A life on the streets

Duff and Tara Rausch

Photo By shannon rooney

“We like to read,” said Duff Rausch, 39, as he sat on the sidewalk on Second Street with his wife, Tara, 28, and their new kitten, Sioux. “Sometimes we panhandle so we can buy books. We look in Dumpsters sometimes. You’d be amazed at the books people throw away.” Duff and Tara are among the growing number of homeless people in Chico. Both originally hail from New York. They came to Chico in June, when they were trying to get to Lake Tahoe, where they planned to celebrate their second anniversary. “We just never made it,” Duff said. “We’re not really sure if we’re going to leave or stay,” Tara added. For now, they sleep under a bridge where they have a “roommate,” a fellow homeless person who also has a cat. They frequently eat at the Jesus Center, but as they spoke, some college students gave them half a pizza.

Are you homeless by choice or by circumstance?

Duff: It’s a little of both—circumstantial, and we just choose to have a little freedom. I don’t have to go to a cubicle every day. I do like to work outdoors.

Have either of you read the Book in Common for this year, The Soloist?

Tara: I have. I like it because it portrays the discovery that not all homeless people are bad—that they are people, too, and that they have hopes and dreams, too, and they have something they can add to the world. It shows the other side. Just because you’re in this situation doesn’t mean you’re dumb.

What kinds of books do you like to read?

Tara: Books like Watership Down, horror stories, thrillers, true crime.

Duff: Fantasy novels, the Star Wars novels, Tolkien. We’re not too talkative in the morning. We just give each other a kiss and read for a couple of hours.

How do you stay warm?

Duff: We have our warm sleeping bags and each other. It’s not as bad as most people think. When you’re outside constantly, you get more used to it.

How is it eating at the Jesus Center?

Tara: It’s not bad, actually. They had some really good corn chowder today!

What would you like for people to know about the homeless?

Duff: We’re not all crackheads!

Tara: Yeah, I’m addicted to food.

Duff: Offer us work!

Tara: Just sit down and talk with us once in a while—a little bit of conversation to ease the mind. When people just have some understanding for us, that’s good.