34-year-old homeless mom Megan Doudney and her six-week-old daughter Nedahlia panhandle just about every day on Market Street, and the pair's appearances have been garnering a fair amount of attention in recent weeks.
The Chronicle's Heath Knight got to know Doudney and discovered some details on her situation details that might stop folks from snapping her picture and calling 911.
According to Knight, Doudney arrived in San Francisco five years ago on a Greyhound bus. The Nebraska native and cosmetology school student headed west in search of medical marijuana to help her back problems. Once here, scoliosis and chronic back pain led Doudney to become hooked on opioids. She became involved in a relationship with man for a few months and became pregnant. Nedahlia's dad is not in the child's life and doesn't pay child support.
Now off drugs, Doudney and Nedahlia have a private room at Hamilton Family Shelter and receive $900 a month in social security. The shelter withholds 75% of that income for Doudney's future once she's off the street. Because her remaining $225 a month doesn't cover the cost of caring for a newborn, Doudney panhandles, holding a sign on Market Street that reads "Anything helps."
Doudney keeps Nadahlia with her on the street which has upset some onlookers both worried about the child and concerned that the newborn is being exploited for sympathy. Authorities have received numerous 911 calls about the pair, and posts to NextDoor and social media have appeared in a flurry over the past few weeks. One North Beach artist followed Doudney and Nadahlia with a sign that “Women Against Child Abuse!”
"I love her," Doudney told the Chron of her daughter. "I wanted my entire life to be a mommy. Even when I was a little kid in school, they'd say, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' I always said, 'A mommy.'"
Other than a brief bout of low blood sugar discovered after an onlooker reported the child to authorities as not looking well, per CBS 5 Nadahlia is a healthy baby girl. The baby received a medical check-up as part of the city's mandated process for determining if Nadahlia should be removed from her mom.
"It's really important to remember that being homeless alone is not a reason that our agency would remove a child from a family," explained Chandra Johnson, spokeswoman for the Human Services Agency.
"She's using this child to make money. I think situations like this should be taken as seriously as human trafficking and prostitution," concerned citizen Olya Levtushenko told CBS 5 last week. Yevtushenko has been posting pictures of the pair on Facebook.
Doudney told Knight she'd like people to approach her instead of judging her and Nadahlia from afar. "I am human. You can stop and talk to me. You don't have to shake your head and give me dirty looks."
The small family can stay in their room at Hamilton for three to six months. Doudney is working with San Francisco city services to determine her and Nadahlia's next steps.
"I'm going to do what I need to do to support my child. Even if that means, you know, having to deal with stuff like this," Doudney told CBS 5.