My son volunteering on skid row
Poverty, homelessness, and foster care are such complicated problems that I haven’t been able to finish a piece that I’m writing on the subjects. In it, I explain the personal experiences that I had with a woman who survived the foster care system and with my homeless friend. Both experiences have changed my out-look on life. But, at this point, all I can clearly say is that we must all continue to do whatever we can to alleviate suffering of vulnerable populations.
In 2016 and 2017, Indelible Impact has been receiving donated personal and household items and sharing these with single mothers and with a shelter that sells the items in their store and uses the proceeds to help its homeless residents. I’m so grateful for the donors who have donated items for us to give. We have also shared the inspirational SHOUT (Surrender/Stand/Shine, Have Hope, Overcome, Use Your Power and Take Charge©) with women in need and at a foster care facility for teen and young women.
When I deliver items to the shelter or I go to the foster home to SHOUT, I exit the freeway on the ramp below. I’ll never forget that once there was a homeless couple sitting on the left side of the exit, and the husband had a sign that said she was eight months pregnant. She looked like she was about to deliver at any moment. They’re gone now, but, as you can see in the picture below, others have set up a camp on the other side.
From this ramp, I turn left to get to the homeless shelter, or I turn right to get to the foster care home.
But I’m not disturbed by any of it anymore. I’m used to these sights of despair. My homeless friend Delois (not her real name) has been walking up and down the boulevard, just two blocks from my home, for the last 15 years. She sleeps wherever she can. Despite all of my attempts to get her off the street and despite the help I received from the County, she remains on the boulevard. The other day when I saw her, she was pushing a cart, which I’ve never seen her do before.
So, I snap a picture of the mess, like it’s routine, and when the light turns green, I turn left and go to a shelter for homeless women with children, which is very nice. But all of it saddens me to my core.
The shelter for homeless women with children is newly constructed, and the efficiency studios in which the families live are decked out because a professional designer has donated their time and designed them. I thank God for people who donate their time, goods, or money to the homeless. The dining room, where the families eat and relax, is clean and nice. Sometimes I help serve meals, or I just drop the items off. Some of the mothers have new born babies, and I question them about their lives. Were they homeless before they became pregnant, I wonder. Homelessness is a complicated problem, and I want to understand it better.
When I turn right to go to the foster care facility, I feel anxious. And sure enough when I arrive, the girls and young women are fidgety and anxious, too. Most of them can’t sit still and don’t have the wherewithal to participate. I understand that when you don’t have inner calm because you were abandoned, it’s hard to be still. And, I imagine, this has worsened with the thousands of images and sounds on the internet, with beeping emails and texts on phones, and with hundreds of television channels. They’re anxious. They fidget. And they flip through their cell phones, constantly. I do my best to reach them.
At the end, one young woman comes up to me. She looks to be about 18. In the beginning of the hour, I had asked them all to describe themselves with three words. She quickly said that she could do it with one: Jail! She thanks me for coming to SHOUT!
These are complicated problems, and we must all continue to do what we can to help.