My recent visit to southern California left me frustrated by the rampant homeless problem seizing the golden state. I lived in the heart of L.A for over a decade, and homelessness existed, but it didn’t seem permanent or ubiquitous. Mostly confined to Venice Beach, downtown at Skid Row, and the freeway ramps with beggars holding honest or creative signs. This time I noticed them everywhere, even in the out-of-the-way, senior living town of Sun City. This desert town was once only occupied by the 55 and over crowd, retirees looking for cheap living in a safe community. The youths were watched closely, and vagabonds non-existent. This visit I watched backpackers and cart pushers wandering though town with all their belongings. A few were passed out in bushes, others displayed burnt hard faces of the street life, and some lived in their car. I felt disheartened, and disappointed that this seemed to be the new norm.
On the evening news, they showed permanent homeless camps along the L.A. river. What in the hell is going on in this state, I thought. Do people seriously want to live a homeless life? Why can’t they get a job, or move to where they can live a better life? The trash they leave behind is unbelievable!
I visited Santa Monica for a few memorable days to enjoy my old playground on the beach and in the mountains. My morning runs took me though Venice Beach, where the homeless have always migrated. Again, it was out of control. Camps with tents, personal belongings, bikes and stoves. They’d wake, use the public toilets and drink their lattes. An ambulance was called for a dispute or injury between two of them. Great, your tax dollars at work for those that don’t contribute.
Later that evening as I walked to dinner they hung out on main street, and I didn’t feel safe turning some dark corners. Why let these people invade prime property? Why do locals accept and support people who do nothing to better society?
Back in Florida we also have a homeless problem as do many towns. Sometimes they harass me, other times I smile at them. I’m trying my best to hold compassion for everyone, including the destitute. After all, I don’t know their story. Many jobs have gone overseas, and the cost of living is increasing, especially in California. I have since opened my mind and heart and compassion is my new word of the month. With the holidays upon us, I hope to keep my eyes and heart open to those in trouble and need.