivers) just have their eyes focused on the cardboard signs,” she said. “I’m still nervous to sell. I’m nervous about not doing a good enough job so people get to know me and I get a clientele and they’ll come looking for me.”
Pauline has been asking other vendors for advice on where to sell, and she plans to look for other places in East Nashville where she can build up her customer base.
When asked what’s something she wants future customers to know about her, Pauline enthusiastically shared that she “loves animals.” She’s currently caring for a family of raccoons and a cat that live where she’s staying.
“I love animals and all animals know that,” she said, smiling.