“I may be homeless, but I don’t have to look like I’m homeless …”

This afternoon I was thinking about how people react to adversity.  It amazes me that some people can maintain a positive frame of mind in the most adverse predicaments.  I’ve been in some situations that most people would have nothing to do with … but it’s nothing compared to the people I met a couple of months ago on Skid Row in Los Angeles. A few months ago I met a woman through a mutual friend.  Special K as she called herself, was an advocate for the homeless in Los Angeles.  In June she called me and asked if I wanted to join her at a clean-up on Skid Row.  I accepted.

The next Saturday I took a bus to Skid Row.  Now I lived in the Los Angeles area for twenty years, and I’ve spent a lot of time in downtown … but I’ve never been to ground zero Skid Row.  I took the bus from my daughter’s place in Century City to the clean-up.  It was Saturday morning at about 11:00 am, so this was about as good as it gets down there. It was eye-opening – as I expected.  There were people literally laying everywhere, again kinda what I expected.  But one thing I noticed … there were no stores, nowhere to buy anything.  But what there was, was literally soup lines.  There were several of them, pretty much all put together by local churches.  I felt like I was transported to an area that had just been hit by a natural disaster – a hurricane or tornado or something.  But there wasn’t anything natural about this … just disaster.

Skid Row
Skid Row Los Angeles

After about a half an hour, I found Special K and we joined a crew of about fifteen others and began cleaning the sidewalks, the streets and anything that needed it. There was thing that surprised me though.  There was hope.  Not everybody acted down and out.  For example, there was Richard.  Richard had just moved to Skid Row – not that he had to be there.  He had just moved from Laguna Beach (high rent district for those of you not familiar with Southern California).  He moved here to help, it’s where he said he belonged. 

Richard and I spearheaded the clean-up. One of our most energetic workers was an attractive young woman named Veronica.  I thought she was just another of the volunteers like me … she wasn’t.  She’d been living on the streets in Skid Row for the last two and half years.  I commented that she didn’t look like she was in the situation she was. This was her response: 

“I may be homeless, but I don’t have to look like I’m homeless.  If I look like I’m homeless, I’ll always be homeless.”

It kind of takes, “faking it till you make it” to a new level – doesn’t it. 

You think she’ll make it out?  I’m not betting against her.

Next time you’re stressing over credit card bills or whatever else you stress about, think of Veronica … I’m sure she’d trade places.


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