Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Crystal Evans

Still Homeless, but She Says She Sees the Light (Boston Globe article 10/12/03)

Still homeless, but she says she sees the light
A young woman fills days with non-stop energy; TV beckons
By Johnny Diaz, Globe Staff, 10/12/2003

It's hard to keep track of Crystal Evans these days.

She endures sessions of therapy for seizures and vertigo, the effects of a brain injury from a car accident.

On Tuesday nights, she hones penning her memoirs at the Harvard University Extension School.

Once a week, she volunteers at Children's Hospital; twice a week, she colors with children at the Ronald McDonald House in Brookline.

And when she's not doing any of the above, she tries to secure a roof over her head for the night and a free meal at local homeless programs.

Homeless and 22 years old, Evans may have another item to add to her to-do list: a guest appearance on an upcoming segment of ''The Sharon Osbourne show," a syndicated daytime talk show featuring the wife of rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

A producer of the show recently reached out to Evans after she read about her homeless stories in a July 28 City Weekly profile.

The article focused on how the industrious woman chronicles life on city streets via her on-line journal, www.livejournal.com/users/being_homeless.

She details how she logs on to the Internet at Boston libraries or at a Cambridge homeless youth center, Youth On Fire, and how she also washes her clothes there once a week.

''At first I thought it was a joke," Evans said of the talk show request. ''I didn't know why they wanted a homeless person on the show."

Maybe it's the way she draws from a deep reservoir of strength to document the challenges a Boston-area homeless person faces. Evans shares those struggles with a loyal following of 400-plus cyber surfers.

Evans describes the discomfort of lugging belongings from one shelter to another, the lingering fear of being robbed or raped on the street, and the uncertainty of traveling a road that sometimes feels like it's heading nowhere.

A common theme in her entries: whether Evans will ever be well enough to hold down a job, and if she can live on her own.

Evans calls social workers on a cellphone and receives mail at a South Station-area post office box, amenities she pays for with her monthly state disability checks. She powers up her cellphone or laptop at outlets at Au Bon Pain and McDonald's in Cambridge.

Her resiliency keeps her moving, and has inspired fellow homeless friends and social workers at Boston-area shelters.

''A lot of people in her situation would have given up a long time ago, and she hasn't," says Olex Tatro, 24 and homeless. When Tatro arrived in Boston to stay at local shelters, he met Evans, who shared her knowledge on where to find a bed and where to eat.

It made life on the streets less lonely, Tatro said.

''She has just been there. Someone to talk to," he added. ''She definitely wants to change. She doesn't want to be where she is. She is working very hard to change it."

Evans's story: She ran away from her Concord, N.H, home three years ago and suffered a brain injury in a car accident. That left her with seizures, short-term memory loss, and sometimes, vertigo. The combination hampered her efforts in holding down nanny and cleaning jobs to pay for rent.

Broke and estranged from her family, she found her way to Boston, where the streets became her refuge.

In her recent journal entries, she describes how strict some shelters can be. How a homeless guest can be written up and possibly thrown out for not following up on chores such as mopping or taking out the trash. She notes how some other homeless women don't believe she is indeed homeless because of her clean and sometimes preppy appearance.

But for now, Evans seems more optimistic about the future.

She smiles a lot wider these days.

''I see my goal now," says Evans, sporting a blue Harvard sweatshirt on a recent weekday. She sits on a concrete bench at the Cambridge Common, a popular place among local homeless people. ''I need medical care and that is what is important. If I complete rehab, I have a better chance of a future and going back to work. It's a long process. They can't fix me, but they can help me cope with my issues."

A lot of it involves loss of short-term memory, which she says has hindered her in holding down basic jobs, such as cleaning or office work. During interviews with a reporter, she seems to lose track of what she just said at times.

''People tell me, 'You are like that fish, but I haven't seen the movie.,' " she said, referring to Dory, the forgetful blue fish in last summer's Disney movie, ''Finding Nemo." ''I don't remember repeating myself."

When her monthly state welfare checks began arriving in August, she was able to pay for physical and cognitive therapy at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Using her monthly MBTA disability pass, Evans rides the T to the center and spends one-hour sessions working on her balance and relaxation skills for migraines. She works with a speech therapist, and also learns to focus on rudimentary living skills such as staying organized with paperwork and maintaining a household.

The center specializes in brain-injured patients, one of the main draws for Evans in leaving her native New Hampshire for Boston, a city rife with homeless outreach centers.

Fueled by the story of another 22-year-old homeless woman, Liz Murray, whose experiences of living on the streets and studying at Harvard inspired a recent Lifetime Network TV movie, Evans headed to Harvard too.

This fall, she is taking a memoir writing class at the university's extension school, where she has been writing essays similar in theme to her journal entries.

And as for the future, she would like to stick with the extension school for a while, perhaps major in women's studies and take writing as an minor. She paid for her recent class with her social security checks, which she points out are not enough to pay for housing.

Evans hopes to work full-time again and pay for rent and enjoy the comforts of her own place.

''I feel like I am getting somewhere," she said. ''I never saw myself as homeless and going to Harvard."

Johnny Diaz may be reached at jodiaz@globe.com

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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