City Beat

Homeless for years, Sacramento senior finds ‘dignified’ life in new apartment

Janice Moore sits outside the apartment near Howe Avenue that local homeless service providers found her. Moore had lived on the streets for six years.
Janice Moore sits outside the apartment near Howe Avenue that local homeless service providers found her. Moore had lived on the streets for six years. rlillis@sacbee.com

Janice Moore used to live on a cold sidewalk. Her shelter was a freeway overpass. She survived – barely survived – on handouts and luck.

Now she has a roof and an air conditioner. When the sun is shining, she drags a chair out to the small lawn outside her one-bedroom apartment near Howe Avenue and sits quietly. There are no more cars rumbling above; instead, there are birds chirping and the distant sounds of children on a playground.

“Dignified” is how Moore describes this home.

Wearing a white blouse and clean pink slacks, she spoke last week as her two dogs basked in the sun next to her. On the ground sat a gardening pot, some soil and the tomato plants Moore plans to grow. There was a lot of peace in that moment.

Moore has been featured in two of my columns. The first, in December, told the story of two women who were raising money so that Moore – homeless for six years – could find shelter for herself and her pets. Readers responded by donating $900.

Then Moore was arrested in January. She spent four nights in jail. It was her sixth arrest – most of them for illegal camping – and it seemed like she was in the unending cycle gripping so many of the homeless in this city. Jail. Streets. Jail. Streets.

And then she got lucky. Michelle Lazark, a Sacramento cop who has become a guardian to the city’s homeless and disenfranchised, was driving around town with Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator. They found Moore sitting in her usual spot on K Street in East Sac, near Alhambra Boulevard, and persuaded her that it was time to come in off the streets.

People like Lazark and Halcon try to persuade a lot of people like Moore to get inside. It rarely works.

“She let us help her,” Lazark said. “But she’s one in a hundred.”

Volunteers of America staffers Robin Wussow and Heather Carver jumped in and found an apartment that would take Moore and her pets. The county put up Moore in a hotel during the apartment search. Gina Knepp, who runs the city animal shelter, raised more than $1,500 in 20 minutes on Facebook to pay for the apartment’s pet deposit and other expenses.

It took two months and the dedication of many people to get Moore into her apartment, which she will pay for with her Social Security check. The ordeal was made more difficult because a lot of places would not allow her dogs.

Moore is 69 years old. Imagine being 69 years old and living outside.

“I felt like I wasn’t going to survive another year,” she said. “I felt sick. I felt cold to the bone. I felt stunned.”

Lazark will probably be out there again today, trying to help others like Moore. There are hundreds of homeless on our streets and only so many people trying to help them.

At times, it must seem like an endless, hopeless endeavor to find that one in a hundred.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

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