Without a Home Story - Ashel Fay

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NOTE: This page is a daughter page of: Without a home stories

IMPORTANT REDIRECT: These articles now all live on www.withoutahome.net - please visit there instead !
.... and buy our "Homeless on Haight book" !

I met Ashel in Mar 2023 as part of my Homeless on Haight book project. Ashel was chatting with Darrik on the street... we'd all just seen a Cruise (self driving car) crash into the back of a bus on Haight street and we were all talking about it... I got some pictures.

A short conversation later, and I asked Ashel if they would come to lunch with me and be interviews for the book. Ashel is a playful character who was wearing a badass Game of Thrones bohemian outfit. It was a fun conversation over a burger at Haight Patio Cafe & Crepery, with the wonderful, friendly Gabriele serving us.

Ashel Fay

Ashel's Story

Thu, Mar 23, 2023:

Born: 1988 (35 years old) in Orange, CA.

Pronouns: ze/then

About: Ashley is a character and-a-half - full of energy, humor and typically dressed as friendly medieval dragon warrior. When I first met Ashley, they were wearing a badass Game of Thrones like outfit with post-taxidermy coyote on their head. Ashey's dog, Rosie, was wearing awesome dragon wings, and equally friendly to people. We'd just seen a self driving car crash into the back of a bus just outside the famous "Love on Haight" street, so a few of us were sharing photos and we decided to do lunch.

Ashley's story is one of hope, but also what can go wrong in foster care. Ashley doesn't know their mum at all, and has no idea who their father is. They just knows they were born near Los Angeles and at four years old was adopted into a conservative christian family in rural Oregon. Think 1800s conservative Christian out in the country. They only book they were allowed to read was the bible. Ashley's adopted mother had some mental issues and three biological children, already about to leave the nest, but adopted Ashley and then a younger brother to help do chores and live the good Christian life - which didn't bode well for either of the adopted kids. Ashely had an imagination, and their younger brother would later come out as gay. Food was "bread, broth and bible", and punishment was physical, but mostly psychological. At 11 years old, Ashley threw a toilet paper roller at their mother from the balcone, ad for this misbehavior they was promptly moved to a youth shelter where she remained for three days before they was thrown out for attempting witchcraft. Ashely laughs at the idea that they was the demon child for having imagination.

Sadly, Ashley's youth was being bounced between understaffed treatment centers where they was often shut into isolation, but ze still preferred it to home as they were allowed to read any books ze wanted. At eighteen Ashley was put in a group home, abut didn't stay long. Ashely decided to move to California, and remembers hitchhiking to the Haight area in a car with a hooker and her pimp, who said they needed to stop at a jail in Oakland along the drive. Ashley recalls that at 2012, Haight was a much different area. Full of character, deadheads and gangs. Each street corner had a cluster of people who stuck together and didn't necessarily welcome out-of-towners. These people were known as the "Haighters", but in spite of any gangs, there was still a lot of tourists who came. During those years Ashley enjoyed hitchhiking to new destinations and doing "Rainbow Gatherings" and medieval events.

Over the years since 2012, the homeless population fluctuated. At a couple of points, they would do a sweep to put all the homeless in Haight into community housing in the most sketchy area of the tenderloin. Even if the intention was good, Ashley believe about half of them died because haight has decent support against drugs, but the Tenderloin is a known police-no-go-zone where hard drugs are rife and overdoses are a way of life. It effectively split the community.

Haight used to be a place where people would hang out in parks more, Ashley says in the last 10-15 years, lots of fences have been setup and Haight has almost no low income housing, except the rare place for a family. During the pandemic Ashley finally passed the infamous "homeless test"... A test who's algorithm is unknown, but which everyone readily agrees you have to lie to get in, and is more about "who is houseable and might stay" versus who might need it the most to survive. Somehow they were successful and in July 2022 was able to get into a shelter. Ashely has inspiration to leave however, because they still find it disheartening that they housing is more of a shelter where at least once a week they hear the sirens come to pick up another person from overdose. They also dream of getting their SSI back, because once you miss an check in it's hard to get back. Ashley's other big dream is to finish their transition from female to male, not really happy that people often refer to them as "the woman with a big chest".

What is the hardest lesson you learned on the streets: Don't make promises you can't keep. Homeless people often get promised help, but it usually doesn't come. For instance they'll be told "housing" when it's just a shelter, or a housing manager that never actually appears.

Something you are proud of: Being part of a big community of free thinkers. Including the Rainbow gatherings community.

What tips might you offer someone newly homeless: Don't mess with another person's hustle. Whether they sell paintings, drugs, pan-handles, whatever, make sure you don't mess with their gig!

Note: Apparently Haight Patio Cafe & Crepery was very friendly all through the pandemic to homeless people - often letting them use the restroom. Be sure to leave them great reviews.