Faces of the Homeless: Rosario, “Just Checking In”


Those few Valley citizens who get to know homeless people by name always notice when they’re missing. Rosario Quintana goes missing frequently, but because she’s almost always very visible, word gets around among people who know her whenever she turns up, which could be anywhere from Riverbank to Modesto and points beyond.

In the late fall of 2015, Rosario was seen on Oakdale Road, south of Briggsmore Avenue. She had her belongings in cardboard boxes—a lot of boxes. At the time, Rosario steadfastly refused offers of help, including transportation to one of the local shelters, because, “I’ve got to watch my stuff.”

One day, in the dead of winter, Rosario was gone. In a few weeks, she was seen again on Ninth Street in Modesto, a few blocks south of the train station. Then she turned up on Mitchell Road in Ceres.

After that, there were few reports until late fall of 2016, when Rosario was seen near the intersection of Briggsmore Avenue and McHenry Boulevard, in Modesto. As always, she seemed cheerful and upbeat, accepting offers of food and warm clothing, but refusing assistance to go to a shelter.

County outreach workers who talked with Rosario offered a tentative diagnosis of anosognosia, a condition characterized by the belief that one is perfectly sane when in fact mentally ill. At the time, Rosario spoke of family problems and estrangement from her loved ones, and said she makes herself visible so people can see she’s not using drugs.

Last week, Rosario turned up at the Modesto Farmer’s Market, sitting on one of the walls of the county library. She was wearing a nice tweed coat and had acquired some quality luggage, but still had enough baggage to make one wonder how she managed to move everything during her frequent wanderings.

Rosario said she had visited Riverbank and even Merced over the last few months, and still seemed cheerful and positive. She had been to Modesto Junior College in search of classes and said she would soon be working on her GED at a local learning center.

Rosario, 2016

Even though she appears in good health, Rosario’s feet have taken a tremendous beating, probably because of the effort she makes to move all her belongings from place to place during her rambles. Apparently, her only breaks from living on the street are when she’s in jail for the usual homeless people’s “crimes” of camping and loitering.

Currently only a few short blocks away from the county’s new Homeless Outreach and Engagement Center, it’s highly unlikely Rosario will ever approach it voluntarily. And even if she were to seek help, her immediate need is shelter—exactly what sixteen or seventeen hundred other people need here in Stanislaus County, and won’t be getting anytime soon, given the lack of funding and political will for a “Housing First” approach to homelessness.

Just one among over a hundred-thousand homeless people in California, Rosario will very likely be on the streets again next winter, assuming she survives this one—just another stranded soul in the country some still call, “the greatest nation on earth.”

Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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