Street family of Sacramento tells their story

Over the weekend, the Journalism Association of Community Colleges invited journalism students from Saddleback College to partake in several writting competitions, one of which included a team feature.

Donna Marshall, 52, and Scooter Marshall, 43, have been together for 17 years. The last six years have been living out of their shopping cart. Attempting to survive in the elements and supporting his wife, Scooter has been breaking into cars landing himself in jail repeatedly. 

Once a tattoo artist, he is now unable to keep a steady hand with two broken wrists, a shattered collarbone and a broken shoulder. Yet his willingness to work is undeniable and sees asking for money for free as a handout.

“I wish everybody could put down their telephones and see exactly what we go through,” said Donna. “Trying to figure out where you’re going to sleep, or where to get your next meal, it’s exhausting.”

Meet just one of the few individuals whose livelihood depends on the streets of Old Town Sacramento. Donna, Scooter, John, Johnny, Kristie, Richie and pizza Dave all make up a street family who treat one another as one of their own. More importantly this family is just like any other family, loving and accepting, yet these people go unnoticed by many of the other families visiting Old Town Sacramento.

John Greene, 56, has been in and out of jail for narcotics and alcohol abuse. For the last 3 years he has been living in Solano inside the train tunnels, and recently came to Old Town in search of a hot meal and hospitality.  It’s a safe place according to Greene and, he mostly keeps to himself to stay out of trouble. In many cases he gets no help from tourists, who he says pay little to no attention to him.

“Usually when people look down on other people, it has something to do with how they feel about themselves,” said Greene.

Johnny Philips, 47, born and raised in Kansas, has been living in Old Town for seven years. Both of his parents died as a newborn, leaving him abandoned and living his whole life practically on his own. Philips refers to the rest of the homeless community of Old Town as a great big family to which he feels he fits in perfectly at home.

“The mental health and strength of this family is ungodly to hear what these people have been through,” said Philips.

Kristie Anderson, 33, has been homeless for two years. Prior to a life on the streets, Anderson was married for 16 years being a full time mom to her son, now 8 years old. She talks with her son daily and visits him once a week. Her son does not know she’s homeless.  

“Everyone is someone,” said Anderson. “You can’t judge a book by its cover, you have to open the book and read it. And that’s what I tell my son.”

David Provencio, or pizza Dave, 63, has lived in Old Town the longest out of the family, 25 years.  He stays active in the community by sweeping the courtyards for the local pizza spot and in return receives four to five pizzas for his hard work.

With those pizzas he goes about town delivering hot meals to other homeless in the area. It’s a full time job living in poverty according to Provencio, yet he is able to put others before himself.

“If you know a miracle, it’s because you were taught how to ask,” said Provencio.

Each of these individuals was out on the street alone. Feeling disconnected from the outside world they collectively came together to what is now their street family of Old Town Sacramento.