La Jolla group works to find 'Shelter for Shauna'

Initiative to help women in transition begins with homeless, La Jolla individual

‘Shelter for Shauna’

■ GoFundMe page: gofundme.com/shelterforshauna

■ Soul Wise Coaching: soulwisecoaching.com

Soul Wise Coaching, a workshop series formed to help women thrive while facing significant life transitions, has launched an initiative to help one familiar woman transition off the streets of La Jolla, and into stable housing.

That initiative’s beneficiary — who has been homeless in La Jolla for more than eight years — is dealing with the added challenge of being intersex, and a decision last year to transition from her former identity as a man, Sean Smith, to a woman, Shauna Smith (read more about Shauna in her “13 questions” here).

Whether previously identifying as Sean, or adding daily doses of color to the Village as Shauna (good Samaritans and the Goodwill store on Girard Avenue keep her wigs and ensembles in constant rotation), the former basketball instructor’s tall, athletic frame may have at times intimidated some, La Jolla psychologist Kirsten Harrison-Jack said, although she believes many more admire Shauna’s positive outlook in the face of adversity.

According to a crowdfunding page established for the initiative, “Shelter for Shauna,” Shauna repays individuals for their occasional alms by running errands and providing “a continual presence in the community that many can depend upon to brighten their day with a smile or an encouraging word.”

Cecile Ward (of Mary’s English Kitchen), who co-founded Soul Wise Coaching with Harrison-Jack and Torrey Hills resident and motivational singer-songwriter, Hilary Michels Dunning, said she was sold on making Shauna the initiative’s first beneficiary after her 12-year-old daughter first encountered Shauna on the street. “She came home and said, ‘Oh, she’s so lovely mommy!’ — and was really sort of gushing. I was, in some ways, surprised … but that made me feel like we must do something.”

Harrison-Jack, who befriended Shauna and brought the idea for the initiative to her Soul Wise colleagues, said though at times she has paid for Shauna to stay in a hotel — and knows others in La Jolla have done the same — Shauna most often spends nights outside or sleeping in a taco shop bathroom.

“It’s tragic,” Harrison-Jack said. “Shauna’s a very beloved figure in La Jolla. … There are so many people who have come to know her over time and, obviously, known her limitations, but at the same time seen her strengths."

Harrison-Jack said Shauna may also provide people with an educable moment about transgender and LGBT issues. "She’s kind of a joining force for the community, because people interact with her. It’s kind of a cool civic lesson that she offers people on some level.”

An added challenge

Although Shauna identifies as a woman, she may not be welcome — or made to feel comfortable — at traditional shelters for women, Ward noted.

“The whole Bruce Jenner situation has really been in the media, so people are a little more aware of what this means and perhaps the difficulty somebody like her would be facing,” Ward said. “It’s sad to think of somebody in a situation who can’t get themselves out of it because of something they’re going through that they can’t change.”

The initiative’s website, gofundme.com/shelterforshauna, states that Soul Wise is hoping to form “a financial bridge” for Shauna by raising money for a 90-day hotel room stay “while she gets things sorted out with the help of others to help establish a more permanent solution for her housing needs.” Their fundraising goal of $10,0000 takes into account the cost of housing Shauna for three months, plus “first and last month’s rent for a new start.”

“Our objective and our mission is all about being there to help women in transition, whether they are looking to ramp up or ramp down their careers, they’re empty-nesters or trying to step into living their true, authentic selves,” Michels Dunning said. “We’re really all about elevating women in transition, so there will be many, many more initiatives to come after Shauna.”

Harrison-Jack vowed: “I’m not going to give up until Shauna finds some kind of shelter.”

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