Bernis Andrew is one of 17 homeless persons who’ve died so far in 2011. Those who frequent the downtown area may have known her, or noticed her sitting on an Upper State Street bench last spring. She disguised her homelessness well, was kempt with good-looking, not ragged, coats, combed hair, large black sunglasses. She almost always put on make-up in morning … despite everything … .the chronic pain she had from various falls and fractures, having to lug all her stuff around with her, having little to no money. If you scratched the surface of her patched-together appearance, Andrew’s situation was dire.
She was an alcoholic, a chronic one. She’d alienated her children, burned bridges in previous housing situations, including accidentally setting her bed on fire when she fell asleep smoking in an affordable housing complex in 2007. (According to the Sheriff’s Coroner’s report released today, the falling asleep smoking habit was precipitated by the anti-anxiety meds she took, which caused drowsiness.) To read more, see homelessinsb.org.