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Neighborhood Encounters With Homeless Families

How should parents broach the delicate subject of people on the streets of Eagle Rock who do not have a place to call home?

From an Eagle Rock Mom:

“Lately, my kids and I have been coming across quite a lot of homeless people. The other day, my daughter and I were heading to the Chase Bank branch on Eagle Rock Boulevard. Outside, sitting on the ground, were a young mother and her toddler daughter near the bank’s entrance.

“They looked Latino, so I spoke to them in Spanish. It turned out they were actually Italian, from Rome (or so the mother said) and had come here on tickets an American acquaintance had somehow bought for them. The woman said she left her job at a pizza parlor in Rome and flew to L.A., thinking it would be easy to pick up work in a restaurant.

“The woman also said that she and her daughter had emigrated (illegally) here and that she was able to find only two days’ paid work every week as a cleaner for a woman in Glendale. To make ends meet, she said she had to sit in front of the bank and ask for handouts.

“Eagle Rock people were extremely kind. In the short time I was there, at least four people handed the mother either cash or donations of fast food (Kentucky Fried Chicken, donuts, food from Panda Express) bought from stores in the shopping mall.

"Beyond handing her a few dollars, I didn’t know how else I could help her—and it certainly appeared as though she really needed a lot of help to get on her feet in America.

“When we left, my 7-year-old daughter was understandably upset. She asked me lots of questions about where the mother and daughter lived, how the little girl went to school, and where they stayed when it rained.

“I didn’t really feel very prepared to answer such questions. So my questions to Eagle Parents are:

1) How do you speak to your kids about homeless people?

2) Is handing them money helpful? Is there a better way to help?

3) Would you ever hire—or have you ever hired—a homeless person to help around the house? If so, how do you approach the topic in conversations both at and outside your home?

4) What employment possibilities are available to people who lack the legal documents to work or stay here?”

Diane Nilan Hear-us October 26, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Kudos to this writer/mom for raising these vital issues. Indeed, homelessness is skyrocketing, especially for families, mostly American citizens, but some not. Check out the video clips and other resources on our website, http://hearus.us. We offer ways to engage kids and adults in understanding and helping homeless families and individuals. It's not an easy fix, but people can/must help.
Allison October 26, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Dear Diane, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I wrote about Eagle Rock's homeless last year (http://eaglerock.patch.com/articles/caring-for-eagle-rocks-homeless) and it seems that since then the issue of homelessness has become more pervasive, not less. Check out some of the advice homeless outreach programs offered (in the next few comment boxes). I'd love to hear from ER neighbors about how they interact with the local homeless in front of their children, too. Thanks, everyone.
Allison October 26, 2011 at 06:03 PM
How to Help Our Local Homeless: * If you're inclined to buy a few items, I heard from a local social worker that the homeless are often in desperate need of undergarments. If you can round up donations and buy underwear, socks and undershirts in bulk from your neighborhood warehouse store—the Costco in neighboring Atwater Village is a good choice—your donations would mean a lot to a homeless man or woman. * For another gathering of like-minded families, ask each clan to donate a dozen of one of the following items (you can round up many of these at your local 99 Cents store): Shampoo in small plastic bottles; toothpaste and toothbrushes; combs; soap and a washcloth; letter kits with notepaper, envelopes, pens and a few stamps; phone cards in small denominations. * Have your children decorate plain paper bags—and write short notes of blessings. You can place your care packages in the bags and then as a group, donate them to a local shelter. Over milk and cookies later, discuss how your group's compassionate actions could help the people at the shelter. That would also be a great opportunity to discuss the different reasons people might become homeless and how each of us can help.
Allison October 26, 2011 at 06:04 PM
More ways to help the local homeless: * Keep long shelf-life food items, such as granola bars (replace them monthly) and bottled water, to hand to the homeless in your neighborhood. You could also consider keeping gift cards ($5 or $10 each) to Subway sandwich restaurants in your glove compartment. One sandwich would make a much-needed healthy meal. * Learn about outreach programs for the homeless in Northeast L.A. and prepare a guide with contact information for them. Keep these guides in your car—and when you come across homeless people who look really down and out, offer it to them, along with a phone card. Last year, I contacted an outreach program for the homeless to discuss a battered woman living in Atwater Village. The staff there was most professional. They made sure that the woman got the necessary assistance—and then they informed me regularly by e-mail about her care.
Scott October 26, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Its Bushs fault
Ajay Singh (Editor) October 26, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Scott—if you'd like to leave constructive, community-oriented comments, you're more than welcome to. While this site does not censor anything, rude comments, especially those containing offensive language, are deleted. In that spirit, I deleted your last comment.
Scott October 26, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Ajay- You don't censor but you did censor my comment! If the word stupid is offensive to you and worthy of censorship then you must be a Left wing ideologue. Liberals don't like differing opinions. My comment was constructive. The most compassionate thing to do is buy her and her daughter a plane ticket HOME to Italy. Make sure you give them some snacks and stuff for the plane ride home.
Ajay Singh (Editor) October 26, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Scott—I deleted your comment because its tone was offensive and because it contained words likely to be seen as an affront by the vast majority of our readers, both on the left, the right and the center.
Mark October 26, 2011 at 07:43 PM
The woman's story sounds very fishy. An "American acquaintance" bought them a pair of tickets from Rome to Los Angeles? You don't just buy tickets for people without checking on their post-arrival plans. Why didn't she contact this "American acquaintance" who shelled out a couple hundred bucks so she and her daughter could fly to America? Oh, come on.
Scott October 26, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Ajay, I am a life time Eagle Rocker born and raised and a graduate of ERHS. Were not little sissies scared of our own shadows and offended easily were tougher than that. Liberals are offensive to me and are an affront to the vast majority of conservative America but you are not censored. In fact we are deluged daily by wimpy weak kneed feel good, do-gooder liberalism. Grow a set!!!!
Scott October 26, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Mark, could not agree more.
Ajay Singh (Editor) October 26, 2011 at 08:24 PM
Mark and Scott—the woman's story may well be fishy, but whether she got to America from Italy or Istanbul does not appear to be a critical factor in the help she was getting so freely and openly from members of the public. Nor does the story detract from the apparent fact that she was homeless and needy.
Scott October 26, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Ajay, She is homeless in this case most likley because of very poor judgment on her part. And does giving a homeless person tooth paste, phone cards, underwear, pens, stationary, stamps etc help them quit doing drugs, drinking alcohol and making stupid I mean dumb decisions and help them get a job? Of course NOT but it makes a person who has all those things feel not guilty by giving a homeless person a stamp. How compassionate! Next thing she will get food stamps, assisted living benefits, disability, unemployment benefits, free health care, free education for her kid, a Calif. drivers license and voting rights even though here illegally so she can vote for Democrats who will keep GIVING her all the freebies, while the rest of us who work our butts off and give over 50% of our earnings to the government so they can keep these people right where they are so they- the liberal politicians can keep getting re-elected. How nice.
Mark October 26, 2011 at 10:55 PM
@Ajay- As you note, "the apparent fact that she was homeless". My point is when someone's story is fishy, then they may be lying. And if they are lying, then they may not be homeless. There is a difference between being destitute and being a scammer. The best anyone can do for her is to refer her to a shelter. Otherwise, she is at risk for sexual abuse and worse. If she is a scammer, she may just be waiting for an open hearted Eagle Rocker to invite her into their home ... and then it is a robbery or worse. The fact that the story has holes indicates one should be aware - that is what I take from this story.
Mark October 26, 2011 at 10:57 PM
@Scott Thank you, but your other comments demonstrate the distinct possibility your parents were cousins.
Scott October 26, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Mark, At least I have parents and am not a test tube baby!
Scott October 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Mark, Your 2nd comment to Ajay was right on the money! By the way my parents were not cousins it was worse than that they were Democrats. Please don't tell anyone!
Marcus October 27, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Ajay was right to censor any offensive language. This is a local community blog and a great way to share news, advice and ideas etc rather than be a pulpit of any political dogma.

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