After over a month on the streets, Mary Baca still has her nice watch and amethyst ring. That’s probably because she was lucky enough to wander into a park where Phil Ham and his long-time homeless friends often spend their days.
At sixty-two years old, Ham likes to joke that Mary, fifty-four, is too old for him. “I don’t go out with women over thirty,” he says. Nonetheless, when Mary wandered into the park, Ham invited her to share his food and cigarettes, and she’s been with him ever since. Sort of.
“She wanders off,” says Ham. “Sometimes she crosses McHenry Avenue with traffic coming both ways.”
Mary also has a tendency to roam at night, an especially disturbing problem for someone like Ham, who spends his nights in a permitted location.
“It’s hard for people with gear to go chasing around at night,” says one of Ham’s homeless friends. “You can’t leave your stuff because someone might take it.”
When Mary showed up in the park wearing clean clothes, a nice watch, and good jewelry, it was easy to see she was only recently on the streets. She told people in the park that she had been living in a new Nissan Versa which she’d recently paid off, but that a man named John Cassares had “hacked” her steering wheel and stolen the car.
From the beginning, Mary’s stories about a conspiracy to steal her identity and control her movements were bizarre even among the homeless population, where mental illness is common.
She says there are devices in her ears which enable her “controllers” to hear what she hears. “They can see through my eyes and make me go anywhere they want,” she adds.
For a while Mary used a small pair of needle-nose pliers to probe at her ears. Mercifully, the pliers went missing and she seems to have forgotten about them.
Nonetheless, she still tells stories about the men who have stolen her identity and never forgets to include the implants in her ears and eyes. In addition to their command of electronic surveillance and control, Mary claims her tormentors are expert pickpockets and routinely rob her of cigarettes and what little money she gets from handouts.
“Lately she’s been getting worse, and I don’t know what to do,” says Ham. “She probably needs medication and has forgotten all about it. A couple of days ago, a guy passing through offered her drugs for sex. We can’t follow her everywhere.”
Mary has consistently claimed that she worked for Safeway. Sometimes she says she worked for thirty years, other times the figure is seventeen years. “I worked graveyard but when I came home John Cassares made me leave so that’s why I started sleeping in my car,” she explains.
Mary says she was born in Scenic General Hospital in Modesto in 1961 and has relatives in Valley Home. She thinks her car is still parked near the park she frequents, but her homeless guardians believe the car was towed long ago.
One of Ham’s friends has also tried to help Mary, but soon realized she needs professional assistance. “She’s getting worse and worse all the time and I’m at my wit’s end,” he says.
Phil Ham also doesn’t know what to do with a very sick woman who almost certainly has family or friends nearby. “It’s wrong that she’s out here,” he says. “It’s just wrong.”
If you recognize Mary or know where she can be helped, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org