A year ago, thanks to the generosity of the community, Shauna Smith left the streets of La Jolla where she lived for eight years. But on June 30, the crowdfunded donations that pay for her apartment will run out and she fears she might become homeless again.
Kirsten Harrison-Jack, a psychologist and co-founder of local coaching business Soul Wise, has become a “case manager” for Shauna. “It’s hard to take someone from their life on the street and just sort of pluck them out of there,” Harrison-Jack said. “So now you’ve got an apartment and you need to trust this, that it’s not going to go away.”
A biography about Smith’s life, co-written by Harrison-Jack and Smith, will be published in the next few months in an effort to portray what it’s like to be intersexual and homeless and receive the support of the community.
About the book, Smith said, “I’m 50 years old and I’ve been through so many things in life, so hopefully, my story will be enjoyable to read and it can touch people’s lives as well.”
The co-authors want the eBook version to see the light in June, and print the hardcover edition next fall. Book sales will be a way for Smith to have some income and at the same time contribute to the community that has helped her get back on her feet.
“She wants people to understand what it’s like to live in the intersex category and possibly turn the book into a course that can be taught at schools and universities,” Harrison-Jack said. “The whole point of the book is to have a compassionate base, which is all of this ... all of these businesses coming together to help Shauna.”
Smith and Harrison-Jack are also exploring feasible employment options. “We are trying to find sustainable things that work within what Shauna can handle. Because if it’s too much, she gets overwhelmed and that’s part of her body changing and some of the emotional issues that she has,” Harrison-Jack said.
Doing errands for businesses and active coaching are some of the employment options they are considering. They’ve also looked into the possibility of Smith leading a Bully Buster program at local schools to help children deal with bullying.
Harrison-Jack started a new GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for Smith’s expenses while they figure out a better way to pay her rent.
But besides cash, what Harrison-Jack and Smith want is to create a nework of people willing to offer their talents to help Smith attain a situation where she is almost self-sustaining and independent. “We want to make it realistic,” Harrison-Jack said. “People feel like, well, that’s their problem, not mine. Well, it’s all of our issues. When we help somebody else, we help all of us.”
Meet Shauna, the person
Personal trainer, teacher, babysitter, and college graduate are some of the roles that define Smith. The six-foot-five athletic African American woman said she has no history of drug addiction, violence or criminal record. She is a kind and thoughtful person, single and religious. Her favorite things to say are, ‘I’m so blessed,’ ‘Thank you,’ and ‘I can’t say enough.’ La Jolla Light learned these things during a 45-minute conversation with her.
“I’m a teacher, and I love children and people. I would love for people to come and say hi, and go for a cup of coffee. I don’t drink coffee, but water would be nice,” Smith said, adding that she feels a lot of people misjudge her. “I wish they would come and ask me questions. I wish those people would see me.”
Smith was born with male-like genitals but a uterus and a cervix. She reports changes in her body that have affected her deeply. “I tried to be John and it never worked,” she said.
Harrison-Jack considers Smith a good philosopher and conversationalist. “If Shauna is walking and talking to the air, having one of her ‘episodes,’ either someone has bullied her or she’s doing it as therapy,” Harrison-Jack said. “The best thing to do is stop her and say, ‘Hi Shauna,’ and that stops it.
“Some people say, ‘Why does Shauna get support and I don’t?’ I think that Shauna has more than paid her dues. I would tell those people to live one day in Shauna’s shoes,” Harrison-Jack concluded.
—Want to help? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or contribute to the fund at gofundme.com/22rg2hmq