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Chemical allergies force woman to live like homeless person

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Former Evergreen resident is back, seeking safe place to live

By Vicky Gits

After being forced out of her bug-sprayed house in Santa Fe, a woman has found her way back to Evergreen in a desperate quest to find a safe place to live.

The woman, Julie Tambourine, is suing an exterminating company for spraying her house in New Mexico with pesticide in 2006 by mistake, after she had already lost her job as a flight attendant due to chemical exposure on international flights.

Meanwhile, she is living mostly outdoors and sleeping in her RV, parked in public places. She is also in dire need of a service dog costing about $2,500. The dog would not only be a companion but a living chemical detection system that could help her avoid toxic substances, she said.

It’s doubly hard to find a place to live because she is disabled and has severe chemical sensitivity to conventional housing.

She needs a small space that has not been sprayed with pesticides and where no one has used ant or rodent bait.

She is allergic to makeup, non-organic fabric, most shoes, mold, cigarette smoke, aftereffects of previous smokers, new carpet, paint, air fresheners and other people’s pets.

With the help of Evergreen attorney William Finger, Tambourine filed a lawsuit in Santa Fe District Court on March 11 asking for an undetermined amount of damages from Terminix on grounds of negligence. She has another attorney, Scott F. Voorhees, in Santa Fe.

Tambourine wants only to settle down and resume her life of training horses and helping others. She wants to stay in Evergreen. But it’s tough when you are allergic to everything, including scented kitty litter.

In person, Tambourine appears healthy.

“It’s not like drugs or alcohol screwed up my life,” she said. “I’m not a typical homeless person.

“People don’t know what to do with me,” she said during an interview in the parking lot of Elk Meadow Open Space Park, which she deemed a safe place. 

Mobile lifestyle

In the meantime, Tambourine is making the rounds of social-service agencies as she tries to find a place that her broken immune system will tolerate. She has been told that her quest is hopeless.

Tambourine, 48, lives on a disability award from Social Security and worker compensation from United Airlines.

She is capable of paying between $500 and $1,000 for rent, she said, but so far has been unable to find a place to live in the Evergreen area. She lived in Evergreen from 1985 to 1995 while working as an airline attendant. Because of limited insect spraying here, she thought it might make a compatible living environment.

“I moved back here because I love it here and I feel better here,” she said.

Even something relatively primitive to live in without electricity or water would be OK, she said. She would even settle for a plot of land on which to park a small RV. Under special circumstances, she might be capable of taking on house-sitting assignments.

She previously lived with a white Samoyed, which doesn’t have the kind of fur coat that creates an allergic reaction. She hopes to find a service dog to replace the Samoyed, who died recently, and figure out a way to pay for it — as well as a sympathetic landlord who will let her keep it.

Ideally, she would like to find a place where she can keep her two horses and live nearby. She spends six hours a day training her horses.

Her attorney, William Finger, said Tambourine originally was poisoned when she was a flight attendant by being exposed to chemicals that 20 years ago were routinely used to kill insects on international aircraft.

After a catastrophic exposure to a pesticide-sprayed airplane, she lost her flight-attendant job.

Tambourine started the Cush Foundation for the environmentally sensitive homeless. She worked on various homelessness and environmental causes in Santa Fe.

Sprayed by mistake

Tambourine’s current troubles began when she bought a house in a subdivision called Eldorado, south of Santa Fe, in March 2006.

Four months later, while she was out of the house, a technician from Terminix International Albuquerque applied a pesticide called Demand CS to the house, without verifying the address or closing the windows, the lawsuit alleges.

He should have been at a home a mile away, says homeowner Alora Burton in a letter provided by Tambourine’s lawyer. Burton had a regularly scheduled appointment with Terminix.

The lawsuit alleges exposure to pesticides on her property compounded Tambourine’s medical problems, which include joint pain, breathing problems, hearing and balance difficulties.

The contamination led to medical expenses, financial problems, the loss of her home due to foreclosure, emotional upset, distress and anxiety, and psychological damage, the lawsuit claims.

Terminix has acknowledged that it sprayed the home by mistake but refused to do anything to decontaminate, help find Tambourine a place to live or compensate her in any way for the inconvenience and loss, the lawsuit states.

A representative for Terminix International in Albuquerque did not return phone calls. A spokesman for Terminix in Tennessee also did not respond to messages.

Tambourine can be reached by leaving a message at 303-670-5857 or sending a note to P.O. Box 3878, Evergreen, CO 80437.

Evergreen National Bank has agreed to set up an account for the benefit of Julie Tambourine to buy a service dog. To contribute, make check payable to “Evergreen National Bank FBO Julie Tambourine,” or “ENB FBO Julie Tambourine.” Mail to P.O. Box 2020, Evergreen CO 80437.

Contact Vicky Gits at 303-350-1042 or vicky@evergreenco.com.