Meet Your Vendor: Ebony

My name is Ebony Giddens Flournoy. My mom was an alcoholic and so my older brother and sister would take care of all us, because we were little, you know. One of my sisters died because she was taking pills and she passed away; my other two brothers are in prison. I was born in San Diego, CA. I used to do heroin and cocaine in San Diego and my mom got me off of that and got me on methadone, and ever since I was on that, I haven’t done any type of drugs. I was in a situation where I didn’t know what to do.

I went to San Diego State University and went to their City College. I studied cosmetology. I always wanted to do hair and French braids and things like that. I used to do it on people and help them. I appreciate some of the things that I did, like get my cosmetology license.

I came here in 2001 or 2002 to get my cosmetology license in San Francisco. But I got sick and I was having seizures. I was at SF State University and I had shingles on me, and they took a whole lot of blood from me. This happened about four years ago and that’s when they told me I was HIV positive. That’s also when I got married. I’ve been homeless and I don’t really have a place; it’s not similar to San Diego where there isn’t really homelessness—they’re way out of the city. Here there are shelters and lots of homelessness.

Someone told me about the papers. You can get a little bit of money and get yourself some food and a place to live. I used to do hair in Oakland on International. I stayed over there for about 2 years. I didn’t have my own place over there, but I had a little booth.

My husband jumped on me and took all the teeth out of my mouth. Half the time I don’t do nothing but it’s because I have to think about everything I went through, like being jumped. I sell the Street Sheet because I have to get a couple of dollars to get food and some other things.

My mom died 5 years ago and so I went back to San Diego, and then I came back to San Francisco. And then that’s when my dad died. I been trying to be strong, but when I found out when I was HIV positive, that was difficult.

I was in the women’s shelter and they said, you can sit in this chair. You just sit in the chair all day and night because they don’t have beds. Then I stayed at another shelter for six or seven months, and then they got me a place, but I still have to pay so much rent.

I’ve been raped and hurt and I went to court and they never helped me. I’ve been to the hospital and no one does anything. They discriminate against me and they’re racist. I caught my foot on the bus—the 14 bus—and it clocked my foot, but the driver kept on pushing. I woke up and my foot was huge, so big, I couldn’t even walk.

I’m just pushing my best. Really. I just try to do my best. It’s bad. I’ve been through so much. It’s been hard, girl. I’ve been depressed sometimes I come get the paper and read them and sometimes I just sell them, and that’s that. I’ve been selling for six, seven years. They were real nice to me up in here.

Sometimes I go to 10th and Folsom or the library to sell the Street Sheets. I started selling the Street Sheet when I first got to San Francisco. It’s helped me a lot. It gives me money so I can eat and stuff like that. Most people are nice to me when I sell it, some people try to harass me though. It scares me after being raped. It’s hard but I’m so happy I have the Street Sheet. The rent where I stay is so high.I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. There should be an opportunity for homeless people for a place to stay. There’s no opportunity for people on the streets. I have to try and stay positive though. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad days but you just gotta keep going.