Melanie offers a big grin and some quick banter before she asks a passerby for a couple of dollars.
“I use the skills I built in my previous life, when I had a professional job, a house,” she said Tuesday, sitting at the corner of Bernard Avenue and Pandosy Street with a shopping cart containing her possessions.
They don’t always respond with some money, but they’re friendly — as are the other men and women who live on the street with her.
“I meet people quick, and I’m a nice old woman who knows how to wangle my words around so maybe they won’t kill me,” she said, before laughing.
“I’m not fearful. Not me, personally. Others might be.”
Melanie may not feel insecure, but she is living a life that’s completely foreign to her. She recently lost her home and sleeps outside — choosing to avoid the busyness of shelters that cause her anxiety.
“I’ve only been homeless for three months in my whole life,” she said.
“I got support, but I’m still on the street. I slipped through the cracks (by) accident, and I’m still out here. I’ve never had a cart and never been homeless, before this, in my life. Maybe that’s saying something. there’s a lot of people who are not doing well for themselves and there’s not enough places for them.”
That’s part of what makes the idea of fining people in her position seem so ludicrous.
“I’m homeless, I pan. I ask for money from people also,” she said.
“I don’t usually lie on the street, but I sit on a a crate on the street. So will I get a $50 ticket? What are they going to do with all the people on Leon who sit on the street and don’t have anywhere to go. I think it’s crazy because the people who are sitting on the street can’t afford the stupid fine.”
Nobody is going to pay the fine, so what, she asked, is the point of even issuing one.
“If it goes so many times, and they get too many tickets, will they send you to jail?” she asked.
“The way to clean up the streets is not to charge them $50. (Street people) have nowhere to go and places aren’t open until certain time, and that’s why they’re panning.”