By Laura Brady-Allen
As of press time in late November, there was still no official word on the cause of death of Sarah Marchain, the 25-year old woman who was found dead on October 17 in the homeless encampment under the 2 Freeway in Eagle Rock.
But more has been learned about the life of Sarah Marchain. The information came from her older sister, Lisita Marchain, of the San Fernando Valley, who reached out to the Boulevard Sentinel to talk about Sarah.
Lisita said she wanted people to know that Sarah was “a great person who suffered from Type 1 diabetes while struggling with homelessness.”
Lisita also said she wanted people to know that Sarah tried to get help, but never connected with needed services. Hospital visits resulted in “stacks of paperwork,” said Lisita, rather than the hands-on help her sister needed to manage her diabetes and find housing.
The Marchain sisters had difficult childhoods. They grew up in El Centro, the largest city in Imperial County. Their father was not in the picture. Their mother, who had Type 1 diabetes, died at age 46, while Sarah was still in high school. “We come from nothing,” said Lisita.
Following their mother’s death, the mother’s best friend helped to care for Sarah until she graduated from high school. Sarah “loved animals and wanted to make it on her own,” said Lisita. But diabetes interfered with the jobs she got at restaurants. “She was tired. She had to wear special shoes,” said Lisita, referring to diabetes complications that had led to the amputation of several of Sarah’s toes.
Sarah moved from El Centro to Los Angeles in 2014 and stayed with Lisita in her apartment. But by 2016, the apartment had become too expensive and the sisters needed other living arrangements. Lisita rented a room and Sarah began squatting in vacant structures and living on the streets in and around the Glendale area.
Lisita recalled a harrowing experience that occurred while Sarah was living in a tent in Glendale with a boyfriend: The boyfriend died in the tent with Sarah present.
Lisita traces Sarah’s move to the encampment under the 2 Freeway to mid 2016, when Sarah joined a new boyfriend who was living there. Lisita said the boyfriend was in the tent when Sarah died.
Lisita said she visited Sarah many times at Adventist Health Glendale, located near the encampment under the 2 Freeway. She said that Sarah reached out many times to doctors and social workers, asking for help to keep control of her diabetes and to secure housing. But once back on the street after release from the hospital “she couldn’t get her insulin,” said Lisita, adding that recommended follow up Sarah would have had to undertake all on her own was beyond her resources and capabilities as a homeless person with diabetes.
Asked for comment, Adventist Health Glendale said in an email to the Boulevard Sentinel that it could not comment on the care or treatment of any individual due to privacy and confidentiality issues, adding, “However, we can say, we have a robust homeless discharge policy in place. We manage the care of these members of our community with the same dignity and respect that all patients should expect to receive and deserve. We are deeply committed to the safety and the well being of all of our patients.”
The Boulevard Sentinel also asked Monica Alcaraz about Sarah. Alcaraz, a longtime outreach worker in Northeast Los Angeles, is the regional coordinator of Exodus Recovery, a mental health and homeless services agency that receives outreach funding from the voter-approved Measure H sales tax.
Alcaraz said that she did not personally work with Sarah. Alcaraz said that homeless people with diabetes face numerous challenges, including lack of refrigeration for their medication, lack of healthy food and problems getting to appointments because of transportation difficulties and the fatigue they experience when they’re not getting proper medications.
Lisita said she cannot understand how a city like Los Angeles “with so much money,” cannot give the homeless the “attention, guidance and assistance” they need to survive.
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