Thursday, August 28, 2008
To Most People, It’s Just Trash
But Courtney Kanagi, an outreach worker, has learned how to decode bits of urban debris that most people ignore. She knows what these signs mean: the crawl space beneath the stairs could be someone's home.
For those without houses, SoCal landscape offers many opportunities for ingenious solutions -- aeries beneath bridges, riverbed encampments, ad hoc tree houses with million-dollar views -- to the problem of where to sleep.
Spend some time with Kanagi or Homeless In America’s, Servants of the Father of Mercy, and you'll never look at the city's hidden corners the same way again.
Keep in mind that fewer than 20% of the region's homeless can be accommodated in shelter beds on any given night. That leaves 10s of thousands sleeping outdoors. That in itself helps to explain why so many have to get so creative in establishing shelter.
* Hunch in groups on the sidewalk or in alleys behind dumpsters.
* Others find a hidden stairwell or doorway, abandoned building or freeway underpass.
* Venture into the brush and make their own living spaces, or encampments.
One woman was found living with her husband and dog beneath a bridge in the San Gabriel River watershed. But don’t romanticize her situation. Her little abode next to the riverbed might seem out of the way and even peaceful, especially when morning sun etches the landscape with gold. But the woman, who is 34 but is missing teeth and looks much older, said she lives with pressing fear that police will force her to move or that gang members will menace her. And it's frequently cold at night.
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