By Lindsay Oda
Out of all the people I’ve met in the Tenderloin, Beth has to be one of the most interesting. And that’s saying a lot, considering the diversity of life in the TL. Beth, 25, is a singer from Seattle. She moved the TL a year ago, to live in a house of 15 missionaries, who put on services at New Life Church five days a week.
She has this qualm about herself.
“Sometimes I feel like a silly, little, white girl.”
I asked her what she meant. She explained she feels at times naive–coming to the Tenderloin to do missions, not understanding half the struggles people here go through.
“I don’t even pretend to know what they’ve experienced.”
At first glance, Beth is a silly, little, white girl. She stands a little over 5 feet, and she told me all this while walking her wiener dog, Danny, around the TL. She has a quirky laugh that could match a young girl. She wore a stretchy headband, black slacks, a zip-up hoodie, and sneaker flats. You can imagine the contrast to a neighborhood of many homeless.
After taking a long walk with her, and listening to her experiences in the TL, she proved to be more complex than leads on.
She told me a story about a girl she loves talking to at New Life.
Lea* is beautiful, a striking face marked with scars from a skin disease. She is addicted to heroine. Beth saw Lea on the street one time with two other men. Beth got a bad feeling about it, and went to check on her. The two men snatched a pipe from the Lea’s mouth. Lea went hysterical yelling at them.
Beth walked Lea away from the area. Lea lost it and started crying. She sobbed about how sick she’d be if she didn’t have any heroine. How she’d have diarrhea for weeks and it’d feel like her muscles were peeling off her bones.
“All I could think is ‘I just wanna buy this girl some heroine.’”
That was the point at which Beth had to ask herself: Do I really believe that God can help her?
She talks about addictions as spiritual strongholds on the neighborhood. A darkness clinging to the people and the physical space.
She explains, for these people, they need more than just food, housing, and services.
“We get so many volunteers during Thanksgiving and Christmas. They think giving out hot cocoa and a sandwich is going to do something. These people can get full meals at St. Anthony’s and Glide.”
She sees many people who want to help the community, but don’t understand it. They come for a day or week, and come back the next year.
Beth has resolved addicts need long-term relationships with people who are committed to counseling them. And of course, “the power of Jesus.”
Many people won’t agree with Beth. Many people will agree partially, and many will agree wholeheartedly; however, Beth offers a thought-provoking response to a prevalent issue in the Tenderloin: addiction.
*Name has been changed for privacy