Meet Your Vendor: Lisa Demb

Lisa Demb. Photo by Robert Gumpert. 

I grew up in a San Fernando Valley suburb, Woodland Hills, California. I left home at the age of thirteen casting off a depressing and painful environment. I had the fortune to receive a scholarship to one of Princeton University’s first female classes, class of 1977. I studied psychology. When I graduated, I worked with autistic kids in San Francisco at Burt Children’s Center. One child became verbal after we bonded. His parents were angry because they assumed he had been able to talk. My father had given me alcohol at the age of 8; my mother, speed at the age of 12. I married and all went bad due to alcohol and drugs. Barely able to function, I said “stop the world, I want to get off.” I lost my job, children, housing, husband and became homeless for ten years.

I was a strung-out, heroin addicted prostitute when my kidneys failed in 2006. I spent 10 years on dialysis, at times selling Street Sheets. I was in the streets and on occasion would stay at the Next Door shelter. I was hospitalized many times and finally  placed in the medical respite part of Next Door. I was there for 9 months, then housed in an SRO (Single Room Occupancy).

In 2010, I went to Walden House and got off drugs and alcohol, turning my life around.Two years ago, I got a kidney transplant, a miracle due my to my faith in God, getting a chance to be alive without dialysis.

Having been a victim of human trafficking as a child, I was excited about  BJM (Because Justice Matters) moving into the space next to my SRO. BJM fights sex trafficking. I had run a house of prostitution, exploiting women, yet getting them off the streets and onto the internet. BJM outreach is my way of making amends to women.

I am in an SRO where half of my income goes to my rent. I’ve been approved for this new program called “Moving On.” People who no longer need SRO case management can get a section 8 voucher, then select one of 5 housing options. I look forward to living independently.

If I were to give advice to someone, I would urge them to know that they are perfect children of God and are loved by God. I’d urge them to be good to themselves and do positive things. A positive attitude can create a positive reality. We are powerful with faith and hope. AND WE DO RECOVER.

San Francisco, CA. SF