Living unmedicated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Eugenia Hunter has a hard time recalling how long she’s been staying in the tent she calls home at the bustling intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland’s hip Uptown neighborhood. Craft coffee shops and weed dispensaries are plentiful here and one-bedroom apartments push $3,000 per month.
“At least the rats aren’t all over me in here,” the 59-year-old Oakland native said on a bright August afternoon, stretching her arm to grab the zipper to her front door. It was hot inside and the stench of wildfire smoke hung in the air. Still, after sleeping on a nearby bench for the better part of a year, she felt safer here, Hunter explained as she rolled a joint she’d use to ease the pain from also living with what she said is untreated pancreatic cancer.
Hunter has been hospitalized repeatedly, including once last summer after she overdosed on alcohol and lay unconscious on a sidewalk until someone stopped to help. But she is reluctant to see a doctor or use Medi-Cal, California’s health insurance program for low-income and disabled people, largely because it would force her to leave her tent.