In front of the door to her new apartment, Cheryl’s voice rose above the noise of traffic. She sung:
“Sitting here thinking in the fresh cool air
Knowing that it is the breath of God
Makes moving to a new place
Easier to live
It’s just another area
Another part of town in the fresh cool air”
The first night that she stayed in her one bedroom-one bathroom in the Arden area, she slept on the floor. But first, she walked in circles around her home. She could barely believe her luck.
For the past 16 years, Cheryl has been experiencing homelessness.
Sacramento Steps Forward, Wellspring and Next Move helped her acquire her apartment.
It is located in front of a bus stop and at the intersection of two busy streets.
The parishioners of Joshua Tree Church donated a sofa set, a television set, linens and kitchen-ware to Cheryl’s new pad.
“I am blessed,” she said. “When people brought the furnishings, the dishes and the linen, there was food hidden among the linens. I thought that they forgot that they left food with the linens, but they said that it was for me.”
Cheryl often visits the complex’s office to sing, “Buenos Diaz, Buenos Diaz, Buenos Diaz,” to the women who work there. She hopes that her singing brightens their day.
“They were surprised that I could sing in Spanish,” Cheryl said.
As we walked to her apartment from the parking lot, a repairman confessed to her how he didn’t feel like the management at the complex respected him.
Cheryl told him that she would keep him in her prayers.
What does connecting with people mean to you?
“It means having a warm, energized smile that makes me not only feel good on the inside, but good on the outside,” she said.
Grown accustomed to sleeping on other’s couches, in flowerbeds, in motels and on church steps, she wears the key to her apartment on a lanyard around her neck.
“Home means a whole lot to me,” Cheryl said. “It means that I am not in the cold. It means that I don’t have to sit out there and go to somebody’s house and be told, ‘I’m getting ready to go to bed, and you’ve got to leave now.’ And that’s a feeling that I am happy to not feel anymore. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”
Each morning Cheryl wakes up at 3 am and sings “Praise the Lord,” to exercise her vocal chords.
Cheryl has already given canned food to a neighbor who didn’t have money for food and a couch to a neighbor who was sleeping on her apartment’s floor.
What do you do to relax here?
“Either I work on writing some more songs or I go for a walk,” Cheryl said. “When I first got here, I played solitaire because somebody gave me some playing cards.”
What does helping people mean to you?
“Helping people means that I might get some help back because you never know whose help you are going to need,” she said.
Six miles away from her stomping grounds of Oak Park, it takes Cheryl over an hour to travel by bus to get from her home to Wellspring and to Harmony Church where she sings gospel.