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Woman fears homelessness

Sarah Gonser

Dorothy Simms is 67 years old, diabetic, wheelchair-bound and says she’s been diagnosed with breast and bone cancer. She has been staying at the Lucky Lodge in a South Lake Tahoe for four days but will be evicted Friday unless she can come up with the rent.

Simms claims she has not received her last two Social Security checks and her checking account has been closed, without notice.

“I don’t understand what’s happening. How could they do this?” Simms said. “I never thought Social Security could cut off a handicapped person.”

The motel charges $33 a night for a room.

According to Simms, Steve Blocher, the pastor of the Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church, brought a hamburger and some orange juice to her motel room and said, “get out of town, you don’t belong here.” Simms has no car and, in her wheelchair, finds it difficult to get around in South Lake Tahoe.

“I ate the hamburger, but that didn’t last long. Christmas Cheer brought me a bag of snacks, which is good for my diabetes. But there’s no kitchen here so I can’t cook. I guess when they kick me out on Friday, I’ll just live in the street.”

Blocher felt that the help he offered was rejected.”We try to help those who really need help,” he said. “But there is a large percentage of folks who don’t want help unless it fits their own program, and Dorothy is in that category.”

Blocher said Simms gambles a lot and has many financial obligations, but also stressed the frustration of not being able to really help someone unless they are willing to be helped.

“I’m sorry that all I could do for her was get her breakfast,” he said. “She does have family in the Bay Area but she refuses to live with them.”

According to Simms, her husband worked for the government at the Defense Electronics Center in Columbus, Ohio. She worked as a postal clerk. They were legally separated when he died in 1987, around the same time that she was diagnosed with breast and bone cancer. Simms received Worker’s Compensation to cover her medical costs. When that ran out she filed for Social Security but says she was rejected. She was on welfare for three months before her doctor was able to get her Social Security. Two months ago, Simms said, a social worker named Judy Ruston changed the receiving address on Simms Social Security checks. “When I called Social Security, I found out that my checks were going to Judy’s address. For two months now I haven’t received them.”

Ruston said Simms allegations are not true and that the Social Security situation was being cleared up. “Dorothy is in no danger of being kicked out,” Ruston said.

However, the manager of the motel where Simms is staying said the motel is not residential.

“Her rent is due, and with the holiday coming, it’s not like we can carry her,” he said. The motel manager refused to give his name.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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