As we continue to share some of our most perplexing mysteries, I want to share the story of Annie Anonymous. Annie (as we came to call her) showed up at the Breakfast Church wanting to talk to a pastor. This was when I still worked there and when random people showed up- it was usually my job to speak with them. She was likely in her 30’s, fairly put together and easy to talk to. She wanted to meet somewhere private so we met in the conference room. When a single female comes to us and wants to meet privately, one of the first things we think about is an abuse situation and we will make every effort to find a private place to meet.
That wasn’t the case in this situation- at least not entirely. Annie began to tell me her story. It was fascinating and took many twists and turns. As I listened, I tried to figure out what it was she needed from me- other than actively listening. Eventually, she asked me to share resources in the community for housing, employment, food, and any other assistance I could think of. I gave her all the information I had. What was truly mysterious was that while she was telling me lots of details about her situation, she wouldn’t share her name with me. That seemed a little fishy. In most situations, I usually get a name and not many other details! She was also one of those people that could talk forever and it took a lot of re-directing to get her to move on. She assured me she wasn’t in immediate danger and thanked me for my time.
After that sort of strange encounter, I didn’t think of her again until she came up in a care team meeting. We are lucky in this community that those of us who work with people experiencing homelessness or needing assistance talk with each other regularly. It is one of the perks of living in a smaller town and truly has an impact on the ways we can work together. As we were meeting, one of the team asked if anyone of us had had an encounter with a pleasant young woman with a long and maybe beliveable story, but who wouldn’t share any identifying information. Most of us commented yes! She had paid many of us a visit. The team was perplexed as to how to help this young woman and confused about what it was she actually needed. She wasn’t homeless but might be living in a space unfit for human habitation. She might be being stalked, but also her stalker may have been in jail in another state. She might have needed financial assistance, but needed it without giving her name and being in the system. It seemed our friend was making the rounds and sharing a similar story, but not accepting help from any of us because we all require some kind of name (even if it was a made up one).
She continued to bounce from agency to agency. All of us reassuring her that her information was safe, but that we couldn’t provide her with sustainable help unless we had a little bit of information to go on. It appeared that she eventually was homeless- but didn’t share her name with any of the people she spent her days with. Many of them were just as confused about who she was.
I haven’t seen her since last winter and in checking with my street friends, no one has seen her around. I wonder if she has moved on to a different community, if her story has changed, what parts of what she told us were true? It remains an unsolved mystery.