Recently, an article in the local paper showed the problem of homeless encampments at a park nearby and a call for a "sweep." The article focused attention on the ready availability of food in the dumpsters of a couple of restaurants and a store. Something about describing dumpster food as an attraction and more in terms that seemed more suited to unpleasant insects or vermin gnawed at me. After repeated editing and trying to forget about it, words were exchanged between myself and the author who claimed a compassionate heart, but would not respond to me when I asked if he wanted to get a point of view from one of the people in the encampment or another homeless person that I knew. My point was not to turn the park over because obviously places like this aren't safe, even for the people who have claimed a bush to live beneath. My question is why don't we have some sort of assistance for people who need it? They fall off the radar and emerge as a problem. It's hard to hear such firm opposition or to hear how HB isn't a "homeless friendly" city. I guess maybe it's not. But now it's getting cold, and if people need their blankets or clothes washed, or need a warm meal, or a bag of groceries, we show up at the laundromat once a month and do our best to fill the need. No questions asked.
Julie lived on the hillside, under a bush, until the sweep. Five feet tall, 95 pounds and severely bipolar, she spoke only with kindness of the police that evicted her. She said they were nice and they said this just happens every six months or so. She considered herself lucky because she had a friend that let her stay for a few days.
She considered herself lucky.
This month we gave something we had never given before. Shannon, one of our founding members, who also happens to be a yoga teacher, found herself with an abundance of yoga mats provided by the studio she works for and thought they might be useful. So many of our guests sleep on the ground and they were so grateful to receive mats offering a small layer between themselves and the earth. Over 20 mats were distributed.
We are getting into the season of gratitude. Thanksgiving is about a week away and there's plenty for most of us to be thankful for. This month, members of a mosque in Garden Grove joined us to see how we worked our program so that they could start their own. One of our founding members, Steve, went to the mosque, introduced himself, and asked if he might talk to them about LaundryLove. They welcomed him and he talked for an hour. Before that hour was up, they were onboard and already had a couple of laundromats in mind where they might offer for their own event. Steve made mention that he is an introvert and to go into a strange situation and talk extemporaneously for an hour on our project would not have happened 2 years ago, before we began. He said that it is not only the people we serve that are changed by the experience.
We thank all of you who have been so kind as to contribute money or time to our program. You are deeply appreciated. And I'm sure we could all create a long list of our good fortune, particularly when we look around, a little harder, not just at the people with the bigger houses or the better cars, but the people who we don't always see, the ones we sometimes give a wide berth.
I sat next to a guy in church one Sunday that had his backpack and a couple of extra grocery bags next to him, He had been homeless for several years. In spite of the fact he'd struck out on his own embittered, he found that, in all the time he wandered, he never went hungry and that there was always someone to help him out. He was grateful. He said people are good.
I like that.
People are good.
Have a great holiday. If you have a couple extra bucks, there's a "donate" button on this page that takes PayPal and all proceeds go directly to the program. If you are moved, come join us. And if you are really moved, you may know of a laundromat and a few friends with an evening a month to spare.