March, 2013, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA
Name: Susan J.
Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in East Boston, MA, and I have lived with my family in Cambridge for the last 20 years. My husband is from Cambridge so we decided to raise our three sons here. My family is myself, my husband, and our three sons (two of which are under 18 years old). The oldest is 26 years old and he has developmental issues.
How old are you?
46 years old.
What was it like growing up?
It was great coming from East Boston. I came from a strong family of nine siblings. I come from a working class family. My mom was a caterer and my father was in construction until he had an accident on the job. Our mother was truly the backbone of our family. When she passed, all of the siblings scattered and we have been disconnected ever since.
How long have you been homeless?
We have been homeless for 18 months.
How did you become homeless?
My husband lost his job (truck driving) around the same time I was diagnosed with breast cancer and a cancerous tumor in my neck. I was a stay-at-home mom. We had a house, two cars, and two motorcycles less than three years ago. We now only have each other.
How do you get through the cold winters?
This past winter we slept outside with lots of blankets and cardboard. We try to stay in shelters when at all possible.
What is your biggest struggle being homeless?
Finding a safe place to lay my head and shower. You don’t realize how you take the small things for granted like a toilet or a shower.
Also facing the stigma. One of my sisters saw me out in the streets in Harvard Square three times and did not say anything to me. It hurts a lot because I have always looked out for my family and no one is helping us.