Abusive relationships have been all over the news lately because they involve well-known figures and sympathetic victims. In some cases, relatively minor exercises of male privilege are held up to represent a long-suppressed and much deeper problem.
At places like the Day Center, there's no shortage of examples of how abuse plays out in extreme ways against powerless people. But these stories are not salacious or satisfying to uncover. No wealthy monsters are called to account. No articulate and talented individuals receive belated recognition for what they endured.
Tricia, we'll call her, came into the Day Center for the first time Wednesday morning.
She's been homeless since December 11th after being slapped with a restraining order by a woman who shares her house in a very small Western Slope Colorado town. She can't get back into the house to obtain clothing or other possessions without a judge's order.
The other's woman's claims of physical abuse by Tricia are false, she says. The real issue is the friend's alcoholism and conflict over the fact that they bought the house together but only Tricia has been contributing to the payments. Filing for a permanent restraining order is a move to force a sale of the house so the woman can take half the proceeds, according to Tricia.
Her situation is complicated by the fact that she is employed in Rifle, a town large enough for a WalMart but too small for a shelter or other resources for homeless women. The shelter in Grand Junction has openings, but the hours don't align with her work hours and hour-plus commute to her low-wage job.
The last two nights Tricia couch-surfed at the house of a Grand Junction acquaintance, but the woman has a new boyfriend and said she didn't want to risk the relationship. A married co-worker has offered to put Tricia up until the situation gets resolved, but she doesn't want to impose on the couple.
Her plan is to sleep in her car and hope she can get the restraining order lifted at a hearing next month. Either way, it sounds like the living situation will remain untenable. The other woman's name is on the deed.
Tricia was clearly stressed and preoccupied with not coming across as needy. I encouraged her to accept the co-worker's offer of a place to stay. Neither pride nor instability was going to help her right now. She'd benefit from the support of someone who understands her situation.
Before she left to consult with a lawyer about her upcoming court date, Tricia took a shower and fixed her hair. Meanwhile, we checked around to see if we could find a sleeping bag so she could stay warm in her car without running the heat all night. None were available. I told her about some other places that had blankets and clothing and urged her again to consider the offer her co-worker had extended.
Tricia seems like a decent person in a tough situation, but I've only heard one person's side of the story. I've learned not to leap to conclusions or try to lift burdens from those who won't relinquish them.
On the county assessor's site, there's a picture of the house in contention, a manufactured home first sold in 2001. In 2007, when area unemployment was at a decade-low and the housing bubble had yet to burst, the house sold for more than twice its original price. By 2010 the house belonged to the lender and changed hands between mortgage companies before eventually being sold in 2012 for $1 to the U.S. Government.
County records list a zero-dollar sale price to Tricia and her friend later that year. I don't know the terms of the sale or the prospects for taking out equity if they do sell the home. It's possible that a working woman in her fifties could end up on the street with nothing to show for her five years of investment.
Maybe two people. There's no rich guy's downfall to spice up this story. No cushion. Just a net that will have even bigger holes in it if the powerful people have their way.