Homeless in Dinkytown: Latasha and Jack


Stubble: Where are you guys from originally?
Latasha: I’m from Memphis, but I’ve been living here for 19 years or so.
Jack: I had a nice place, but I gave it up in order to be with her.
Latasha: He’s my boyfriend.
Jack: We’ve been dating since about 2009 or 2010… You know, I think it was October 8th, 2009, exactly.
Latasha: Yeah, that’s right. Really I think I’m the one who is supposed to be remember those kinds of things. We’ve never broken up — just been together the whole time.

Stubble: How are you guys doing right now?
Jack: OK, but right now I’ve got one sore leg. We walk all over the place.
Latasha: We’ve been homesless since January 4th of last year, but we’ve probably walked the whole calendar until today. Every day. Every single day. In the spring, summer and fall we sleep outside, but then we start crashing at a friends house or a shelter in the winter
Jack: The shelter is… man… sometimes I’d rather sleep outside. It’s so bad down there. Bed bugs, roaches, ants, the way they treat you down there is like animals. Feel like you locked off. That’s over by the Greyhound station on Currie. Plus, it’s a bad area of town.
Latasha: Sure is. They’ll have to stop fights and stuff all the time down there.
Jack: The staff they sit there and watch that stuff go on, they don’t care. You’re nothing but a job security for them. I’ve had some stuff stolen, she’s had a backpack stolen, so it makes you just carry your stuff around with you all the time until you get tired and have to stash it somewhere, but then you don’t know if you’ll get it back.

Stubble: Do you usually just support yourself this way, by taking money on the street?
Latasha: Yup, we try to get enough for a room, but we can’t afford that every night.
Jack: That’s about anywhere from $55-60 for the cheapest in a hotel. It always costs money to stay someplace though. The shelters will take money from you and if you stay at a friends house, you’ve got to chip in at least a little. That’s the hard part.

Stubble: What do you do in the winter on cold days like this?
Latasha: We try to stay inside most the time. I got frost-bit twice.
Jack: She got frost-bit in 2010, was that this year?
Latasha: No.
Jack: Oh, right, right. That was late last year like in November in 2012.
Latasha: We just didn’t have anywhere to go that night.
Jack: We were just walking until like 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. Shelters don’t help much. For instance, one time it was like 14 degrees and this was like 6 in the morning and at 6:30 they close the lobby up and everybody’s got to leave. The men have to be out by 6 and the women have to be out by 7:45 or 8. They say that if the weather is a certain temperature they’ll open the chapel up so that people can go in and sit, but they didn’t want to open up that day so I went over to the transit center across the street and said that the chapel wasn’t open but they said “nope” and they didn’t open either. So I went back across the street to the chapel and asked why it wasn’t open again and he said it wasn’t open because it was too cold outside, but according to the security working the front desk they said they wouldn’t open because it was too warm outside. 14 degrees with windchill made it closer to like 10 below. It was miserably cold that morning. 7 o’clock and people are lugging these big bags and suitcases they’re taking with them.

Stubble: What would you want people to know about being homeless?
Jack: I just want people to recognize that it’s hard out here. It’s not a joke. We’re not the only ones. One day I saw the front page of the newspaper saying that homelessness was at an all time high for like 10 years. People just need to recognize that it’s getting worse. I mean, we can’t handle downtown anymore. We’ve seen people holding signs that wasn’t even homeless.
Latasha: [laughing] Yeah, they just want drinks and a joint!
Jack: Some guy was holding a sign that said he wanted a cold beer.
Latasha: They make waaaay more money.
Jack: They do. One guy told me that if I were carrying a sign that said I needed a beer he would have given me more money instead of just a quarter. Just have to wait around for someone to come by with heart.

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