My name is Neisha, I am 45 years old, and was born in Grand Junction, CO. My parents were both 16 when I was born. My grandparents tried to get my mom to give me up but she wouldn’t do it. My parents divorced when I was one year old. My mom was married a total of four times by the time I was ten years old. Gene is her fourth husband and they have been married 35 years. I have a little sister, Richelle, from mom’s second marriage. Shondra is a step sister from Gene.
My dad was married a total of four times by the time I was twelve years old. He had three daughters from his second marriage. He and his fourth wife have been married for 32 years.
At some point in my teenage years I started to become bitter. My multiple sets of parents had a lot of hardships and difficulties. I think I assumed that some of their sharpness was directed towards me, although in hind sight I am not sure that was true.
I ran away and hitchhiked to California when I was 13. I met an Italian man on the beach. He was 25 years old. He offered me a place to stay and I ended up staying for the next few years.
While in California I was having sex with dealers for drugs but I wasn’t working the streets. I had my first child a week before my 17th birthday. By the time my daughter was born my parents had moved to Arizona from Colorado.
My Italian and I decided to move to Arizona. I was clean and had a job. We were only in Arizona for a few weeks before my boyfriend left to go back to California. I didn’t hear from him again until my daughter turned 18.
Losing my daughter sent me over the deep end. I met a dope dealer, Ralph, who got me strung out on heroin and was very abusive.
Ralph introduced me to working the streets. We were together for around six years.
Ralph taught me how to trick the tricks. I convinced one that we were going to get married. He gave me $14,000 to buy a gown and make wedding plans. I also had a child with Ralph, her name is Bobbi. I was using drugs the whole pregnancy. Bobbi tested positive for heroin when she was born and she was taken away.
My third daughter is Chanel. Her dad is Billy and we were together for a year and a half. I got pregnant right away and I used drugs again the whole pregnancy. We were working the hotels on East Colfax. I was doing some hooking but mostly I was setting up men to get robbed. I would pick up men, take them to the hotel, then Billy would show up and rob the men. Eventually we were busted by an undercover cop.
I have had several trips to women’s correction facilities. My longest stint was over five years. Joyce was a black woman I met in jail. Two years after we met we became a couple and were together for eight years. I was working, going to school, and doing well while we were together. Joyce had two children which I helped raise.
I have so many more stories about my life to share but too much for this project. For now, I am clean of drugs except for marijuana that I use for knee pain. I am trying to get into a recovery program for sex workers. I recently reunited with a black woman named Dorinda, who I was in a relationship with when I was 20. I am living with her right now but I don’t know how long it will last. We have not seen each other for 20 years and we are different people now. If I can’t stay with her, I have no other place to live except the streets. I am still turning tricks and I receive minimal disability support for my knee, schizophrenia, and personality disorder. Tricks and disability support are not enough to even pay rent on a cheap place. I will keep trying and hopefully something will change soon.
I moved a lot when I was little because of the various marriages, although we never left Colorado. My mom worked in a bar and in an office for tree trimmers. My sister and I were with babysitters a lot. When I was around eight years old, a babysitters’ son molested me for about a year and a half. He tried to molest my younger sister too but I wouldn’t let him. I told my mom but she did not believe me. Not long ago my sister told my mom about the molestation and she finally believed. After mom married Gene, we lived well for a while, until the economy collapsed in the Grand Junction area.
I loved school. I loved math, reading, and music. My favorite subject was English. I liked to write. I tried to play instruments but my mom couldn’t afford them. They didn’t have programs for low income families back then to help kids get involved and overcome their environment.
"I don’t want to say ‘escape your environment’ but ‘overcome your environment.’ Because I think more often than not we are products of our environment. When you live on low income and your mom barely has enough money to feed you, you don’t get to do a lot of extra-curricular activities.”
I didn’t graduate high school but I did get my GED.
After my boyfriend left I became very depressed and overwhelmed. I started using heroin really heavily. My mother told me I had to leave. I soon had a new boyfriend whose mother ran a daycare. My daughter got to stay at the daycare while I worked. Something happened and she turned me into social services. I came home from a job interview and my daughter was gone. I still needed a job so I started stripping and soon my daughter was taken away from me permanently. My parents adopted her because I couldn’t take care of her or myself.
I knew as a teenager that I preferred women but I grew up Catholic and thought I couldn’t love women. I thought I was broken. When I had my daughter I thought, “Finally I’ll have someone who loves me the way I love them. I had no idea that that love doesn’t come for years down the road. And I do mean years.”
I spent a night in jail but Billy was sentenced to two years of jail. After Chanel was born, I took her to see Billy in jail. He told me that I should go live with his sister. Turns out his sister was lesbian and we ended up in a relationship.
Billy’s sister was getting methadone treatments. On one of our trips to Denver I ended up in a shooting gallery with my baby. I OD’d and I believe I literally died. The people in the drug house dragged me out to the street and left me. I woke up in the hospital and Chanel was gone. She was taken away from me but my grandmother adopted her.
I went off the deep end again. I had three suicide attempts and heavy drug abuse. “I wanted something different…but I thought that those weren’t possible for me because I was broken. I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I was unlovable.”
Fall 2016 update: Neisha entered the Street’s Hope program in summer 2016. She was able to get the medical help she needed, which included knee surgery. One week following the surgery, Neisha passed away. I am not aware if her death was due to a complication from the surgery or another cause.