The Untold Secret To Bed Sheets Malaysia In Less Than Six Minutes
Editor’s note: This story was updated after it was originally published, with additional edits to sections on Leah Naomi Gonzales’ interactions with public agencies and about her first husband.
Theo pops his head through the door of his tent and scrunches his nose against a cold breeze. If you cherished this short article and also you would like to be given more details concerning Bed Sheets Malaysia (check out this one from www.markusalbers.com) i implore you to stop by our own web-page. A mop of coarse black hair sticks up as the 7-year-old rubs his eyes and puts on his glasses.
No time to waste. The school bus will arrive in minutes.
Theo steps gingerly toward a stream at the edge of Berkeley’s Strawberry Creek Park. He slides down an embankment and disappears for a few moments as he relieves himself by the creek.
A few minutes later, back in the cramped two-person tent he shares with his mother, Leah Naomi Gonzales, Theo changes into khaki pants and a black sweatshirt. As Gonzales tucks his lunchbox into his Lightning McQueen backpack, he takes a few swings on a set of monkey bars nearby.
„You got your cereal and the milk and the spoon in your backpack,” she says. „OK, run!”
Together, the two sprint about a hundred yards to the street, where the bus sits idling. A panting Theo climbs aboard. The driver honks and waves at Gonzales before pulling away to take Theo to Thousand Oaks Elementary School across town.
This October morning has begun as many days have for Theo and his mom. They have been homeless, living mostly in tents or in hotel rooms, for much of Theo’s life.
Getting Theo to the bus is one of the simpler challenges they face. There’s dealing with the strangers who approach their tent at all hours, Bed Sheets Malaysia with the police who sometimes force them to pack up and move, with the hunger that sends them begging for money and food. Many days, Theo sits in his mother’s bicycle trailer by a freeway entrance as she holds up a sign to passing drivers: „Homeless Mother and Child.”
In 2019, Alameda County’s biennial count showed 23 children under the age of 18 unsheltered. Nationally, minors accounted for 5% or about 9,700 of the 194,000 homeless people who were unsheltered in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Bed Sheets Malaysia Urban Development. When those staying in hotels and other temporary housing were included, the number of homeless youths swelled to nearly 112,000.
Homeless kids as young as Theo, though, are rare. Berkeley’s official homeless count, in fact, showed no families with children among the more than 813 unsheltered people in the city in 2019. But Berkeley officials know well that Theo sometimes lives on the city’s streets with his mother. They have tried several times to help the two find stable housing, without success.
Children who grow up on the streets or without stable shelter face further troubles as they age, studies show. They have higher levels of emotional, behavioral and health problems, and are more likely to be separated from their families. Homelessness can also affect a child’s development: They have a harder time in school and are prone to repeat a grade, be expelled or drop out, studies by the National Alliance to End Homelessness show.
For Theo, most of these are faraway issues. Right now, for him, his mother and those trying to help them, the major concern is how, or whether, anyone can find a way to get this one homeless boy off the streets.
A Chronicle reporter and photographer followed Theo and his mother over the course of a year to try to capture, Bed Sheets Malaysia through the experience of a child living on the margins of a largely affluent community like Berkeley, the intractability of California’s homelessness crisis.
Theo’s situation is complex: His parents are estranged and battling in court over his father’s right to visit him. Gonzales has rejected mental health services offered by the city. She says she does not trust city officials and thinks they are working against her.
Berkeley officials say they’ve tried to help, but that Gonzales has been „unresponsive.” For much of this year, the city has paid for hotel rooms for them, but the mother and son are no closer to finding stable housing. Child Protective Services in Alameda County has received calls of concern about Theo, but city officials say there is no evidence of neglect, and homelessness itself is not cause for taking more aggressive action, such as removing Theo from his mother’s custody.
„No one should experience homelessness, especially children,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. „City staff has worked extensively with this family for years and will continue to do so. I am very concerned that they continue to face homelessness.”
At the heart of this struggle is Theo, a boy with simple desires: A home with his own bedroom, and a kitchen where he can bake a chocolate cake.
On a chilly December night, Theo stands silently between two oak trees in darkness as his mother fumbles around in her bike trailer for their flashlight. She finds it and gives it to him to hold.
Relying on its faint beam, Gonzales begins unfolding their tent. Theo kicks away pine cones, sticks and „anything else that will hurt our butts.”
He puts the flashlight against his mouth, making funny faces in the dark. Gonzales hands him a metal stake and he carefully pushes it into the ground.
„My hero,” she says.
Nearly 30 minutes later, the tent is still not up and Theo is tired of helping. He is cold and sleepy, desperate to snuggle under blankets and eat a snack. He starts screeching, poking his mother in the head, wrestling with her.
„I’m sorry that you’re outside homeless, honey,” she says. „You don’t deserve it, at all. No child deserves this, but mine really doesn’t deserve this.”
Earlier in the day, at this same spot, they had to take the tent down. Police gave Gonzales a citation; overnight camping isn’t allowed in city parks. So she pushed her overloaded bike trailer to a rack near Theo’s school and left it there before walking down the street to Mountain Mike’s Pizza, where Theo ate a slice. But with nowhere else to go this evening, they’d returned to the park.
With funds donated by residents moved by their situation, they’d been able to sleep in hotel rooms for several months. When that money ran out, they moved to Thousand Oaks Community Park near Theo’s school. Camping here meant Theo didn’t have to worry about missing the bus or being late to class.
Finally, Gonzales gets the tent set up and lines it inside and out with sheets and blankets. Wearing a jacket and a beanie, Theo climbs under five blankets and finishes a cheese stick. Within minutes he’s sound asleep.
A few weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Theo has a special day, riding the cable cars in San Francisco with a friend. But the festive day gets cut short. When he gets back to Berkeley, his mother is in the emergency room at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, complaining of extreme stomach pain.
Gonzales is convinced it is her hernia acting up, but the doctor diagnoses the problem as constipation.
„It’s not true. I don’t care what he says,” Gonzales says after the doctor leaves the room.
The next day, she goes to John Muir Health Urgent Care Center across town, complaining of the same pain. In the waiting room, Theo plays with yellow, purple and glittery slime. But on this Christmas Day, there are no gifts, no time to play outside.
„She’s the Grinch,” Theo grumbles. „Ruining Christmas.”
Naomi Gonzales was 14 when she arrived in the Bay Area in 1991, moving with her mother and four younger siblings from Tucson to Union City. Not long after they settled in, Marlene Dotterer discovered that her oldest daughter had skipped three weeks of school. Within the year, Naomi had dropped out, though eventually she would complete her GED and get her diploma. She ran away frequently, her mother said, but always returned within two or three days.
When Naomi was 17 she met a man she would marry. He was „the typical kind of guy she hung around with,” Dotterer said.
The couple had a son, Bed Sheets Malaysia but when the boy was 6, Child Protective Services took him away and granted custody to Gonzales’ sister. Now in his early 20s, her older son lives outside the Bay Area.
In 2001, Gonzales obtained a domestic violence restraining order against her husband. „No matter what I did to try to get it together after that … everything that could go wrong went wrong,” she said. Later that year, she moved into a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
Today, Gonzales’ relationship with her mother remains strained. In a text last year, Dotterer told her: „I know you have been abused and traumatized for many years. You need to understand that those are the very things that can break your mind. You probably cannot see it. But your choices and fears are not rational. I see you constantly refusing or sabotaging the very things that could get you off the streets.”
In another text, she wrote: „Theo needs to be free of this way of life … put him up for adoption.”
Gonzales believes that Berkeley officials have turned her mother against her, pointing to assessments they have made about her mental health and Theo’s as proof.
Gonzales shared reports by Berkeley Mental Health with The Chronicle that seek to offer insight into her distrust of law enforcement authorities and service providers. But she denies that she has any sort of mental illness and says she doesn’t need mental health help that the city has offered.
Her mother sees things differently. „She is not the same person she was,” Dotterer said. „Her mind has broken a little bit under all the stress.”
Gonzales blames the city for preventing her and Theo from getting the kind of housing they want. Apartments the city offered them were in inconvenient locations or had mold, she said. „The city of Berkeley was really not going to let me escape them,” she said, because „I knew too much.”
She lists a litany of allegations: City staffers worship the devil; they control the weather and make it rain on her tent; they are corrupt and trying to destroy her.
All she suffers from, Gonzales said, is the emotional pain of not finding a home for her son, of not providing the life she wants for him – a life where she can cook him dinner in a kitchen and eat meals with him at a table. She struggles with loneliness and the burden of being a single, homeless mother.
Her love and care for Theo is evident. When she disciplines him for acting out, Bed Sheets Malaysia her stern message is followed with, „I love you.”
„It’s not our fault,” she says to him when he misbehaves. „We did nothing wrong.”
Gonzales first met Paul Schrager at a friend’s house in 2010.
„He had this smile on his face. I was like, ‘That is a beautiful smile,’ ” she said, her eyes filling with tears at the memory.
Schrager, who admits he was a methamphetamine dealer at the time, had come to the house to drop off drugs. He and Gonzales began dating, beginning a rocky relationship that endured for nearly a decade. In 2012, Gonzales learned she was pregnant. She gave birth to Theo that fall.
By 2018, they had split. Now they are fighting over custody of their son.
Gonzales said Schrager was physically abusive to her and a drug addict. She blames him for her being homeless, saying his drug use and violence caused her life to spiral out of control.
Schrager describes their relationship as tumultuous.
„It has been a real turbulent ride with her,” Schrager said. „I had my faults. I tried my best. It’s been utter chaos ever since we met. It was literally a nightmare with her.”
Schrager, who was born and raised in Berkeley, now lives in an RV in West Oakland. He has been in and out of jail since 2008 for charges including possession of drugs, weapons and property crime, according to Alameda County court records. His 21-year-old son from a previous relationship lives in an abandoned bus near him.
While they were together, Schrager and Gonzales found shelter in various ways, living, among other places, at his father’s home in West Oakland, in motels and in a dilapidated RV at the Berkeley Marina.
The RV was the last place Theo consistently had a roof over his head. It didn’t have electricity or running water, and it didn’t run. But it was still safer than a tent.
„We were roughing it,” Schrager said. „But it beat having to pay hotels and having to stay with people.”
In July 2018, though, the city towed the vehicle, and so the couple started living in hotels.
Aside from a brief glimpse of him in June, the last time Theo saw his father was on Halloween in 2018. In an all-black ninja costume from Target, with his parents on either side of him, Bed Sheets Malaysia Theo walked in his school’s parade along Solano Avenue in Berkeley. Schrager has photos from that day on his phone: Theo smiling wide with his ninja mask pushed away from his face.
After the parade, Schrager said, Gonzales went back to their hotel and he took Theo to get pizza. Gonzales panicked when they did not return when she expected. She called police and reported him for hitting her several months earlier.
„I was just looking for a way out,” she said.
Gonzales filed for and received a criminal protective order against Schrager that prevents him from seeing her.
Schrager admitted he has hit her in the past.
„I shouldn’t have reacted or put my hands on her ever,” Schrager said. „I just don’t think it’s fair for her to totally shut me out of his life. I will admit my wrongs. I wish she would admit hers.”
Often, when his father’s name is mentioned, Theo hides under blankets or starts throwing toys, screaming or hitting his mother.
Still, he says, he misses his dad. „I still love him.”
Last August, a judge granted Schrager six days of visitation with his son each month, instructing the couple to meet at the Berkeley Police Department to exchange Theo.
But Gonzales has not shown up for the visits. Now, Schrager is suing Gonzales to abide by the visitation order. Late last year, a judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest after she didn’t show up for multiple court dates. She has not yet been arrested, nor is she likely to be.
The custody case was put on hold at the start of the pandemic.
„We are supposed to be reaching out to (homeless people) at this time and providing resources, not arresting them,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
Gonzales said she wants to protect her son. She doesn’t want him to grow up to be like Schrager.
Schrager said he has gone to rehab, taken anger management and parenting classes and been clean since June 2019. He wants Theo to come live with him in his RV or with his mother.
The thought of Gonzales „living in a tent with my kid, it is just eating me alive,” Schrager said. „I try to not even think about it too much because it drives me crazy.”
Theo kicks his feet into the air on the swing set at Strawberry Creek Park.
A young girl on the swing next to him asks where he lives.
„Right there,” Theo says. He points to the tent behind them. A green hammock is tied to two trees nearby.
„Do you like it?” the little girl asks.
„I don’t like it,” Theo says. „I only like the hammock.”
Theo doesn’t like to admit that he’s homeless, especially to his friends at school. „I don’t want them to not like me anymore,” he says.
He dreams of having a home with his own room. A place where he can have pajama parties. Where sharing a bed with his mom is a choice rather than a necessity.
„I don’t want to live in a tent anymore because I don’t want to sleep on hard ground,” Theo says.
City staff and Schrager have called Child Protective Services numerous times to intervene on Theo’s behalf, according to county records.
„We cannot force parents to do things and we don’t take children away from parents unless there is documented abuse,” Berkeley Vice Mayor Sophie Hahn said. „We can work with people repeatedly over time, but ultimately a child who is in the custody and care of their parent or legal guardian is subject to the decisions of that individual.”
Deputy City Manager Paul Buddenhagen added: „The condition of homelessness is not a CPS referral. … You cannot be considered to be committing child abuse or neglect just by virtue of being homeless.”
Berkeley officials said they have offered Gonzales permanent housing seven times, including five possible homes in the city. Gonzales said the city has only offered her two homes – one in East Oakland and a „mold-infested” home in Berkeley.
For nearly seven months last year, Gonzales had a housing voucher from the city that helped pay rent and provide social and supportive services. But such vouchers expire if the recipient does not find housing after six months.
In October, when Gonzales’s voucher runs out, she decides to confront the mayor at a Berkeley City Council meeting.
With Theo dozing in the bike trailer outside the council chambers, she steps to the podium.
„You guys didn’t do anything and now you’re saying I’m losing my voucher and you’re telling people that I’m housing-resistant,” Gonzales says. She refuses to leave the podium when her time is up, and argues with Mayor Arreguin. She stops only after Arreguin walks out of the room and officials turn off her microphone.
„I will just say, over the past two years, we’ve been working with this one individual to get them into housing,” Arreguin says to the audience after returning. „They’ve been offered multiple housing opportunities and have not accepted those housing opportunities, but we will continue to do everything we can to work with this family to get them connected to permanent housing.”
Along with long-term housing vouchers, Berkeley offers vouchers for temporary emergency shelter for two months. Gonzales has received several of those. With the vouchers comes a connection to an agency that provides a housing navigator to help search for apartments, contact landlords and submit rental applications. The navigator Bed Sheets Malaysia assigned to Gonzales worked on her case sporadically because she had many other clients.
Berkeley spends $5,000 a month to put homeless people up in hotels, and gave emergency shelter vouchers to 488 people from January 2019 through February 2020, the city said.
In early October, before her housing voucher expired, Gonzales met with the navigator and several Berkeley residents who had become concerned when they saw Theo camping in the park. The residents hoped to understand why it was taking so long to house them.
The navigator told Gonzales she would be back before 10 a.m. the next day to take her to see apartments. But the navigator did not show up, and several weeks later, Gonzales lost her voucher.
Later, the navigator reported that Gonzales had declined the offer to visit apartments. Deputy City Manager Buddenhagen acknowledged the navigator’s report may have been inaccurate.
„These people are creating lies to cover their tracks,” Gonzales said. „They’re going to keep doing this to keep me homeless with my child until I lose him or I’m dead. They don’t care.”
For Theo and his mother, life follows a seemingly perpetual cycle: They find a park to camp in, concerned residents try to intervene, they are moved into hotels until, eventually, help runs out. Then they are back on the street, living in a tent in a new park, where a new set of neighbors outraged at the sight of a little boy sleeping in a tent try to help.
Each time, that help falls away as those who reach out become frustrated with Gonzales. Some said they are „sick of being lied to.” Others said she’s manipulative.
Gonzales said those who offer to help ask too much of her. They want her to be available at specific times to view apartments, or want to have meetings with her. They expect her to always be reliable, something she says is impossible.
„I’m homeless,” she explained. „It isn’t that easy to show up for an appointment, let alone keep track of them.”
Tia Pelz met Gonzales one morning last fall when she took her 5-year-old son to Strawberry Creek Park in their neighborhood.
When they arrived, they saw police officers standing at a green tent telling a woman in tears that she had to pack up and go. After police left, Pelz overheard another woman tell Gonzales: „Don’t cry, you need to be strong for your son.” Pelz felt otherwise.
„It’s OK to cry,” Pelz told her.
With other neighbors, Pelz organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $5,000 to help Gonzales rent an apartment. She contacted several landlords, some of whom told her they didn’t want to rent to homeless people.
As the weather grew colder, Pelz fretted at the thought of Theo sleeping outside. So she used the money to pay for Bed Sheets Malaysia them to stay in hotels instead. It lasted for about a month and a half, until the city stepped in and began paying.
Colleen Gallagher is another neighbor who has sought to intervene on Gonzales’ behalf. She and Bed Sheets others met with Berkeley Mental Health officials in December and again in February to try to get Gonzales and Theo into stable housing.
City health staff offered Gonzales services, but required her to meet with them every week. Distrustful of the city’s mental health department, Gonzales refused.
The city then offered her a housing voucher through Alameda County, but Gonzales didn’t complete the paperwork.
Gallagher didn’t give up. She checked Craigslist every day and emailed landlords until she found an apartment. Recently renovated, it was farther from Theo’s school than Gonzales wanted, but near a bus stop.
Gallagher set up an appointment for Gonzales to meet the landlord, who was willing to give her a break on rent with help from the city. Gonzales didn’t show up.
„It’s probably the most complex situation I have ever encountered,” Gallagher said. „But the bottom line is that there is one small person who is not aware of any of those dynamics and doesn’t need to be and doesn’t deserve it.”
Once the coronavirus pandemic began, Theo and Gonzales bounced from hotel to hotel, Bed Sheets Malaysia with the city of Berkeley and residents who want to help footing the bill. In May, Berkeley Unified School District began paying for a hotel room at the La Quinta Inn for them, as well as for nine other homeless families.
The night before Theo’s school closed due to shelter-in-place orders, he came down with a fever. It would last three weeks, his temperature reaching as high as 105 degrees. At times, his stomach pain was so unbearable he would double over, clutching his belly, Gonzales said.
Theo said he doesn’t remember being so sick. Neither he nor his mother were tested for the coronavirus. Gonzales did not take Theo to the hospital, nor did either of them receive medical care.
Most of Theo’s days inside are spent glued to his school-provided laptop. He watches teens play „Minecraft” on YouTube for hours. Internet access isn’t a problem at the hotel.
While school was in session, he had class three times a week – for 30 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. He didn’t always attend, and when he did his mom would pester him to pay attention. He rarely completed assignments.
„Your class starts at 10 and now it’s 10:04. You’re four minutes late,” Gonzales says on a day in May.
Theo hisses and growls, pawing at her like an angry cat.
On another day, Theo tunes in for a few minutes, but when his mother goes into the bathroom, he mutes the class and turns on cartoons on the TV.
The days in quarantine are long. Sometimes Theo and his mom stay holed up in their room. Theo plays on the laptop. Gonzales sleeps. Other days, they go out on adventures: flying kites at the Berkeley Marina, buying M&M doughnuts from Rainbow Donut, using the hotel parking lot to play baseball.
Their existence continues as it has for the past year: living week to week, waiting for the school district or city to approve more hotel stays. The uncertainty keeps Gonzales up at night.
But on July 13, everything changes. Gonzales is told they have to move out.
In California, a hotel guest becomes an automatic tenant at a hotel, with protections from immediate eviction, if they’ve stayed there for more than 30 consecutive days. With funding from the city and school district, Theo and Gonzales had stayed for about two months at the La Quinta, and had been allowed to switch rooms after the first 30 days, Gonzales said. But now, another 30 days is coming up and the hotel wants her out. Gonzales doesn’t have another hotel room lined up.
„I don’t have anywhere to take him,” Gonzales says. Sitting on the hotel curb, she puts her head in her hands, tears streaming down her face. „This is a nightmare.”
The mental health department tells her it can pay for a room for 60 more days, if she can find a new hotel willing to rent to her. Most hotels in Berkeley have banned her for varying reasons, including fear that Gonzales will refuse to check out.
She can’t camp anywhere, either: She gave away her tent and extra blankets months ago, and can’t find one to buy when she calls around to area stores.
„That’s terrible!” a Berkeley Mental Health caseworker texts when Gonzales explains her situation. But the caseworker has to sign off for the night. „OK I really am leaving the office,” she texts. „I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
The night manager at La Quinta tells Gonzales she must leave soon or they will call the police. At 10:20 p.m., Bed Sheets Malaysia defeated and desperate, Bed Sheets Gonzales calls a friend who also is homeless.
„I need a tent,” she says.
Her friend tells her she and Theo can use an empty tent at a homeless encampment under a freeway overpass less than a mile away.
„I have to take my child under the freeway, the one place I don’t want to,” she says, overwhelmed and frustrated.
She drapes three heavy backpacks containing their belongings on the handlebars of her bike, and hoists another onto her back. Balancing carefully, she begins walking and then cycling toward the encampment. Theo pedals furiously behind her on his own bike.
They find their tent among dozens of others pitched alongside wooden pallet homes. Men come in and out of surrounding tents, approaching her and Theo. She greets them hesitantly. Theo runs into their new shelter and Bed Sheets Malaysia jumps onto a mattress left behind by its previous resident.
Their stay here would last just one night. The next day, Gonzales would find a new hotel room. But for now, for all she knows, this is home.
She hides their bikes under a tarp, steps inside the tent and zips it shut. She takes Theo in her arms. He burrows under the blanket, rests his head against his mother’s chest, rubs his eyes.
Gonzales kisses Theo’s forehead. She sings, her voice mingling with the sounds of the freeway, until he falls asleep.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you … Please don’t take my sunshine away.
Editor’s note: Since having to leave the La Quinta Inn in July, Leah Naomi Gonzales and her son have struggled to find a hotel where Gonzales feels safe that will allow them to rent with the assistance of a public voucher. Theo and his mother are currently back on the street, living in a tent in northwest Berkeley. Gonzales continues to hope for a more permanent living situation for her and her son, and has established a fund to raise money toward that goal. Information about the fund can be found here.