The Weaver family is running out of time. And with a new addition due any day, things are getting pretty desperate. For Lexi, Chris and their two dogs, CJ and Mayday, there’s no room at the inn — at least no room that a homeless family like them can afford right now, even though they are saving every penny they can and trying to find work. Despite their efforts, a manger is starting to sound like a viable option.
As it stands right now, Lexi will be giving birth sometime in the next 10 to 20 days. She’s due in early December. That’s a pretty scary proposition for a 25-year-old woman living on the streets of Boulder in December when temperatures typically drop into the teens or single digits every night. Lexi hopes her child will be born with a roof over his or her head. She also wants her husband Chris by her side holding her hand, but the pair will need their luck to change for that to happen. They could use some help. “Not a handout, a hand up,” says Chris.
Few of us can even imagine what it must be like to be eight and a half months pregnant and sleeping on the cold, hard ground in winter, worrying continuously about what’s going to happen when the time finally comes, when the contractions are for real. And that torment isn’t Lexi and Chris’ only concern. It’s just another worry heaped on top of what to eat, how to keep safe and where to sleep so that the City of Boulder doesn’t write them a ticket for illegal camping, a ticket they can ill afford, especially now.
It’s easy to be judgmental. The couple hears the disapproving words and feels the condemnatory stares all the time. They’ve been told they shouldn’t be having a baby, and worse. Lexi says she’s been told she should abort her child or give it up for adoption because she’s homeless. It seems people in Boulder aren’t shy with their opinions. She says she also gets told that she should get away from Chris; just leave him because he isn’t providing for her.
To hear the pair describe it, Boulder’s sidewalk inquisition tends to be long on advice and short on understanding. Lexi and Chris wish people could understand that they are just a normal family, that they have chosen to be together and take care of one another and are doing the best they can in their circumstances.
Maybe it’s just not possible for most folks living more traditional lives to grasp what Lexi and Chris provide to one another. Maybe to understand the strength of their relationship and commitment, you have to know the paths they have traveled alone and together to get to where they are today.
Lexi has chosen to live outdoors for years. And while she says that she loves nature and the calming and artistic aspects it brings to her life, her choice is more a matter of her survival. Lexi has dreams, bad dreams.
“When I sleep inside,” she says. “I wake up screaming and have to get outside. I dream about women being raped and beaten, murdered. It’s terrible, blood everywhere. Even after I wake up I can smell and taste the blood, it’s so real.”
Lexi says the dreams are so frequent and horrific when she lives indoors that she decided years ago to just stay outside, on the street. She says she can handle the dreams better now that she’s with Chris. He calms her.
When asked about the source of her dreams, Lexi shrugs shyly and says she isn’t sure why she has them. It’s clear that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about her family or childhood. As a teenager she bounced around in foster homes in Utah until she came home one day and found her few belongings in the front yard of her last foster home and was told to beat it. Since then, it’s been the street for the most part. But still, those dreams come from somewhere.
When asked if she was sexually abused as a child, Lexi takes a long, uncomfortable pause, then says she isn’t sure and doesn’t want to know. She finally opens up a bit. She says, “My mom was a prostitute. My sister and I went to work with her every day when we were little. We watched everything she did. That could be part of it.”
It’s clearly difficult for Lexi to talk about. It’s safe to say that she’s had a challenging time in her young life, more challenging than most of us can imagine. Finding someone to share your life with when you’re too terrified to live indoors isn’t an easy proposition.
Lexi came to Boulder about three years ago. She met Chris hanging out on the Pearl Street Mall and liked him immediately. “He was really funny and nice,” she recalls. After checking with other friends who told her that Chris was a good guy and wouldn’t hurt her, Lexi decided to camp with Chris. She thought she could trust him and she knew she would be safer camping with him, and she was. But more than that, she quickly found that she enjoyed his company, and over time the two fell in love. They have rarely ever slept apart since that first night. “He takes really good care of me,” she says.
Chris is a pretty big guy. He’s 30 years old, a few inches north of six feet, with a dry sense of humor and a laugh that makes you want to join in. He grew up in Florida and he, too, has a pretty strained relationship with his family. Chris has had a variety of jobs in his life, including construction work and serving as a sous chef, which he says he really enjoys. Like Lexi, he embraces living outdoors, albeit for somewhat different reasons. He doesn’t have nightmares.
“I like living outdoors most of the time,” he says. “I like to say I’m home-free, not homeless.”
It’s fair to say that both Chris and Lexi are free spirits. Both are artists and sell their work on the street. They prefer selling art to panhandling. They say they like giving people something positive and beautiful. Lexi also reads poems and has worked with kids, leading reading groups and teaching crafts. The couple also shares a love for traveling. They still get around a fair amount, only now they do their sojourns as a family, including the dogs.
When Lexi first came to Boulder, she did so intending to meet up with a friend who had invited her to walk across America. The ultra-hike didn’t materialize, but still it speaks to her mindset when it comes to seeing new places.
In a perfect world, Chris and Lexi dream that one day their family, including their soon-to-arrive child, will travel the country in a food truck selling healthy dishes they’ll prepare using fresh, local ingredients from the region they’re visiting at the time. Such a lifestyle would fit well with Lexi’s need to be outdoors to escape her nightmares. It’s a nice dream, a great dream, really. And describing it seems to take the cold edge off of the morning for the pair as they sit outside of Alfalfa’s in their warmest clothes. There are still patches of snow on the ground, and it takes a while to shake off the night’s chill.
But this is not a perfect world, and these two expecting parents are also realists who, for now, would gladly trade their food-truck dream for a roof over their heads and a job for Chris. They understand the gravity of their situation better than you’d think, better than they want to. You see, they’ve been here before.
Just like now, a couple of years back, Lexi found out that she and Chris were expecting a child. Then, too, they were really excited about the prospect of raising a family, and they set out to find a home and settle down to parenting.
As Lexi begins to describe the birth of their first child, Chris steps away for a smoke as the tears begin to run down her cheeks. “The day little Chris was born was the most beautiful day ever,” she says. “We had him at home, in a little house we were living in, in Nederland. It was perfect. He was so beautiful.”
She wipes at the tears with her sleeve.
“Everything was going fine,” she says, “and then I noticed his feet started turning purple.”
Chris returns in time to add, “I thought he must be cold or something. I thought it was hypothermia because of the purple. I know what that looks like.”
They headed for the hospital, but it wasn’t hypothermia.
Little Chris had a strep infection throughout his newborn body. The couple claims he had also been exposed to deadly black mold that was growing in the house where he was born. Little Chris ended up at The Children’s Hospital, where he was placed into intensive care. Lexi tries to describe how the surgeons opened up her baby’s abdomen to try and get rid of the infection and mold. In the end she just says through her tears, “It looked so horrible.” At 10 days old, little Chris was gone. The couple’s first child had passed away.
Chris then recounts how the hospital called the couple the next day demanding $30,000. “They couldn’t even let a few days pass. The day after our baby dies,” he says emphatically, shaking his head, “they call to get their money … the day after.”
Lexi and Chris understand how important it is to be in an appropriate living situation when their second child is born in a matter of days. They want to stay together for the birth and after that as well. While both appreciate the places in Boulder that can help them to one degree or another — such as the homeless shelter and Mother House — they point out that most places aren’t geared to letting the couple stay together. Lexi says she can’t imagine not having Chris there to support her during and after the birth.
“I need him with me,” she says.
What they want is a place of their own to rent, a place where they can raise their child.
Chris says they haven’t saved quite enough to get into a place yet, but he hopes that they can put together the money they need before Lexi goes into labor. He says he could sure use a job, and fast.
Lexi and Chris may not be a family that resembles most of those in Boulder County. But they make no apologies for that. They have chosen to be together and have stayed together through difficulties and tragedies that would have broken up many couples living under more traditional and comfortable circumstances.
“I know we’ll make really good parents,” says Lexi. “People who know us say that too.”
Most of us will be celebrating our good fortune with our families this Thanksgiving. Lexi and Chris aren’t all that different. They will be celebrating their soon-to-be enlarging family as well this holiday, and hoping that better things are just ahead for them. We hope so too.
If you have any desire and ability to help out Lexi and Chris, you can contact them through Tom Cummins, who can be reached at a4sj123 (at) gmail or through Americans 4 Social Justice, P.O. Box 17356, Boulder, CO 80308.