Residents of Lawrence camp say woman who died last week took care of houseless community

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Some people at the city-run campsite in North Lawrence continue to lament the loss of Susan Ford, the 53-year-old woman who died in her tent last week. 

Ford had been homeless off and on for nearly 30 years, sources said, and she prided herself in showing others how to survive outside. 


“She was strong,” Jennifer Adams said. “She taught us a lot — how to protect ourselves.” 

Friends of Ford said she would pump people up to accomplish small tasks that needed done. 

A man who goes by the name Queen said he had known Ford for about five years. 

“She was a great motivator, and she was a bit of a badass,” he said. “She’d been part of this kind of world for 30 years.”

Queen said Ford had welcomed him into her encampment while she was living under a bridge and sleeping in a hammock on Sixth Street a few years ago. He recalled how a couple of summers ago, Ford helped a homeless coalition hand out sandwiches from LINK to the library on weekdays. Ford would make sure everybody in the houseless community was fed. 

“She made sure everybody was taken care of when she had the means to,” Queen said. “She would make sure that we got everybody covered. She’d see somebody (we missed), and go, ‘We got to go take care of him.’ So she would zoom right over.”

Ford struggled with asthma and alcoholism, Queen said. She drank liquor when she had it, and suffered physically when she ran out. She wrapped her bottle in a blanket, and joked to friends by calling it her “baby.” 

Other residents of the camp said last week that they believed Ford may have died from complications of detoxing. She was found in her tent Monday, Nov. 21.

“People can be very judgmental about people and their addictions, vices or whatever, but for some of us that’s what you have,” Queen said. “(But) it was the hardest thing to watch. She’d just be shaking. She’d run out of alcohol and start to crave it, you know?”

Queen said Ford confided in him as a close confidant and told him when she felt nervous or afraid. He said they comforted each other. 

“We’ve always been tight. We (knew) each other,” he said. 

No one we spoke to was able to provide a photo of Ford to include with this article. 

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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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