A GoFundMe campaign was launched on Aug. 18 in support of Meg Shimatsu, 54, who is living in her car and hopes to regain her health and employment.
Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez wrote about Shimatsu in the newspaper’s Aug. 19 edition, prompting many on social media, particularly Japanese Americans, looking for ways to help.
“I’ve been on dialysis since 2012,” Shimatsu wrote on her GoFundMe page. “I’m also homeless and living out of my car. Disability is my only source of income. My treatments are 3 x a week for four hours at DaVita. It can leave me tired and exhausted on dialysis days. I have my good and bad days. It would be difficult to work a full-time job due to my schedule and how well I feel, which depends day to day.
“I started this GoFund me campaign to help for expenses relating to transplant surgery and a used car to help me go to my various doctor’s visits. I’ve been told that transplant medication is costly and may not be 100% covered by insurance. My car is quite old and may not last much longer.
“I’m on a transplant list and in Los Angeles County the wait can be as long as ten years. To say I’m on borrowed time is an understatement. Eventually I’d like to move into a permanent apartment and live an independent life. Any amount would help my situation. Thank you in advance. Help spread the word!”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 44 people had raised $3,135 toward the $10,000 goal.
According to Lopez’s article, a daughter of Japanese immigrants and a Los Angeles native, has a college education and used to have a good job and an apartment in the Cheviot Hills area. She was diagnosed with diabetes almost 20 years ago and learned that her kidneys were giving out nearly 10 years ago.
During the recession, work as a legal secretary became harder to find, and on her medical disability income, she could no longer afford her apartment. She moved in with a sick, elderly friend in Eagle Rock, but the friend died in December and the landlord raised the rent.
With financial help from a brother living overseas and a niece in Colorado, Shimatsu checked into a low-rent motel, but living expenses left her almost broke. She moved in with a boyfriend in Carson, but that didn’t work out. By spring, she was living in her 1990 Corolla. She often visits the Women’s Room in Pasadena, a daytime refuge for homeless women. She has a gym membership, so she has a place to shower.
Shimatsu told Lopez that she is on a waiting list to get into a women’s shelter, but was told it could take forever. She was also concerned that proposed healthcare cuts will make her medical care unaffordable.
Shimatsu told The Rafu Shimpo that she is also on the waiting list for the 100-unit Casa Heiwa in Little Tokyo, but that the wait could be two years or longer.
Her brother has suggested that she leave L.A. or even leave California to find cheaper housing, but she would then be living in isolation in an unfamiliar place while chronically ill, and it would still be expensive.
“I’ve always been a self-sufficient person, and this is kind of a shock to me,” she said of her living situation.