by Ann Wolfe
I’M FROM THE STREETS. I grew up in Louisiana, and my parents died when I was eighteen. My mother died from cancer, and my father was murdered. About three and a half years after that, my brother was murdered in Austin, so I moved here in 1992 to find out what had happened. It was a hard life. I was homeless, and I slept under a bridge. But you know what I found out? That if you want to be someone, people will help you.
In Austin I didn’t have a driver’s license or a Social Security card. Even the Salvation Army had an identification system, but being there was worse than being on the streets. They put women and children with drunks and dope addicts, and it wasn’t safe. So I learned how to ride the bus all day. I learned how to go to a Wal-Mart that stayed open all night and to the hospitals when it was cold. If you don’t have medical insurance and you go in at ten o’clock, twelve o’clock at night, they can’t see you until the morning. But guess what? You stay warm all night.
One day, in 1996, I was sitting in the hospital, and I saw two girls on television boxing. I was always athletic; I played basketball, football, baseball, everything. And I had to fight on the streets sometimes whenever someone tried to take what I had. Believe it or not, it was the men that tried to take things, not the women. And to tell you the truth, if I hit someone one time, I would hurt ’em. On the streets you have to defend yourself. If you’re weak, you die. A lot of people don’t understand that. So when I saw these girls fighting, I thought, “They get paid to do that?”
So I started looking around at gyms. I went to the Montopolis Recreation Center,