Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty Awareness

Today the blogosphere unites to discuss, illuminate and bring awareness to the issue of poverty. I'm not sure what to say on the subject. In the words of Mike Todd, I've been broke but never poor. Although there have been times in my life where I was living so close to the edge that that there was not much separating my situation from the people I see pushing their carts along the sidewalks, sleeping under bridge overpasses.

Homelessness is a big problem in Los Angeles. And no, these are not freegans. There was the guy who used to sit on the curb near the public parking lot near my building who I'd pass every day. As time passed, we give each other a familiar nod.

I haven't seen him in a long while. Maybe he's found another curb. I hope he's okay...

Another vagrant I'd see frequently was this androgenous Iggy Pop type. He'd smile and wave shyly whenever our paths would cross. He hangs out at the Public Library during the day. I have no idea where he goes at night.

Maybe underneath the 405 overpass. Whenever I walk down that sidewalk, I see at 3-5 bedrolls sprawled along the concrete. Of course many of these people are mentally ill and have slipped through the cracks, but I have encountered scary behavior only on rare occasions. One time I was out walking and passed two homeless men arguing with each other. They stopped when I walked by and one called out to me, apologizing.

Another time as I walked past a homeless man, he called out to me asking me how it was the angels made me so gorgeous.

I know a lot of guys who could take some lessons from him...

Some of them are "lucky" enough to be living out of their cars or campers. Others scrape by as a result of dumpster diving. There are some like the old woman I've named "Annie" who walks around in a trance-like state, literally in rags. Then there's the guy who is so fastidious about his hygiene, he uses storefront windows as a mirror so he can shave.

I'm not sure what can be done to alleviate this situation--it's a pretty overwhelming problem. Sometimes I wonder to myself what I would value enough if I could only possess that which would fit in a shopping cart. Other times I see a sad figure wandering the streets and I thank my own good fortune to have a roof over my head.

On Maslow's hierarchy of needs, shelter is on the first level--along with breathing, eating, drinking and sleep. I would add the need for compassion and dignity to a list of basic needs. Those without a place to call home could certainly use both of these.

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