Among the plethora of issues that President Obama is expected to raise in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, none will likely surpass the pathos of a 17-year-old Latina high school student in the running for a $100,000 science talent prize—who fell into homelessness on New Year’s Eve because her parents couldn’t afford to pay their rent.
The plight of the Long Island student, Samantha Garvey, a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search prize, prompted New York Congressman Steve Israel to offer her a ticket to the State of the Union.
Surely, one crucial question for politicians, especially in an election year focused on economic issues, is how homelessness could be forced on a young genius such as Garvey, who has become a poster girl for the nation’s down and out.
L.A.'s Own Down and Out
Closer to home, the City of Los Angeles has some 23,500 homeless people—46 percent of the homeless population in L.A. County, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. (L.A. is the homeless capital of America, according to Homeless Healthcare Los Angeles, a nonprofit group.)
The San Gabriel Valley alone had 3,918 homeless people in 2011 (649 more than the number counted in 2009). The majority of them—60 percent—were 25-54 years old; 12 percent were more than 62 years; about 9 percent under 18 years; 8 percent 18-24 years; and nearly 10 percent were 55-61 years.
It’s anybody’s guess how many Samantha Garveys might be out there on the streets or in shelters, desperately seeking rehabilitation.
2013 Homeless Count
One way to help such unfortunate people—whether young or old, bright or otherwise—is to assist City and County authorities in getting an accurate count of the number of homeless people in 2013.
According to the LAHSA website, volunteers are needed for the biennial count of the homeless population in Los Angeles County. You can sign up online to help anywhere in the area, including the San Gabriel Valley, East L.A.—or wherever volunteers are most needed.
Clearly, if you’re looking for a worthy cause to volunteer for in the New Year, here’s your chance.