Woods is her home 'on and off'

September 20, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

Last winter, Alice Shorday was living in a wooded area in Hagerstown, a place she's called home "on and off" for three years.

Shorday, 43, who agreed to be interviewed but did not want her picture taken, said homelessness wasn't new to her.

"Growing up, I didn't know where my next meal was coming from day to day," she said.

Her father died when he was 28, and her mother was never around, said Shorday, who grew up near Philadelphia and has lived in Hagerstown for 15 years.

Shorday received disability payments for several years and was fighting to get those back.

"I love to work, don't get me wrong," she said, "There are only certain jobs I can do."

She said she has cleaned houses, worked as a nursing assistant, flagged at construction sites and was at one point a licensed cosmetologist.

Standing in the woods, she pulled off her heavy socks and shoes to reveal a pedicure she had given herself -- purple nails with white tips.


For Shorday, walking a lot and trying to find work are the hardest things about being homeless. She had to put together the paperwork necessary for job applications while living in the woods, and submitted job applications even when she had no telephone.

Shorday said she was in an abusive relationship for five years. She left that relationship and ended up in jail on a DUI about five years ago. After she was released, she said she had nowhere to go and couldn't pay the bills.

She worked off and on, sometimes cutting people's hair and sometimes flagging for construction companies.

Then, it became harder to find work. She applied for jobs, but wasn't hired, she said.

Last winter, she lived in the woods with a man she considered to be her husband.

Living in the woods was "somewhat" of a choice, Shorday said.

She was doing a lot of writing, including poetry, to pass the time.

On Easter Sunday, she went to church at Lifehouse West at 1028 Salem Ave. Members of the congregation doing outreach with area homeless people invited her to join them.

"There are a lot of beautiful people out there that help us," Shorday said.

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