Submitted by Michelle Talley
I’m writing with intentions to share insight into the one of many lives that have been heavily impacted by Covid. I’m a 26 year old female student and I attend La Mesa Community College. I hope for my situation to be a reminder for us to all have compassion for our neighbors when conducting business or just going about our day to day activities and to be San Diego strong during this time.
There was never going to be a convenient time for Covid to surprise our economy. For the last year I’ve been in and out of a domestically violent and financially abusive relationship and was trying to get on my feet to move on with my life. I was determined to live in my car, keep my head low and work all the possible hours I could to get a place of my own and get back into school. I work for the union and set up concerts, events, symphonies, etc.. All work was cancelled due to covid and I had $40 in my pocket. With everything closing one by one, I struggled to find internet, a bathroom sometimes, and my depression grew as my struggle for basic necessities did. I reached out to non profits for help but covid seemed to tie up lines for almost all organizations. Women’s shelters were full and I hopelessness was creeping up.
Eventually, I felt so defeated and went back to my relationship. I didn’t have anyone or anything else. He helped me file unemployment and I’d later come to find that was a huge mistake. When the abuse started getting out of control again, I chose my car again and decided to figure everything out as I went. He kept all of my belongings and never let me have my mail from unemployment. I haven’t had income this year other than my income tax and stimulus and it all went to past due bills. It’s one of the most shameful feelings I have ever experienced. I call the unemployment line multiple times daily and have yet to get a hold of anyone. I could afford shelter and other responsibilities if I could just go back to work or get my unemployment but it’s near impossible to reach them. But I wouldn’t let that turn me around and go back into a toxic situation.
I had to get creative to survive when I left so I remembered the code to the bathrooms at my old apartment complex and parked behind the complex to utilize living between a public restroom and my car. I thought things couldn’t get worst until I went to the doctor in May and found out I was 7 weeks pregnant. My life was really starting to feel like a soap opera. I called multiple women’s shelters and because all were full, I was directed to the convention center to sleep on a cod with thousands of strangers around me in an open setting. I knew being pregnant I had to be much more careful from contracting Covid so I decided to rough it out in my car and work hard on getting my unemployment. My stress levels were now a challenge because I didn’t want to negatively affect the health of my pregnancy. I took things one day at a time and stayed focused.
After showering in the bathroom one evening, I came outside and my vehicle was gone. The only place I had to sleep. The only thing I had after getting away from my ex. My world seemed completely unbearable to deal with. But I put my pregnancy above everything and started trying to figure everything out. Police informed me that my car had been towed because I couldn’t afford to register it. I could barely afford food or even get to a food pantry that could help me with food because my morning sickness was severe let alone all the bills I’ve fallen behind on. Through the months of May and June I constantly suffered from dehydration and felt weak. Everyone else around me gets eviction protection and here I am without a home because my home was unfortunately my vehicle. I didn’t choose to live in my vehicle and I was completely lost. I knew I had an obligation to register and smog my vehicle but I simply didn’t have the money until I could get a hold of unemployment. I went to the registration office and was offered a moving permit for $120 and embarrassingly explained my situation to the woman behind the counter. To my luck she had compassion and issued the moving permit to me and I felt a moment of relief until I arrived at the tow yard and they told me I owed $600. In tears I explained I was pregnant, my car is my home for right now, I had no other place when I left an abusive relationship, and work is non existent for the time being. They informed me if I didn’t pay, the car would rack up storage fees and eventually be their property. Anger, fear, devastation and pregnancy symptoms filled inside me. I slept on the bathroom floor for a few nights trying to figure out what to do while not getting caught by the property managers. I felt so ashamed of my whole life. I guess the stress was too hard to fight because days later I bled. I prayed it was just my egg burrowing in my cervix but I bled heavily for days and I knew by the 2nd day, I had lost my baby. I begged the police for help and explained what was happening with me but they said they couldn’t help. I had no where to turn but to my ex-boyfriend for help.
It’s now July and I still fight daily to get by. My reality has completely devastated me and I know various areas of my situation can relate to the reality of many more in the community. The task of simply asking for help can be challenging for multiple reasons, especially during this pandemic. I was dealt a rough hand and have to maneuver through these struggles and learn from them. It seems unfair to endure this pain since I pay my taxes, pay my union dues, not a criminal, don’t use drugs or abuse alcohol but I will forever wake up and remember that I refuse to be a victim and I will keep fighting. I just want people around to understand the reality of others and to remember to be kind.