This past Monday, Stephanie Harvey’s body was found in a dumpster around N. Lamar and Rundberg. My supervisor at the Travis County jail emailed volunteers to let us know that a woman who’d been involved in our program had been killed; she wanted us to know who it was before we heard it from the media.
My Facebook has been inundated with friends mourning the death of Esme Barrera these last couple of days and it has been horrible and heartbreaking to read about. I did not know Esme but wish I had – she seems like the kind of smart, caring woman who I would admire. I did not know Stephanie either – maybe she didn’t come to my class or only came once or twice – but I think I would have admired her as well. The women I meet in my class have endured such hardships and face such demons but they usually remain optimistic that their lives will get better, that this is the turning point, that they now have what it takes to get back out into the world and win.
And it’s so heartbreaking that the world sometimes does not let them. Sometimes what’s wrong with the world is stronger than one woman. In this battle to keep women safe, to keep them whole, sometimes we lose. My husband wrote about Stephanie as well, and one of her family members left a comment on his site thanking him for writing about her and telling him that she wasn’t homeless by choice but by circumstance; she wanted to fight her demons on her own. She had been to rehab several times but it hadn’t worked out. Her family tried to help her. While we live in different communities, Stephanie’s family mourns her just as much as my community is mourning Esme right now. While Esme’s friends are posting online, passengers of the #7 bus discussed Stephanie today. I don’t want to draw comparisons between the two or say that one is worse than the other. They are both horrible. Neither should have happened.
I want to remember women like Stephanie and families like Stephanie’s who live with and fight addiction. I meet women every week at the jail and now at Austin Recovery who are battling for their very lives and who really want to change. This is not easy work for them. I don’t know if it ever ends.
Edit: I want to add that after hearing from Stephanie’s families and friends, I realize just how small a city Austin is and how close we all are to one another. I wrote about “my” community and “her” community but the two overlap so much that they are really the same. I also spoke with a friend of Stephanie’s at Austin Recovery today, and she said that she could always tell that Stephanie had family who loved her and cared about her. The women at Austin Recovery are keeping y’all in their thoughts and prayers.