A Duluth woman’s path to homelessness

How did you get here?

The Duluth News Tribune provided an answer for one homeless person in the Northland — Roberta Kriegh, whose been homeless for two years since the dog she depended on for her emotional support died.

“I lost her right before I became homeless,” Kriegh, 37, tells the News Tribune. “She was my everything. I’ve just kind of been drifting ever since.”

At the time of her and her boyfriend’s interview with the paper, they had pitched a tent in the tower of a building at Leif Erikson park, but a cop has since sent them on their way to… where?

How did she get there? It starts with a mental illness.

She also has a criminal record covering 18 years, although it is not extensive. In recent years, it mostly has been misdemeanors for disorderly conduct. She went to prison in 2002 and was released in 2003.

Her mental illness diagnoses include a form of bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, Kriegh said. Also, “I have communication issues and anger — I don’t know, it’s not really anger, but I’m kind of scary, I guess.”

She doesn’t look scary. At just over 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 110 pounds, Kriegh has been diagnosed as underweight. Her doctor at Duluth Family Medicine Clinic gave her a “food prescription,” she said, but adding pounds seems to be a losing cause. She eats a couple of meals a day — at CHUM, at the Damiano Center or at Union Gospel Mission. Clothed in several layers, she walks to all of those places, and to the library, where she can charge up electronic devices and sit quietly. She walks back and forth to wherever her tent is. One day, when she had a pedometer, it showed she walked eight miles.

She’s had social workers to help but she turned away the last one who approached her at the park. She says she just can’t deal with people.

“It really sucks being homeless,” she said. “But we are very appreciative to have places like the Damiano, CHUM, Union Gospel Mission that help us out and will give us a place to stay and do provide us a meal or snacks. … Without them, we would be super lost.”

It’s hard to see how she’s not already super lost, or what the path is for her to get the help and a home she needs.