By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
It appeared as though she was getting ready for bed. She took off her shoes and placed them next to her. Her purse was nearby, as though hanging from a bedpost.
But there was no bedpost or even a bed. Only a narrow strip of bare ground between a bush and a vacant building. Authorities say she either intended to sleep there or passed out. All thats known for sure is she didnt live through the night.
Little is known about her. She was around 50 years old, caucasian, and was known to local authorities as an alcoholic. She is one of many transients who pass through Crescent City.
Her body was found Monday afternoon about 12 hours after she died, tucked away in an area that few people frequent. If not for a boy on a skateboard discovering her, she may have been there for days.
I had encounters with her before, said Crescent City Patrol Officer Roger Chindgren, who is heading the investigation into the womans death. She was one of the many street people we deal with every day.
They are walking local streets, pushing shopping carts and collecting cans, but they are not always noticed.
I dont think I knew her, said Doc, a homeless man well known to authorities in Crescent City. But it would be a very bad tragedy if she was back there and couldnt get any help.
Doc (the name he prefers to go by) said hes been in Crescent City for 20 years, four of which he has spent on the streets. He says he has stopped drinking and is living with a friend now.
Id guess there are about 200 homeless people in Del Norte, most of them are here in town, said Doc. There should be somewhere in this town for people to go, some kind of shelter.
Sergeant Dean Wilson of the Crescent City Police Department said the number of homeless in town is closer to 40 or 50, depending on the time of year, but agreed there are no shelters in town.
There are no specific services for the homeless, said Wilson. There are lots of services out there for people who want to get a residence, but you have to want it and you have to apply for it - and you have to be able to function.
A lot of these folks choose not to function. Many of the ones we deal with have problems with substance abuse, Wilson said. A lot are on Social Security so they get their checks at the beginning of the month and then check into some of the cheaper motels, until the money and the alcohol runs out.
Wilson said others have mental illnesses that keep them from finding steady work.
Some of them are schizophrenic and are trying to function but are unable to because of their illnesses. They might be hearing voices that tell them to move to another location, said Wilson.
One man, who goes by the name Eon, said he has experience working for radio stations, but was turned down for work locally.
Ive lived here for five years, on and off, he said. I am being realistic. I have experience as a recording engineer but the stations here wont hire me. They have their reasons.
Although Eon expressed frustration with his employment difficulties, he also claimed to be related to various famous people and said he helped NASA put the first man on the moon.
Wilson said the police do not have much interaction with the mentally ill because they are usually called out for substance abusers. A lot of these crimes reported are by the homeless against each other, said Wilson.
Doc, who is originally from Los Angeles and surfed along southern California beaches, said his mother once tried to start a service to feed the homeless but was unable to get it off the ground.
She tried to start a soup kitchen here but they said no, that it would bring too many undesirables into town, he said.
Wilson said the Salvation Army provides vouchers for food and bus tickets for people who are passing through town. These services are not designed for the long-term homeless.
Many of them are transients and are fairly migratory; they come and go. Many will camp out behind Safeway. We see them panhandling around strip malls, which are popular places, and Dennys.
As far as finding permanent shelter, Wilson said there isnt any one spot. Theyre not found in any one particular place. Some have bedrolls and that seems to be enough. Some find vacant buildings or abandoned houses to set up camp. This causes problems because without water and electricity, theyre still using the toilets in there.
As for the woman whose body was found on Monday, there will be no exact determination of the cause of her death until toxicology reports are returned on Friday, Chindgren said.
It appears at this point in time that exposure to the elements, due to acute alcoholism, was the cause.
The womans identity is being withheld by the coroners office until her family can be located and notified. She was known to be from Texas, so that is where authorities are currently making inquiries.
Wilson said that the womans death, if exposure is diagnosed as the cause, will not be the first time it has happened locally.
But most of these guys are pretty smart, he added. They know how to survive - theyve lived in that condition for a long period.