How long have you been selling The Contributor?
Uh, this’ll be — let’s see, I started — two months, basically. Yeah.
Are you from Nashville?
No, originally, I was born in Chicago. I moved when I was 13 with my parents to Alabama. My parents got divorced. At 18 I met my husband, graduated, and we moved to Tennessee 10 years ago. Originally I was gonna transfer up here for a job, but then I got here and they didn’t have any openings, so.
Is that when you were homeless for the first time?
No. Um, I was pregnant. In Alabama, I had severe post-partum depression and had my first child taken away from me — figured, “OK, well we’ll move to Tennessee.” We were gonna make a fresh start, you know, thought we were gonna be okay.
Then I lost my job, so we gave our second child up — my first child lives in Alabama with my mother-in-law and has autism. My stepfather’s diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, so we’re trying to figure out how to get back there. I’ve given up three children now in Tennessee because every time I turn around, financially, things happen. It’s open adoptions though so I know the families and get pictures and stuff.
I’m basically the person that brings the income in the house. My husband got injured back in Alabama and has lung and heart problems—now we can’t afford to get him to the specialist to get the help that he needs. He kept getting turned down. Alabama said, “Oh, you’re faking it. You can breathe harder than that,” when they did tests for him getting Social Security. Then we got here, we were gonna get back on our feet, and get him into a specialist at Vanderbilt. But every time, like I said, we turn around, something happens.
I was working in security for 10 years between Alabama and here, until they let me go. They gave me a compensation and told me to go ahead and apply for unemployment. But yeah.
Have you found health care to be a challenge with homelessness?
Well, with his heart and lung conditions, my husband can’t walk like I can to the bus. Taxis are gonna cost so much money just to get him to the hospital or a doctor, period. And we don’t have any friends here, it’s just me and him. I tried to apply for TennCare, but another thing is—we’ve lost his birth certificate, so we’ve got to get him a new birth certificate, a new ID, a new Social Security card, all of that’s been lost. We’re literally needing to start over, so that’s why I’m trying to get caught up here to be able to get back there and take care of everything there, as far as our lives.
Are you in housing?
It’s a hotel, yeah. I’m actually — originally, I was doing okay doing day labor before I started doing [The Contributor]—I’d moved in there because there wasn’t anything at the time. I’ve got two cats, and I wanted to make sure that they would take them, and they did. So we’re stuck all the way in Goodlettsville, and I have to walk 36 minutes to Gallatin Pike to catch the bus to get here.
[Phone rings.] Hold on, it’s my husband, he likes to stay on the phone with me all day.
Anyway, yeah we’re behind there, but they’re letting us pay—we have to pay every day, something.
How did you meet your husband?
We met when I graduated high school. I was rebellious, decided I didn’t want to listen to my mother. My mother, even though I graduated, still wanted to try to control me, which—that’s a whole other issue. Anyway, I moved out, was living at a friend’s house and was at a party. Another friend went crazy—he was on crack or something, went smashing through walls and everything. My husband comes out and I was at the pool at the time, he goes “You don’t want to go back in there.” He didn’t know who I was at the time or anything, he just knew I was at the party. He was like, “You wanna come with us?” So we drove around, me and him in the back seat, and his girlfriend he didn’t know how to break up with in the front seat driving all night until 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning. Then the next day, we hung out and have been together ever since. We’ve been together for 22 years, almost.
How’d you hear about The Contributor?
I’ve seen it around town. We’d sold everything, and we were starting to lose everything. We actually have lost everything. For two years, I kept trying to get my rings out of pawn—I’d get them out, then have to put them back in. This time, they’re gone. Everything—our wedding stuff, everything that was in storage is gone.
We need to start over. We’re going to have to. If we can get caught up to where we can get back to Alabama before he [Christina’s step-dad] dies, that’d be great. But we’re thinking that we’re gonna get a call that he’s dead, and everyone’s gonna have us come back and we take care of his mother. Like I said, my son lives with them and he’s got autism. So, it’s gonna be hard on him.
Do you read the paper?
I glance through it. I used to buy it to read it, before I started doing it myself. But I get up anywhere from 5 to 8 o’clock in the morning, head out, try to do Starbucks first, then I go on to somewhere in between, normally, but now it looks like I’m gonna do Starbucks, go on to Walmart, and then possibly go back to Starbucks. I get back anywhere from 7 to 9 o’clock at night. Because it takes me 36 minutes to walk. Actually, if I walk from Walmart, it takes me almost an hour. So I have very little reading time. By the time I get home, I just want something to eat. Me and my husband watch a TV show and go to bed.
What do you like or not like about selling The Contributor?
My biggest thing is the ones that don’t think we’re actually working. Like, I was at Walmart one day — “McDonald’s up the hill is hiring.” “Cookout is hiring!” And then there’s the ones who just shake their head at you like they’re ashamed that you’re doing that, and I’m like, “I’m working.” I’m not drinking or anything, you know.
But I meet a lot of good, new people. And they’re the better side of things.
What are your hopes for the future?
We want to get back stable so we don’t have to worry about paying our bills, but our biggest thing is we want to get an RV. Because we know if we own it, we’ll always have somewhere to live. It’s just finding the right time and getting the money together. Last time, when I was doing the day labor, we had—I think it was close to $2000 saved up. Then we couldn’t find anywhere to live, couldn’t find an RV at the time. So we moved to Goodlettsville and all that money went away, and day labor dried up after the holidays. So I started doing this.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your customers?
Basically, I really don’t know the customers yet. I’m trying to get to know people. There are some people, you know, that are kind and want to know my story. There’s been three people that have asked me what my story was and I told them. There’s been ones that have told me where I can get help. Basically, my motto’s always been--I’m not really religious, but if you’re a good person, other people are good to you. That’s all that matters. Do unto others what you want done unto you.