I live in Los Angeles, where astronomical rental prices and a lack of affordable housing have contributed to a massive increase in the homeless population. The area I live in is near a major television studio and an urban hub, one of the many here in our town. There are many clusters like this in the vast sprawl that is my city.
My neighborhood is no different than most others, and has several homeless encampments cropping up as more and more people suffer the effects of the housing crisis. I have walked and driven by them and felt a giant pang in my heart because I want to do more. There still is no real solution on a civic level to handle this growing issue, but last night I was given the opportunity to act my conscience, because it’s not only in my back yard, it was literally IN my back yard.
I live in a building that has an open back patio and parking area. Though it’s behind a locked gate, it’s possible to climb over the 12’ high wall. So far the people who have done this have stolen a car and some packages. Life in Los Angeles comes with realities that are in my opinion, a reflection of late stage capitalism in most major cities; but that’s a story for another day.
Last night, a homeless woman jumped over the wall. I heard a crash, because she threw a large piece of a baby’s crib over the wall and it landed loudly on the concrete. I went out to investigate the noise and saw her standing there. I asked her what happened, and she said she was running from someone who had hit her in the head. I asked her if she was in danger and wanted me to call the cops, and she said no, please do not call the cops.
She was using the crib as a weapon, to defend herself and as a ladder – to get into my building. It was clear she was intoxicated as she told me she was going to take it and just walk to the gate about 50 yards away from where we were standing. At this point, I’m still unsure if she’s going to use this thing to clobber me, but as we walk towards the gate, I ask her if she was hungry, thirsty or if she needed anything.
On other nights, I might just have ushered her back through the gate an out into the night, but for some reason, my intuition told me to help her. I’m not writing this story as a virtue signal or for anyone’s praise, I’m just writing about how my own intuition and instincts responded to a very real situation life presented me with.
“I’m starving, and I need some shoes.” She was in stocking feet, wearing a thin t-shirt and pants. My first thought was, “Oh – okay – I can do this.” I ask her to wait in the garage for me so that I can bring her a meal.
I sprinted up to my place, threw together a sandwich and other mobile food stuffs and make my way back down to her. My intuition has been guiding me the entire time, and once she realizes I am sincere in my desire to help her, she softens a bit. I walk her into the building lobby to sit in a comfy chair so she can eat in peace while I go search for some more things to keep her dry and warm.
Because she’s high, while I was gone, she has placed her garbage in the mail box and has spilled the bag of goldfish all over the lobby. I find her rubbing a banana peel on her face, and I trade her for a wet washcloth and towel to clean up with. The napkin I gave her with her sandwich is covered in the dirt she wiped off of her hands and crumpled on the floor next the chair she’s sitting in. She stops eating to help me clean up, and I realize she must have been living on the street for some time now.
I asked her name, and where her people are. Whether she wanted to go home, and If she wanted me to call anyone for her. I was able to learn a little about her life, and that she wants to get to a shelter she heard about “One of these days.” I told her that I hoped she would and that I’d help her do it.
I present her with the shoes, socks, sweatshirt, blankets, a pillow, a little cash and a bag to tuck it all in. I ask her if I can give her a hug before walking her to the door, and I tell her to find me on the intercom out front if she’s in danger or needs help. I wish I could do more.
I just wanted to share this, and encourage you to not look away. To do what you can with what you have, and to let your intuition guide you. Not all encounters with strangers (who are also on drugs and in the process of committing a crime) are safe. I went on pure instinct and listened to my intuition the entire time. Thankfully, I have lots of practice.
I’m glad I was able to connect with her last night. Looking at the harsher realities of the world isn’t always a comfortable thing to do, but it’s always worth it.
If you are interested in volunteering or helping in the ways that you can, I heartily encourage you to get out there and do it. Together we are strong.
I’m with you on the journey.