I am originally from O’Fallon, Missouri where I was born at St. Charles Hospital. My parents no longer have anything to do with me. They pretty much threw me away when I was sixteen when I got pregnant. I haven’t spoken to them since.
I did pretty well after that just taking care of myself, instincts kicked in. I dropped out of school, went straight to college. I got three college degrees, owned my own businesses and my own home by the time I was twenty. When I turned twenty one, I caught someone molesting my daughter and because I had a right to carry a firearm, I ended up shooting him. So they sent me to prison for excessive force, because I used more than one bullet.
When I got out of prison three and half years ago my whole life was different. Even my mentality, the way I thought. Institutionalized is a whole different ball game than people realize. Three months out of prison, I had my kids back in my life, they were living with me. The state gave me another chance but because I pissed off a Mexican cartel member at a gas station, they kidnapped me on my way home from work that same night. And for eight months, no one reported me missing, my kids had no idea where I was or what happened to their mother. They thought I was dead. This woman from Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, which I owe her my life, found me in Florida three days before they were gonna sell me to the Iraqis overseas. I’ve had multiple PTSD issues, multiple issues from all of the rapes and beatings and tortures. The cartel has tried to kill me twice in a car accident, and then once by hanging me in the middle of lake. But by the grace of God neither one ever worked, and I’m still here.
These people on the streets have given me the strength to survive because they have become my family, my friends. Very few actually know that I was taken by the cartel but the ones who do are the ones that love me the most. I am not afraid of the cartel anymore because I did stand up in court and I did say what they did and I stood up for all those girls that they did kill. I had to watch my best friend die in my arms because she refused to push that baby out because she did not want them to take that baby. So here I stand, 31 years old, and still on these streets walking from corner to corner, not afraid. Because if I show fear, then some of these other girls might start getting afraid. And I refuse to let them see that. From here on I just try to go from day-to-day.
I talk to my kids every weekend and I go see them every weekend…but recently I was diagnosed with brain cancer and due to my cancer, I refuse to bring my kids home until I know I am physically capable and financially capable of taking care of them. My cancer is terminal. There is no saving me from it. However, I write my kids a letter every single day, every day so that way even when I’m gone they know they’ve got my words.
My biggest fear is dying. I almost died once on the pavement in a car accident. I laid there watching everybody run from the scene of the accident, and that is my biggest fear...dying alone. And on these streets when it gets cold, or when people can get vicious, dying alone is my biggest fear.
So I live everyday like it’s my last, and I love everybody like I want to be loved because everybody deserves to be loved. I want people to know that I have a big heart. I don’t hate anybody. I don’t ever try to hurt anyone, and I don’t care how badly you’ve hurt me, I still love you. No matter what I will always love you.
My dream for the future is to have a home and to have a little bookstore. I just want a little bookstore where I can serve some tea or coffee, and the homeless can come and read and sit in warmth and drink coffee and it just feels like home. To me, that’s my dream. After a while I wanna buy an RV and I just hit the road and go see everything. To me that is the ultimate beauty - being able to see the world’s trees and the Grand Canyon and the Redwood Forest. You know, something that was never made by man, something greater than me. And I will do it one day too, the RV’s do not cost that much. And my dreams aren’t big, so they are possible.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Even if it’s a perfect stranger you’re asking for $5, don’t ever be afraid. Because you don’t know...that one person might be the saving grace you may need. Cause it’s just like Joan Osborne said in her song, ‘What if God was one of us’. You’re not gonna know it, you’re not gonna be able to tell by the look of him, but if you just aren’t afraid and you have that courage, Jesus could be right there in front of you, and He’s willing to save your life. All you gotta do is not be afraid.
I know for a fact at some point, if it wasn’t for God, I never would have survived that car accident. Because all the pain and the pure fear I felt within seconds, something touched my hand and I was nothing but calm. I was peaceful, I wasn’t afraid, it didn’t hurt, and then the next thing I know I woke up at the hospital. So I know it was God that saved me that day, so I always tell people, He’s always right there, you’ve just got to ask.
The Road I Call Home
Caitlin's story is part of the significant project "The Road I Call Home" which aims to bring new awareness, action, resources and love to the many, many special homeless people that call the road their home. It features over 150 individuals and includes an art exhibition of portraits, written stories, short-films and a planned future release of a corresponding coffee table art book. The project is in partnership with Gathering Friends for the Homeless.