image credit… nick knight
i first met laura when i was doing advocacy for a small community based organization in aurora named “itav”. laura was a sex worker and smoking a lot of crack. i drove over to her boyfriend’s apartment in west denver and brought her to the agency so she could go to a women’s group, get something to eat, and get away from her life for a minute. i remember very well the conversations we had in the car on the ride to and from.
fast forward to 2 years ago when i ran into her again. she had now become the house manager for a program for plwa’s in athmar park. she had slowed way down on the crack use and had gotten into medical care-even consistently taking haart medication. she was much more grounded and again we talked often and repeatedly about the direction of her life. she was with her boyfriend who was intermittently quite abusive. it appeared he had a mental health issue and refused to take medication reliably. when he would drink alcohol or use cocaine, his mean streak would especially arise and her physical injury rate would escalate.
shortly after i ran into her again, the two of them had a volatile altercation and he picked up a tv and threw it at her, breaking her leg and some of her spirit at the same time. because of her position at the housing program, a police report was filed and chargers were drawn. he ended up spending about 10 months in jail being released sometime late last fall.
naturally, what followed were conversations around self-care and responsibility to the residents under her watch. she started to smoke crack more frequently, smoke pot more frequently, and engage in some other odd behaviors. but she was able to reel in it for the most part. many of the residents that she looked after had their own serious life issues going on and i will never really know if she was able to truly present for them because of her own internal drama. but certainly this is how it is with almost everyone. i somehow always felt that she was lost in a current that taking her somewhere quite a distance from here. but i also understood that she was doing much better than when i first met her, so harm reduction rules the day.
this morning i heard the first report of a small tragic story unfolding in the small neighborhood that she lived and worked. as the day unfolded, it became somewhat clearer that there was just a continuation of this same story. i have been both saddened and numbed most of the day. i wish i could have done more.
the following is from the local paper..
Police are investigating after a woman was killed last night at group living facility in the 2400 block of W. Wesley Avenue in Denver. Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said officers called to the scene at 2:20 this morning found a woman dead of knife or stab wounds. Her identity was not released. Neighbor Anita Rich said that around 2 a.m. a man who she knows only as Carlos came pounding on her door and screaming. “He was saying, ‘…she’s dead, she’s not waking up,'” Rich recalled this morning. She said Carlos, who lives in the group home, was in a panic. They went across the street to the single-story group living home, while Carlos called 911, Rich said. “She was laying in the hall,” Rich said. “There was blood everywhere.” Rich knew the woman only by her first name. Rich took the phone from Carlos so she could talk to the paramedics. “What do I do? How can I help her?” Rich said she remembers thinking. Paramedics told her to put on gloves before doing anything, which she did. Rich said she checked for a pulse and found one. She didn’t see any visible wounds, but said there was a lot of blood. Emergency workers showed up a short time later and took over from Rich. The coroner’s office and crime scene investigators were on the scene this morning. Jackson said a suspect has not been identfied.
written by kieran nicholson and reprinted from www.thedenverpost.com