Her artwork made life a little brighter for other homeless women in Spokane. Conversations with her were lively, full of unique observations about trees and the natural world.
That’s how Spokane’s homeless community will remember Stephanie Meier, who died Tuesday after she was hit by a city wastewater truck while sleeping on the side of a road on the West Plains.
“It’s a hard day here because a lot of the women knew her well,” said Susan Tyler-Babkirk, the program director for Women’s Hearth.
Meier was a regular among the women who seek out drop-in services during the day. Among staff and clients, she was known for her creative side.
About a week ago, she decorated a window at Women’s Hearth with whimsical drawings of orange and blue people that seem lifted from the pages of a fairy tale.
“She was a very beautiful artist and really had an eye for color and design,” Tyler-Babkirk said. “She would create art on unusual surfaces. She designed just beautiful landscapes and gorgeous pictures on backs of jean jackets.”
Newspaper and court records show Meier had a difficult life. She was featured in a Spokesman-Review article in 2003 about a city anti-poverty program. At the time, she had recently lost her job as a blackjack dealer and was struggling to raise five kids while juggling college courses.
In 2005, The Spokesman-Review wrote about a coat drive where Meier picked up a jacket for her 4-year-old daughter. She said she spent much of her life staying home to raise kids, and had been unemployed since separating from her husband. She had enrolled in Spokane Falls Community College so she could improve her chances of finding work with a college degree.
About 2010, Meier started coming into House of Charity regularly for clothing and mail services, said Ed McCarron, the house’s director. There, she was a loner who didn’t spend much time hanging around the building, but was “very polite, always thanking us for whatever we could help her with,” he said.
She sometimes talked about her kids, but Tyler-Babkirk said she never saw Meier with them and suspected she’d become estranged from her family over the years.
About a month ago, court records show, she was arrested on investigation of burglary after workers found her sleeping in a hotel that was under construction on West Sunset Highway. Meier told police she spent the night inside.
A case report said Meier was staying at Hope House, a women’s shelter, intermittently and needed treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Though the West Plains might seem an unlikely destination for a homeless woman, McCarron said it’s not uncommon to find homeless people camping far outside downtown Spokane, out along the Centennial Trail or in the west and north parts of the city.
“I’m sure she thought she was off” the road enough to be safe, he said.
Tyler-Babkirk said Women’s Hearth will hold a memorial service to remember Meier once the women there have had a chance to grieve.
“She had dark days, but there was just this life force spirit about her that you couldn’t help but adore,” Tyler-Babkirk said. “She was definitely an integral part of our community here.”