This story is a part of Business Insider’s “
Homeless In Silicon Valley” series reported by Robert Johnson and edited by Chris C. Anderson. Jill Klausen and graphic designer Mike Nudelman contributed to this series.
Latisha enjoyed a career in the medical field for years. When cutbacks forced her hours down, she lost her home and fell into life on the streets.
She talked with Business Insider in mid-July, sitting by her tent in “The Jungle,” an immense Silicon Valley homeless camp. The Jungle is dangerous and the nearest conveniences like running water and restrooms are more than a mile away.
The embarrassment of being homeless sometimes keeps people from seeking help, and it’s no different for Latisha, who prefers the hardship over telling her family what has happened to her life.
“I come from a very educated family,” Latisha says. “One of my brothers is an engineer and the other is a doctor. I just couldn’t bear the shame of them knowing about this.”
She gestures toward her tent and the small knickknacks she has hung on the tree shadowing her camp.
“Someday I’ll get another job, get on with my life and my family will never know,” she says.
Latisha’s been homeless for 13 years and as she speaks there’s little doubt that her family’s ignorance — and her dignity — may be the only things she has left that mean anything to her at all.
Good shoes are a must in The Jungle. The hike in can be treacherous, and hauling heavy bottles filled with drinking water is a chore that never ends.
Latisha didn’t feel her camp was neat enough to allow many pictures of it when we were there. But the things strung about the camp’s perimeter shows her struggle to maintain some sort of normalcy.
She uses a tree like one might use a bookshelf, to display items important to her like the “Smile God loves you” placard.
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