Friday, August 22, 2014     Volume: 29, Issue: 4
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The Homeless Project

At New Times, we believe that homelessness is not a problem that can be attacked with money or plans. When we think of homelessness, we don't think of statistics; we think of people. We think of people who've had problems in their lives, and they all have a story to tell. We believe that common sense is the only way we'll ever come close to ending homelessness. This is our common-sense approach, and these are their stories.

Savannah Smith

If you passed Savannah Smith on the street, you might think she’s just another punk kid.

The 21-year-old, with dyed and spiked hair, her face punctured with piercings, has all the outward symptoms of your average archetype rebellious youth who fled home to live by her own rules.

Actually, Smith has a close-knit family back where she grew up in Riverside, spending most of her childhood living with her grandparents. She went to a “brand new” high school there and left only because she wanted to move to the Central Coast to try to get a job with the California Conservation Corps.

She moved to San Luis Obispo in 2009, and she likes it. Coming from an area that was rife with gang violence, Smith said “this is where I want my life to start.”

For a while things were good. She had a job at a local hardware store until mid 2010, but she left because she felt harassed. She was staying with a few friends, then later moved into a motel. But Smith was spending all of her income on the motel and eventually had to return to Riverside.

It didn’t last long.

“I felt like my life was supposed to be back here,” she said. “So I kind of risked everything to live in a shelter.”

Now she splits her time between staying at local shelters and overflow spaces at area churches where she also attends services and met most of her friends.

Smith is just looking for help right now, enough to get a job. She’s been applying for work but having little luck, she thinks, because she has to list her address as a homeless shelter.

Ultimately, she wants to give back.

“Once I get out of this hole I want to help people who are in the same hole I am,” she said.

But that means she needs a place to stay and the means to get out of that hole.

“I would really like to get a place,” Smith said. “I really want to just rent a room … with a couple of Christian college girls.”

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