Another Georgetown icon passes. Beth was perhaps the most famous homeless person in Georgetown at one time. Some might argue it was Sky King who died back in the early 80’s before Beth arrived on the scene, but I can tell you of Beth’s fame far and wide. On a trip to San Diego 15 years ago, I told someone what I did, working with homeless people in DC. Their eyes lit up. Do you know the woman with the signs in Georgetown? Of course.
Beth was a survivor. She survived many years on the street with an untreated mental illness. Before that Beth survived a horrific accident that left her with a disabling broken back. She survived a very difficult marriage which eventually left her penniless and homeless. Her untreated mental illness distorted her thoughts and made it impossible for her to trust anyone.
When Ron Koshes, GMC’s psychiatrist, decided to write an order to have Beth evaluated in a psychiatric emergency room on a frigid winter night 15 years ago, I was pessimistic. She would just end up back on the street, trusting us less. Imagine my surprise when she called me from the hospital two days later and said, “Gunther, I am so mad at you for putting me in here, but I am so glad you did. I can’t believe how bad I had become.”
In her recovery Beth became her own best advocate. She surrounded herself with people who cared. But she was easy to love and to want to support in her recovery. She became a good friend to so many people here in Georgetown. She loved her apartment in Chevy Chase. She loved her part time job at the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown. And she loved and embraced her community at Dumbarton UMC. As much as Beth’s community gave her strength, dignity and purpose in life, we were all inspired by her.
We should not forget that she was an artist that at one time made jewelry which was sold in stores. Beth put herself through college and became a CPA. As a CPA she worked for the City of Williamsburg and the State of Virginia as an auditor. All this before being ravaged by a terrible mental illness.
Her greatest achievement in life was her recovery from that illness. When Beth could have complained about the bad lot she drew in life, she instead expressed constant gratitude for the many people who gave her life meaning.
She might have been an icon of homelessness at one time, but for us in Georgetown she was an icon of courage and perseverance.