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In The Pipeline: No simple way to help the homeless

January 29, 2013|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Google…)

Beach and Edinger. Warner and Gothard. Heil and Bolsa Chica. At more and more intersections, I notice them, growing in numbers. Do you?

They are the forgotten and the fringe. The homeless and the hustlers. Some beg for money. Some just wander aimlessly. Others argue aloud, conducting jagged, stilted conversations with demons unknown.

You cannot categorize them all into one convenient group. Most seem harmless, haunted and genuinely needy. But then recently a homeless man was arrested on suspicion of having unlawful sex with a minor behind the Main Street Library Branch. And I've seen them lurking in encampments in Central Park and throughout the wetlands. It is bad and it seems to be getting worse.

But what do we do?

Where do we even start?

Recently someone showed me a Google Earth photo of a spot along Adams Avenue. In the photo, a person was sleeping on the concrete. It reminded me of Dorothea Lange's stark photos of the forlorn during the Great Depression. Only instead of being captured on black and white film, this poor soul had been digitized in color, his situation frozen forever on the Internet.

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Somebody mentioned that they saw a body there the day before, in the very same spot. It was stunning (and hard to believe) that the same person might still be there months after this photo was presumably taken.

The next morning I drove over, armed with some bananas and fresh bottles of water. When I walked over I found a husky black man sitting by himself on an old soiled blue backpack, in the exact spot where the photo was taken. It was warm but he had on odd layers of black, tattered sweaters and shirts. I don't know if it was him in the picture, but it doubt it. The spot was well protected from view so it may be a regular crash site for those living on the streets. It is adjacent to the Talbert Channel, and so about 10 snowy egrets were nearby the water's edge.

He looked to be in his early 40s or so and was startled when I approached. He nervously asked what I wanted and I explained calmly that I didn't want anything except to see if I might give him some food and water.

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