This morning, the sheriff came to serve eviction papers to my neighbor. She’d been expecting them. She is a photographer and hasn’t been getting enough work to pay her rent. She has been planning to move back to the east coast and live with family. In the meantime, she’s been waiting out the sheriff, selling what she can, and putting the rest of her things in storage. My building has fifteen units and this is the third such eviction in six months.
Less than an hour later, thanks to @jasonburns Twitter feed, I was reading about the 1 in 50 US kids who are homeless as of 2006. Certainly those numbers are far worse now. I know I pass more and more homeless people camped under the bridges on my way to work every week. On my way to the polls on election day in September, I passed a couple transporting all their worldy goods in two shopping carts down the side of Nordhoff Street, each of them held a child’s hand as they carefully wheeled their two brimming carts down the sidewalkless stretch of road. No one is bailing them out.
As tragic as the spectre of homeless families wheeling their way through the Valley in a migration to nowhere is, I probably wouldn’t have been compelled to post about it here. For what purpose–so that you too can leak out some impotent tears that are about as useful as tits on a bull?
But last night I went to my neighborhood council meeting for the first time and the discussion there raised an issue that I do think is worth us thinking and talking about more. Among the other topics on the plate was the growing number of squatters in foreclosure homes. There was a policeman present at the meeting, as I guess is usual, and he was talking about crime in Sherman Oaks, and one council member was asking him about people living illegally in empty homes. The policeman (I cannot bring myself to say “peace officer,” sorry folks) said that it was something to be on the lookout for, that if we suspected such a thing we should let the police know. There are several boarded up houses within a few blocks of my apartment and I get not wanting them to become crash pads for crack addicts or meth dealers. I get that. But then the councilman elaborates, saying that it’s important to be on the lookout, that sometimes it is hard to tell. Some of the squatters have kids and SUVs and dogs. Let me interrupt myself here to say, this post is in no way meant to disparage the SONC. It was my first time there, but I was made to feel welcome and the neighborhood council is clearly functional and positive and inclusive. But what I wonder is this: why is it so important to call the police on those families that look just like “normal” families? Is it so important that we protect capital itself? Is the protection of property is more important than the safety and protection of people?
On a related and more positive post script, CNN also reports on a new nonprofit, EDAR (Everyone Deserves A Roof), focused on providing portable shelter (“hobo condos”) for homeless people. Movie producer Peter Samuelson, who started EDAR, says, “If you had to define the value of a civilization, it’s not how many SUVs you’ve got. To me, I think it’s how well do we take care of our children, our homeless people, our mentally ill, those less fortunate.”
(LaDeon’s Street Living 1 photo used through a Creative Commons license.)