By RAY QUIROGA
Port Isabel-South Padre PRESS
Gina (not her real name) dresses immaculately. At 124 pounds, she’s slight for her height; which, in a way, helps her appear at least a decade younger than her 54 years of age suggests. She’s donned in a smart black summer dress with small white prints. Her platinum blonde hair is neatly pulled back; not a strand was out of place and a synthetic flower, derived from the same pattern and fabric as her dress, is pinned to her locks behind her ear. Her pinkish color lip gloss complements her light complexion and hazel eyes. In essence, she looks like a mature version of a 1940s pinup model, but in many more ways she doesn’t attract attention to herself – she may have sat next to you during church service or walked passed you at the mall and you would not have given her so much as a second glance. She is quite ordinary…and she is the face of the homeless in America.
Gina has endured more abuse and trials than most can likely fathom. At the age of 12, Gina’s mother, a schizophrenic, tore the shirt from Gina’s body and brutally whipped her back. “That day she stopped being my mother and became my father’s wife,” she vividly recalled.
The abuse carried on to adulthood when, upon years of being preconditioned to abusive behavior, she was drawn to the wrong men. About a year ago, Gina and her teen daughter found their way to the Valley after fleeing from their home on the East Coast and her mother’s (now in her 80s) mental clutches. The final straw came when Gina’s mother, in a delusional rage, pointed a pistol at Gina’s daughter.
Gina’s most recent boyfriend landed himself in jail on narcotics charges, at which point, at the behest of his sister, Gina was given the option of either prostituting herself and her daughter or vacating her boyfriend’s residence. Gina chose the latter and until this week, they have mostly lived out of their pick-up truck, working odd jobs, mostly in housekeeping. But due to injuries sustained in a head-on collision which occurred years ago, her options are limited. She does, however, hope to return to the health and caregiving field, in which she is trained.
When describing her daily routine, Gina said that she and her daughter are usually asleep by 8:30 p.m. After all, the options are limited when the sun sets. “We take a bucket and use it to carry water and wash at the local parks and access points,” she explained. “CPS (Child Protective Services) can’t do anything because she’s very healthy and clean.”
The day this reporter caught up with Gina at an area park, she was carrying a journal. It was an attractive booklet with a brown leather-like cover and thick off-white pages inside, the kind in which bits of the papers’ fibers can be seen by the naked eye. She writes everything in it, from her daily plans to prose she hopes can one day make it into a book that will illustrate her life’s journey. “A friend that I met at the library convinced me that I should write a book,” Gina explained. “So people can know and learn about abuse and the homeless.”
Gina’s circumstances are improving, however, thanks to the members of an area church she attends. Just this week, after close to a year on the waiting list, Gina and her daughter were granted a voucher to attain public housing. During our talk, Gina broke down on three different occasions; this was one of those times.
Towards the end of our conversation, this reporter turned to Gina and clumsily asked, “So…What do you hope to gain by telling me your story? What do you want the public to know about you and your situation?” Without hesitation, she answered, “That God has given me resilience and strength. I’m just waiting for him to show me what to do next.”
Anyone wishing to assist Gina by donating items for her home (especially furniture) is asked to contact the Press office at (956) 943-5545 or email the address listed at the beginning of this piece.
Read this story in the Dec. 6 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.