By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, Apr. 12, 2006
“Hello! Anybody home!” A second passes. No answer, but a flutter or two of the hanging blankets. “It’s the newspaper,” in a loud clear voice. “Was hoping to talk to you, but don’t want to just barge in.” More fluttering, and a man’s voice goes, “Yeah.” A woman’s goes, “Just a minute.” The blankets are the type used by moving companies to protect valuables. Rocks secure the tops of the blankets to the large metal beams of the overpass. The fast-moving cars and trucks above can’t be seen, but they’re heard—a constant, arhythmic racket, echoing off the cold, hard surfaces below. Together, the blankets square off room enough for a bed and some crouch space.
The blankets part and a man and a woman walk out into the early March chill. The man is much older than the woman, who looks barely out of her teens. He has a blackened right eye and a scrape on his forehead above it, both resulting, he says, from the lack of lighting under the overpass. She gave him the black eye with her elbow, a middle-of-the-night mistake in bed, and the low-hanging beams got his forehead. His gray fleece hooded jacket, black nylon pants, and lightweight hiking boots give him the appearance of being ready for action. But his thinning, graying hair, his missing teeth, his careful gait, and his dark brown eyes give away the hard miles he’s traveled to middle age. His name is Leonard, and this is his second foray into Baltimore homelessness.
“Eleven years ago, being here, things were a lot more accessible as far as outreach goes,” he says. “People seemed to be a lot more friendlier. But now it’s like people look [at us] as if we are nothing.”
Leonard talks pretty much nonstop for about five or six minutes. He explains what’s wrong with the homeless scene in Baltimore, and how it’s gotten worse since he last was here from New Hampshire more than a decade ago. He says a lot of homeless people choose to stay that way, working the system for years, but not him and his young wife. They’re willing to work hard to better themselves. A lot of circumstances have conspired to keep him out of work, but something’s bound to come up. It has to, since his wife is pregnant. She’s not showing, but she’s about four months along. She finally speaks.
“Actually,” she says, “I want to become a massage therapist.” That’s her area of expertise, based on what she’s been told by people whose backs she’s rubbed. Leonard nods. “I’ve massaged his back a lot and I actually make him fall asleep,” she says. “I can actually make him feel better.” She has bright blue eyes and long brown hair that falls down around her wide face from under a black winter hat. She’s wearing a green-and-white fleece pullover with a Nordic pattern and blue jeans. Her boots match Leonard’s. She introduces herself as Donna.
Donna says she’s “not totally through a GED class,” with a meek hint of pride, but “it’s going to take a while” to be job-ready in the massage industry. “And I just don’t have all the ability right now to be able to get to something like that while being on the streets.” She’ll need a manicure before she does.
It’s hard to say at first whether Leonard and Donna stand out in the homeless population, which is estimated at anywhere between 3,000 and 30,000 in Baltimore, depending on which of the various loose estimates you choose to believe. Lack of income and affordable housing are the root causes of homelessness, and health problems—whether physical or mental—exacerbate it. Their stories fall right in with that sad model, though they’re married and pregnant, which puts them in a particular subset of the indigent; most are single adults. That, though, is not what makes them remarkable.
What sets Leonard and Donna apart is that they shared their stories in a series of conversations spread out over a month full of surprises in their lives—many of them bad, but one good. And along the way, they revealed the details and causes of their problems and how they deal with them, or don’t face them at all, and what that could mean for their future.
Leonard and Donna call their place under the overpass “the spot,” and when they’re not there they worry about it. Somebody might be messing with it or stealing their stuff. When they’re at the spot, sometimes they sleep, sometimes they just hang out, but even there they feel the anxiety that somebody will show up to mess with them. Leonard and Donna say they were attacked in the middle of the night in mid-March and that they’ve chased off threatening intruders at other times.
At regular intervals, they make the rounds of the local homeless-service providers to get food, showers, mail, and changes of clothes. They go to the main public library on Cathedral Street to check their e-mail accounts. They scrounge up money wherever and however they can. Sometimes, they say, people just give it to them without being asked, and they really appreciate that. Sometimes people seem to get angry at them for no particular reason, just for being there, out on the streets. That, they don’t like at all.
They say they arrived in Baltimore from their native New Hampshire last Nov. 9 with several duffel bags packed with their belongings. Leonard, who turned 42 in March, says he’d toughed it out on the streets of Baltimore before, maybe 11, maybe 15 years ago—he’s not precise on the date. Donna will be 23 this August. She first laid eyes on Baltimore from the window of an arriving bus.
They left their part-time jobs working a daily newspaper delivery route on foot, abandoned the food stamps they’d been getting, and took the Greyhound south, away from a bad scene back home. They were homeless in New Hampshire. Winter was coming. Hard rains and record-setting floods struck the region. Now they’re living outdoors in Baltimore, one of the poorest, most violent cities in America.
They tied the knot last September in a discount ceremony in New Hampshire. (“You’re supposed to pay, like, $60 for the justice of the peace,” Leonard boasts. “We got it for, like, 30. It was pretty cool.”) They both have hepatitis, they say. They drink and smoke tobacco, but are adamant that they don’t do drugs. Leonard says he tried cocaine and pot each exactly once, long ago and at different times, and Donna proclaims proudly that she quit marijuana at his request after they met last August. They give polite cold shoulders to people who do drugs. They attend church at a local mission and profess a deep religious reverence. Once they get comfortable talking, they cuss like soldiers.
The first time Leonard used a profanity when talking to a reporter he was going through the story of getting attacked. A guy had shown up in the middle of the night March 12, saying that Leonard and Donna had taken his belongings from where he had them stored under the overpass.
“I said, ‘No, we didn’t take your eff-ing shit. OK?’” Leonard has had a chance to nurse his resentment, though his wounds—a bruised head, cheek, and throat, and cuts on his arms—have begun to heal, and he’s had a little bit of vodka to drink. “He turns around,” Leonard continues, “grabs [a] stick, and just—five times over my head.” Then, he says, he was punched in the face five times, choked almost unconscious, and cut in the arm by a vodka bottle that broke on a metal street-sign post Leonard was using to defend himself. He describes himself screaming in his underwear as he chased the attacker across a nearby street, cars filled with witnesses driving by, but no one stopped or called 911.
The stick was one of the many pieces of bamboo lying around the spot. They’d scavenged them out of an alley and brought them back, thinking they could find some use for them. But they hadn’t expected one of them to be cracked over Leonard’s head, or pushed into Donna’s pregnant stomach, which she says the attacker also punched. “He goes, ‘I don’t care if you’re pregnant, I’ll make you lose the kid,’” she says. “I’m still surprised he didn’t.”
Just over a week later, Leonard picks at his breakfast at a Charles Street eatery. (Over the course of a month, City Paper bought Leonard and Donna a few inexpensive meals, and gave them some small currency, a pair of two-for-one drugstore reading glasses, and an alarm clock.) Instead of eating, Leonard cracks open the nut of why they moved here. “I was living in an apartment up there,” he says of New Hampshire. “After we got married, she moved in with me, and then things went downhill. I lost my job at the restaurant. And then city welfare paid my rent for a little while. They stopped. So we had no choice [but eviction]. And she wanted to get away from all the turmoil.”
So it was back to Baltimore for Leonard, a place he thought he knew.
“Compared to up north, this here is big-time,” Leonard reflects. “Because up there it’s, like, laid back. Little bit of crime but nothing to speak of. Down here it’s a whole different situation.” The city is proving a change not only from bucolic New Hampshire but also from the way Leonard remembers it. The Greyhound station has moved since he was here, and their bus dropped them off in a part of town nowhere near the areas with which Leonard was familiar. Services for homeless people seemed more accessible then, he says, and people’s attitudes kinder.
“Maybe I didn’t plan as well as I thought,” he says. “But, you know, you make decisions every day and make the best of it.”
Making the best of Baltimore has been painful. In addition to the bamboo attack, Leonard says he was tossed, with bound wrists and ankles, into a paddy wagon and taking him to a local hospital, where he ended up in the psych ward with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15. He has no hospital paperwork on that, though; there were no charges, and with only a vague description of where and when, there’s no police report.
“To a lot of people, when you report things, you wonder whether it is true or not,” Leonard observes one morning at the spot, having given some thought about the fact that their experiences are going to be the subject of a lengthy article. “But when you come with the homeless, there’s sometimes a lot that you might not want to take for granted, because a lot of things are true. And this right here, what we’re going through, is very true.”
When Donna gives birth, Leonard will become a father for the third time. He says his sons, aged 22 and 5, are back north with their respective mothers. The oldest is a part-time security guard, and Leonard wasn’t around as he grew up. He pines over the 5-year-old, but hasn’t been in touch with the child since leaving New Hampshire. Still, Leonard is rosy about his role in the boy’s future—especially if he wins the $10 million Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes he’s entered online.
“That’s a once in a lifetime dream right there,” Leonard enthuses. “That’d be cool. If I could put maybe $50,000, or even a million in there, you know, for his trust fund? The rest we could use to get a place, get our necessities.”
But Leonard isn’t sitting back waiting for pie in the sky. He’s willing to work hard for money, he says. When he talks about his work history, he describes prep-cooking and dishwashing at restaurants, working at pizza parlors, and a stint as a cab driver. He decries the difficulty of finding a job without a good education, which he lacks. He’s looked at the classifieds in Baltimore but acknowledges that he hasn’t really followed through on anything he thinks he could get.
Sitting in the small park just west of the Washington Monument, Leonard has a smoke and talks about his family. The stately mansions lining the park make for a picture about as pretty as his mood is dismal. He’s been morose all morning. On the walk from the restaurant, he complained of his various aches and pains, mentioned that maybe he should get his head examined, because he hasn’t felt the same since the attack. He muses about how he hasn’t treated his body well, how it is deteriorating, and how he’s paying the price for all his hard drinking. In the middle of this funk, he launches into his family history.
“I was the outcast of a small family,” he says quietly, intently. His mother died of bone cancer 15 years ago, and she was “a very pleasant woman, quiet, until you got her mad.” His father was a lout who beat them. He tells the story of the one time when his dad punched his mom and she actually fought back, bouncing a frying pan off his head. Leonard says he was next in line after his mom in the melee that followed. “I’m fucking small, I can’t do shit anyway,” he says. “I walk around the table, he starts chasing me with the goddamn knife. I’m like, whoa!
“Of course, being that age, how far can you run?” he laughs, with a shrug.
“He was a total abuser,” Leonard seethes, takes a drag, and coughs. “He’s the one that messed my life. He used to beat me up when I was 4, 5 years old. He’d be drunk off his ass, ram my head into the wall and shit. Oh, man, he tormented me hard. Looking at me, it’s like, why me? He never liked me, never liked me.
“My mom drank a lot, yeah, she did. And she used to get drunk, too, but she tried her best to put up with his shit. She used to have bruises all over her body. He used to cut her lip wide open, cut her head wide open and stuff. He was ruthless.”
Leonard sometimes refers to “stepbrothers,” who got some of the rough treatment he got, including being thrown down the stairs. But he stresses that they never got it as bad as he and his mom did.
Leonard brightens up when he speaks about his grandmother. “She was like a mom to me,” he remembers fondly. He recalls how she took custody of him when he was still a child, taking him out of his troubled home. She passed away late last August, of cancer and emphysema. She’d always been the only one to help him out in a jam. Not anymore.
Over the weeks of conversations—many at the spot, others while walking somewhere or waiting in line for services—Donna has generally deferred to Leonard’s steady, staccato, sometimes slurred banter. She signals her agreement with the things he says by nodding, saying “yeah,” or telling a short, affirming anecdote that shores up whatever his point is at the time. Up until now, in the restaurant for breakfast, Leonard has been the chief press secretary for the couple. With a pair of haphazard new haircuts has come a new attitude. After she finishes eating, she refills her soda. Then Donna’s reticence suddenly falls away as she talks about her dad’s ex-girlfriend.
She says her father died in February 2005, leaving behind a 49-year-old girlfriend living on Social Security who smokes and has such serious emphysema that she’s tethered to an oxygen tank most of the time. “I hate to say it,” Donna declares with a resigned expression of resentment. “But now her and my brother are going out—living together. And, you know, her yelling, bitching, screaming, everything at me. Her even hitting me and stuff, pulling my hair, choking me. And she had the balls enough to be doing stuff with my brother while my dad was still alive!” Her brother, she adds, recently turned 21.
Her father’s girlfriend, Donna goes on, forced her to leave high school in 10th grade to do factory work, and generally has been a roadblock to her progress most every step of the way. While Donna says it’s the girlfriend’s fault that her schooling was cut short, she admits her grades were falling off.
Later, while walking up Park Avenue on the first day of spring, Donna talks about how her mother left the nest when she and her brother were children and gave up custody to her father.
“My mother went to court and she goes, ‘You can have them, I don’t want them. They’re a burden on me,’” Donna recounts bitterly. She pauses to light one of the half-smoked cigarette butts they collect and store in a Ziploc bag, then resumes, spitting out the story a mile a minute: “Last I heard, she moved to Alabama somewhere, and she didn’t even tell us—her ex-boyfriend’s the one who told us. Yeah, she’s my mom because I was born, but beyond that, I ain’t got no love for her.”
Leonard and Donna are inseparable. They hold hands while walking. When they’re sitting, he wraps an arm around her shoulders. When standing, hers goes around his waist. By all appearances, they’re soul mates. Before him, though, Donna says her boyfriends had failed her miserably. “This one particular one was an asshole,” she declares, then changes her mind. “You know? Actually all of my exes were.”
While living on her own away from her family, Donna has generally stayed at New Hampshire shelters, doing community service to keep her space. But that didn’t always go well. At one, she was kicked out after being accused of stealing $10, she says. She contends that the evidence was flimsy—the culprit was known to have used the money to buy Mountain Dew, she says, and she’s strictly a Pepsi drinker. She crashed at a series of friends’ apartments, and at times went home to be with her sick father. Eventually, she phoned her accuser, who helped manage the shelter. She says he acknowledged her innocence, because the real thief was later caught. But he never apologized, and she sees that as a powerful lesson about the arbitrary and capricious ways of so-called justice.
Attempts to locate and contact Leonard and Donna’s family members failed, but other bits and pieces of information proved more accessible. Trying to track down any traces of Leonard’s past sojourn in Maryland led to records indicating that he was arrested in Worcester County on the Eastern Shore on May 28, 1992, as a fugitive from New Hampshire justice. Court papers show he pled guilty the next day, waived extradition, and on June 4 of that year was handed over to New Hampshire authorities.
The press coverage in his hometown paper at the time reported that Leonard had been picked up at the Cruising Café, a restaurant in Ocean City, and that he’d been wanted since 1990, when he failed to show up for a court appearance to enter a possible 10-year plea deal on charges that, on four occasions in 1988, he’d raped a child under the age of 4.
In 1992, after Leonard was tracked down and returned to New Hampshire to face the charges, the prosecutor declined to bring them because the alleged victim and her family had stopped cooperating. Instead, Leonard served one year in prison, and two on parole, for jumping bail. The accusation that he was a sex offender went away. No one can say that Leonard is a convicted child rapist.
When asked about this ordeal, Leonard speaks calmly and matter of factly as he denies the charges at length. “That was all my ex-girlfriend’s doing,” he says, asserting that he’s made Donna aware of this chapter in his past, and how it ended. The bruises on the child, he says, were not from him.
The detective on the New Hampshire case, James McLaughlin, a man with vast experience and broad respect in his field of sex-offender investigations, returns a phone message and immediately asks how Leonard’s doing, healthwise, and whether he’s in any kind of trouble. There is genuine concern in his voice.
“I remember him as a guy who had a really horrendous childhood,” McLaughlin says. “He was a parents-had-tied-him-up-in-a-basement kind of kid.”
After being told that Leonard is homeless with some hard miles on him but is otherwise fine, the detective contends that Leonard made a memorable videotaped confession before the ill-fated plea deal on the rape case. A short but shocking segment of the tape, the detective says, is used to train investigators, showing them an example of “distorted thinking” they may encounter when interviewing suspects.
Any lack of justice arising from the failed prosecution of Leonard “was rectified with him going to jail on the bail-jumping,” McLaughlin says. And, just to make sure, he checks to make sure there are no open warrants out on Leonard. There aren’t.
Leonard denies he confessed, and says he went on the lam to Maryland back then because he was scared of going to jail for something he didn’t do.
A record of the confession McLaughlin alleges Leonard made could not be made available by press time. A New Hampshire woman who said she is the alleged victim’s mother declined during a brief telephone conversation April 9 to say whether her daughter knows Leonard. “If she does,” the woman said curtly, “she’s not going to want to talk to you about it.”
The bottom line on all this, Leonard stresses, is that he’s “always been good with kids”—adding that that’s an important quality, since “I got one coming now.”
Regardless of Leonard’s guilt or innocence—a matter already settled as far as the courts are concerned—he says he needs treatment for his childhood trauma. “All the turmoil I went through when I was that age I’ve carried up with me all these years,” he says. “It’s been like a bad scar of the mind, because when my temper goes off, it’s not just the temper of normally being mad. It’s just . . . I have flashbacks. I relive everything all over again. That’s what makes me 10 times worse. It’s not my fault. It’s just something that . . . I’ve dealt with some of it, but there’s a lot more I have to deal with.”
To illustrate, he tells a story, something that happened at the spot one night: “There was somebody under there, and actually I chased them off. I ripped my shirt right off, took my fucking stick right out there, said, ‘I’ll take your fucking head right off.’ And his other buddy started coming in, and I was like, ‘You don’t want to be doing that.’ Why? I swear, I hit him right in the fucking head with it. Got him on the ground, I started pushing his fucking head right in the ground. [Donna] had to pull me off him, too, ’cause I would’ve killed him. I just went off. I was actually starting to see a sense of red in my eyes. I was like, oh, no, no, we’re not going there. No, we can’t go there. If I’d’ve gone there, man, that guy’d’ve been dead. I’d have killed him. That, and something else, too.
“I know that in time, here, I’m going to have to deal with this, ’cause I’m going to need to get that out of my mind,” Leonard continues. “I can’t get it out of my mind, no, but at least learn to deal with it better. Because I do have a very, very vicious temper. And this one here [Donna], that’s why she’s unique, because nobody else has been able to deal with my temper the way she has been able to deal with it.
“She’s helped me out a lot. But I’ve also had to bring myself up a lot. And it hasn’t been easy. Still bringing myself up.”
Donna silently listens and nods throughout the soliloquy, nursing her cigarette. Now she says calmly and quietly, “Yep. We help each other now.”
Donna looks away, silent, when it is suggested that she needs to see a doctor about her pregnancy. Leonard says they have visited Health Care for the Homeless, which does what it’s name says it does at 111 Park Ave., but Leonard and Donna are both pessimistic about approaching Baltimore’s social-services network. They talk about how they can’t find the help they need regularly—for her pregnancy, their hepatitis, his back pain, food stamps. That is part of what makes Baltimore seem so much different, and more difficult, to Leonard than it was previously.
The first social-services stumbling block for Leonard and Donna is their lack of identification. They don’t have state-issued IDs from New Hampshire or Maryland, or copies of their birth certificates and marriage license, all of which are useful in accessing proper social services. Getting these papers costs money, which they don’t have, except for the few dollars they occasionally come by. The only identification they have are MTA passes, library cards, and mail. That’s not going to cut it at a bank, where they hope to open accounts and save money, or at a leasing office, where they might want to put down some of that money on an apartment deposit.
There are public beds for homeless people in Baltimore, and Leonard and Donna could probably sleep in them, depending on how full the shelters get at night. But only a few, hard-to-find shelters here accommodate married people, so they’d have to split up at night, and they just won’t have that.
“Separated is not exactly the answer,” Leonard explains, as the two of them sit on their mattress-and-box spring set, which is set up on pallets inside their blanketed cubicle. A small door set up on a rickety chair serves as a table; a scavenged smoker-grill provides heat, but it makes a lot of smoke and they don’t use it much. There’s a single candle for light, sprouting out of plastic water bottle set inside an old coffee can. Their food, they’ve learned, is best stored up on the ledges of the overpass beam, to make it harder for the rats to get to it. “We’re a common bond and we should stay that way,” he adds.
“Especially with me being pregnant,” Donna chimes in. “That ain’t going to fly.”
Again, Leonard returns to his belief that life on the street in Baltimore has gotten harder. “You can’t get the necessities of health assistance that you used to be able to get,” he says. “They do need a lot of improvements. They ought to have more places around here to go eat that’s accessible, more bus-line accessibility. Shelters are overfilling. [The city Department of Social Services] ought to have more fundamental access to programs that help people that are on the streets to get off easier.”
To some extent, Health Care for the Homeless CEO Jeff Singer agrees with Leonard. Singer’s worked for the nonprofit since 1985 and now leads the organization; he’s sat on or chaired committees, task forces, and advisory boards on the homeless in Baltimore and statewide for decades. And despite a lot of ongoing lip service and growing funds to treat the symptoms of homelessness—temporary quarters, emergency food, limited access to health care—Singer says he’s seen nothing but a steady progression of policies that exacerbate poverty and the lack of affordable housing. Those two factors are the root causes of homelessness, he says, and they’ve gotten nothing but worse since 1980.
Indeed, Singer says he traces the tipping point back to President Jimmy Carter’s third budget in 1979, which put more money into foreign policy than domestic matters for the first time since World War II. Under subsequent presidents, up to and including George W. Bush, the federal government has made U.S. poverty less of a priority. At the same time, the gap between rich and poor in the United States has widened inexorably, median incomes have declined steadily, and there has been less and less investment in affordable housing. For example, Singer says, the tearing down of Baltimore’s high-rise projects in the 1990s resulted in 3,000 fewer units of affordable public housing in the city.
Federal policy-makers set the agenda on the homeless front, Singer explains, because nearly all the money for local homeless-services programs—as well as much of the money to fight poverty and provide affordable housing opportunities—comes from federal coffers. The city’s homeless budget has grown expansively over the last 20 years, from less than $500,000 in 1986 to an expected $27 million this year, but nearly all of that money is federal, with a small chunk coming from the state. But the funds go to stopgap measures, last-ditch efforts to help people already mired in trouble. The key, Singer says, is to set policy that will prevent people from landing on the streets, and that’s simply not happening.
Part of Leonard and Donna’s troubles accessing care, they believe, is how the system categorizes them when they approach it—married, with no documented disabilities, no drug addiction, no HIV. The system, it seems, is largely geared to help single disabled adults suffering from addictions and HIV/AIDS. But there’s a lot they don’t know about available services. By the end of March, while walking to the library and talking about the safety net again, Leonard is even willing to acknowledge, “There’s still a lot out there that we aren’t aware of.”
Singer is confident that Health Care for the Homeless can do something for Leonard and Donna. Speaking in his office on March 31, Singer acknowledges that married couples like Leonard and Donna have a harder time getting services. The system has shifted over the past two decades, he explains, from focusing on families to focusing primarily on the most populous segment of the homeless community—single adults. Nonetheless, Singer says, “we will get her pre-natal care, and we will assign a case manager to her who will help her find a place to live.” Donna’s marital status is a complication—most public-housing opportunities for indigents are for singles—but, Singer notes, “we work with couples all the time.”
“Homelessness is worse today than it has ever been,” Singer says. “The funding, if you factor in inflation, it’s a little bit more. But the context in which that funding is delivered has gotten worse and worse and worse, in terms of what they call the social safety net, or the support for public housing.” There are ever more people becoming homeless, he explains, as poverty grows and the number of cheap housing units, both public and private, declines. “But for any individual that we can get our hooks on, we’re here to help them. So if [they’re] willing, there’s a lot we could do.”
As for helping Leonard come to grips with the deep-seated legacy of childhood trauma, Singer says, “we have a whole mental health team that would be willing to work with him.”
Leonard and Donna may be down on their luck, but they’re newlyweds in love, and fundamentally optimistic about their situation. And they recently found solid reason to be so: jobs, working together downtown, handing out free copies of the new daily newspaper in town, the Baltimore Examiner. It first hit the streets April 5, and Leonard and Donna were there, she in a company-issued cap and he in a company-issued vest, polite and beaming with confidence as papers flew out of their hands into the hands of rush-hour pedestrians. They’re looking at $1,600 per month between the two of them, before taxes: $10 an hour, four hours a day, five days a week. The fact that they have jobs might actually make it even harder to access some homeless services, but with money coming in that seems like less of a worry.
“Now we’re in business!” Donna exclaims. By banking half their paychecks, they figure they’ll be out from under the overpass and into their own apartment in two months. “That’d be nice,” remarks Leonard, back at the spot. “We’d be back on our feet, get a TV, get all of our necessities for the apartment, be able to escape here and be able to have our own privacy, and lock our door.”
If they can just keep it together until then, there’s a chance they’ll be housed when the baby comes. They haven’t spelled out plans for what happens if they can’t keep it together until then, other than that they’ll survive, as they have before. Their feeling is that it will all work out once they get some money and into housing, that their troubles are temporary. But their stories, both separately in the past, and together since they fell in love late last summer, are filled with unexpected twists and turns and complicating factors. Stability and predictability have been scarce for them.
Before dawn on April 10, Leonard and Donna are starting their fourth day of handing out Examiners. They’ll get their first paycheck later in the week, they say, and they look forward to being in a newspaper themselves. Their story, Leonard believes, is compelling enough for a whole book. “Maybe something like, Living Life as It Is,” he suggests as a title. “Yeah, that would be kinda cool.”