“Humble,” “smart,” and “sweet” are how Franconia residents described Saniye Tetik White, a local homeless woman who was found dead outside Franconia Government Center early Sunday morning.
White, 55, frequented Franconia Road around the government center, the Koinonia foundation and the 7-Eleven. Around 4:10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, a police officer leaving Franconia District Station discovered her body.
The news saddened many local residents, who had reached out to White over the last few years. “Two weeks ago I talked to her and it was when it was really, really hot and I took her some water and some food,” said one local who wished to remain anonymous.
Residents who got to know White in the years she lived in the Franconia area said she had a wonderful sense of humor and was very respectful. One resident called her a “survivor,” and said she did not always accept charity.
“She was very humble,” said Donna Musleh, a Franconia local who came to know White over the years. “She wouldn’t always take things that people offered her. She would say she was good, that she was happy. She didn’t try to get over on anybody.”
Musleh said that White had a son and daughter, and that she helped White to contact her son and meet with him on occasion. White loved her children very much, one resident said.
White was from Turkey, and Musleh spoke with her about going back. “Sometimes she would say she wanted to go back to her country,” Musleh said, “and I would say, ‘Okay, I can make an appointment with the embassy and I can take you to the Turkish embassy and we can make arrangements to get your paperwork done through them, and we can send you.’”
But White never followed through. During a phone interview with Patch, Musleh said she thought White might have been afraid of the unknown.
Residents said that White was resistant to accepting traditional help, such as homeless shelters and group homes run by Fairfax County, saying she disliked them and would be unable to get sleep.
“I was one of several people who called different county offices to see what kind of help could be given,” said another resident who asked to remain anonymous. “But she really didn’t want to go to anything like that and said she was happy with what she was doing.”
Musleh said she was trying to find a funeral home that abided by traditional Islamic funeral practices, as White was Muslim and very religious.
“We’re sad,” Musleh said, “and I want to make sure she gets the proper respect and the proper name on her burial site and gets to rest in peace the way we all will one day.”
One resident said she hoped White knew she was loved. "There are a lot of people in the area who loved her and looked out for her and I hope she knew that," she said. "We’d gotten used to seeing her."