She’d only been on the street begging for three days, she told me, after losing her job, and she didn’t want her photo to end up on Facebook or have any proof she was out there because sometimes there were police.
“Hablas Espanol?” I told her I did. She was relieved because she didn’t speak any English. I asked her where she was from and she told me Romania, which confused me. But she lived three years in Spain, so that’s why she was fluent. She kept looking over to her stroller to check on her baby she’d left in the shade, on the sidewalk by the corner of busy Zinfandel Drive in Rancho Cordova right outside Sacramento.
I was there today checking on a couple rental properties, and couldn’t help but notice the young lady and her stroller as I drove past, with the sign that said in English she’d lost her job and had two babies. I’m wary of giving money out on the street, but I wanted to do something to help. So I pulled into the adjacent parking lot and rolled down my window and said hello, a pretty girl with dark features and a beauty mark on her face. She came over and talked to me. I told her I didn’t have any cash but I could get her some food from the nearby fast food drive in? She said she’d already eaten, but could I buy a bottle for her baby.
“Quieres leche por su nina?” I asked, do you want milk for your baby? No, just the bottle she said. She didn’t even own a bottle to give it milk.
I told her that I’d try to find an ATM machine and come back. I don’t know if she believed me or not, but I did find an ATM and came back. I handed her $40. She thanked me and told me God would bless me in Spanish. We chatted for a minute and I learned she was only 19 years old, and a little more about her and her two children. I asked if I could take a photo because then more of you might read this and see her as a human being not just a problem, but she said no. So I wished them good luck and left and she went back to the stroller with her sign.
Was it a scam? Maybe, maybe not. If she was hustling me, I don’t think she’d ask for a bottle but would have really wanted cash. It occurred to me that maybe there wasn’t a baby in there at all because I’ve seen some crazy Gypsy scams in Europe, but she did keep looking over to check on her baby in the shade when we were talking. Either way, if she was just pocketing the money and she hadn’t lost a job three days earlier, she was still somebody’s victim, or would be soon. For a young woman with no job and no money and no family who couldn’t even speak the language, there are only a few dark options to get by that usually involve doing bad things for bad people.
I hope at least that her and her babies had a place to sleep tonight and something to eat thanks to the $40 I gave her. It reminded me how so far from need I am. I can’t even fathom what this girl, and hundreds and thousands others in this city go through every single day. And this isn’t a Third World country we’re talking about – this is a modest but definitely not ghetto neighborhood in a suburb of the capital of California, the 7th largest economy in the world.
Anyway, I thought I’d tell you about it, but I do wish I had a photo to share. But if you’re anywhere in the area, drive by today and maybe even give her a little spare cash or that bottle she needs – I’m pretty sure she’ll still be there, because it looks like she’s got nowhere else to go.