Living in mid-city Los Angeles I frequently face the issue of homelessness. My particular section of Wilshire, called Miracle Mile, has a few regulars. When it gets too hot out, they chase the shade with all of their earthly possessions. When it gets too cold out they huddle in thick blankets and build forts out of cardboard boxes and newspapers.
Yesterday, in my privileged state of being, I was enjoying a hot cup of tea while reviewing some reading for my public relations class. I love to people watch so I get very distracted if a tea house begins to fill out with transient or purposeful souls who are looking for a quick respite from their everyday routine. I stared at my book but opened my ears and listened to a man who had just sat down to converse with a woman at a nearby table.
“This is the time of day I hate the most” he says.
“What do you mean?”
“…Night. It’s when I can’t go home, because I don’t have one.”
“It’s the stigma of being homeless, I guess.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes before he got bundled up and left the coffee shop to seek temporary shelter elsewhere.
Homelessness is an unfortunate reality here in Los Angeles. With it comes a myriad of social stigmas, psychiatric issues, and financial ramifications. I try to help as much as I can by giving out food. (Unfortunately, that is not always the preferred method of dealing with the homeless.) I purposefully don’t finish my Subway footlong or carry an extra full bag of groceries hoping that I will be able to help someone for just a few hours with their problems. Sometimes when a homeless person is refused service inside of a coffee shop or convenience store I try to speed through my checkout just so that I could hand them a small gift card…but they’ve usually already snuck away. What breaks my heart the most is watching other people ignore their cries for help.
The only real difference between the sheltered and the homeless are four walls. The fact that my mother was on the brink of homelessness when she and her eight other siblings were orphaned at a young age probably have something to do with my hypersensitivity of this issue. It is a large-scale problem with multiple variates, and it requires the attention from and coordination of many different societal institutions to fully address. I hope that one day, somehow, the playing field will level, but I suppose that transcends our current material world. After all, some people can still feel spiritually or emotionally homeless within their own home.