Glimpses of the Homeless

Photo taken by author; all rights reserved.
Laguna Woods, California
November 1, 2017 6:36pm CST
At least once a month, my husband and I volunteer to provide food and serve meals to the homeless at our local homeless shelter in Laguna Beach, California. It is an enriching and heart-warming experience. It does not make us experts on the homeless. It does not answer the question of how each and every person became homeless. However, our experience does offer us a little insight into the people we have met. Here are a few of the things we have learned about the homeless: Most of the homeless have some small source of income - Many of the homeless receive disability, Social Security, or unemployment benefits. Some of them have money from relatives, or the work they do. They just do not have enough income to afford to rent a place to stay. Some of the homeless have jobs - While working at the shelter recently, one of the men showed up in a security guard uniform. He explained that he was working security for a convention at a local hotel, but could not afford to stay anywhere near Laguna Beach, where even "cheap hotels" cost more than $200 a night. He said he was very grateful to have dinner and a mat to sleep on at the shelter. A number of the other guests at the shelter work in the hotels or restaurants in low-paying jobs. Some of the homeless have cars - Some of the homeless arrive in their own vehicles. Like the security guard above, they have a small income, but cannot afford a home. They are grateful for a hot meal and a safe place where they park their car and sleep in it undisturbed. Some of the homeless are college students - The cost of going to college is so high, that an estimated 1 in 5 students in the California state colleges is homeless. They "couch surf" or sleep wherever they can, because they cannot afford a dorm or any other type of housing. These are hard-working young people, many of whom even have part-time campus jobs. Many of the homeless are embarrassed by their situation - I often see the homeless I serve when I walk around Laguna Beach and, occasionally, at my church. Some of them acknowledge me and wave; others are embarrassed and act like they do not know me. I understand and am comfortable in either situation. You would not recognize many of them as being homeless - One of the homeless women, who is probably in her 50s, often spends her days nursing a cup of coffee at a Starbucks near the beach. She reads a book or the newspaper, but stays quietly at her table for hours. She dresses more nicely than many of the tourists and beach goers. You would never guess she was homeless. Others walk around the community in sports coats or khaki slacks and a sweater. If I had not seen them at the shelter, I would never guess they were homeless. The homeless are diverse - The people we serve consist of men and women, adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and older. They are white, black, Hispanic and Asian. Some look like they came from a wealthy background, judging by their clothing. Others appear as if they have been poor a long time. Some of them are obviously well-educated and mention poetry or literature to us; others are almost certainly poorly educated. Some have obvious mental, physical or substance abuse problems, but not all of them - While some of the people are obviously suffering from problems of some kind, others are easy to chat with and seem fully functional. They are virtually all grateful for the meal - As they come through the food line, virtually everyone thanks us, or says "God Bless You," or shows their appreciation in some other way. They have a sense of humor and love to chat - The homeless frequently like to tell us jokes, and they love it when we laugh. They also like to be treated like human beings. We say "hello" when we feed them. We ask how they are. They love to have a "normal" conversation. They are interested in the world - On Halloween night, while we were serving, the shelter had their TV turned on to the World Series game and large groups were enthusiastically supporting both teams. They often mention current events and news stories to us. They are aware of what is happening in the world. Each homeless person is unique - This article just describes the homeless people we have met. Each homeless person is as unique as anyone else. The shelter where we volunteer does not serve teens or families, who are directed to other facilities. Each person has their own reasons for being homeless. They all have had their own unique experiences. For some, homelessness will be temporary; for others it may go on for years, even decades. What have I learned? They are all human beings worthy of dignity, a hot meal and a place to sleep. (The photo above shows one of our local homeless men, blowing bubbles at the beach on the Fourth of July last year. He seemed to be enjoying himself. You would never guess he is homeless, would you?)
18 people like this
20 responses
@jaboUK (55201)
• United Kingdom
2 Nov 17
Your compassion and wisdom shine through in this article, Deborah. I really enjoyed reading it.
6 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@jaboUK - Thank you, Janet. I wish we did not have so many homeless and I believe it would help if more people took the time to know and understand them.
2 people like this
@DianneN (88052)
• United States
2 Nov 17
I totally agree with you, Janet!!!
3 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@DianneN - Thank you so much, Dianne
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (182653)
• Switzerland
2 Nov 17
Your discussion is very interesting and should be read by all those who think that homeless are only lazy people rejected by the society. I know many who cannot afford to pay high rents that are more than happy to have a place where to sleep near their working place. What you do is very nice Deborah.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@LadyDuck - Thank you so much. Helping at the shelter makes me feel good. However, I would love to see a more permanent solution for these people. It is awful for people who simply cannot afford housing ... even those who are working!
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (182653)
• Switzerland
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane I agree, here they have houses with special low rents for those who have a low salary and cannot afford to pay a normal rent. Some are also available for retirees with low pensions. They are not big apartments, but always better than a shelter.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@LadyDuck - I am so glad to hear they do that in Switzerland. I think that is the way we need to go here in the U.S., but many of our politicians are unwilling to even make the tiniest apartments available for the homeless. It is heartbreaking to see people living on the street or in their cars. I hope we realize someday how barbarian this is.
1 person likes this
@sallypup (29346)
• Moses Lake, Washington
2 Nov 17
Thank you for this thoughtful post.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@sallypup - Thank you for reading it. I also promoted it on Facebook and Twitter. I hope it helps people understand how diverse the homeless are, and how many of them are not lazy or worthless. They are human beings who deserve dignity, food and a place to sleep.
1 person likes this
@sallypup (29346)
• Moses Lake, Washington
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane My little town has a warming station but its not open for very many months. I don't know how folks survive here in the winter without decent shelter.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@sallypup - I have often wondered the same thing about the homeless in the Northern states ... how in the world do they survive? I understand how people can get by in Southern California, but I have heard of sad cases of people dying while sleeping on the streets of New York and Washington, DC. It must be a really hard life!
1 person likes this
@MarymargII (10706)
• Toronto, Ontario
3 Nov 17
Great post and yes many of those facts are not known by folks generally.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@Marymargll - I'm glad to spread this information. I think the homeless are often unnecessarily maligned and it makes me sad.
1 person likes this
@MarymargII (10706)
• Toronto, Ontario
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane How true it is!
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
1 person likes this
@crossbones27 (21982)
• Redlands, California
2 Nov 17
I think you hit this on the head of what we should be doing instead of what we re currently doing. Which is educating people about the homeless and not rounding them up and evicting the from the places they decided to camp out at just because it is an eyesore on our cities. I personally think it should be an eye sore, so our cities start fixing the problem. Our local paper just put out another article of 4 places in this city where they evicted all the homeless. Does not say where they took them, does not say if they are helping them. It just tells people to call the local authorities if people see them camping out and begging for money by them. What kind of crap is that and problem never going to get solved if they just keep moving them so people cannot see them anymore.
1 person likes this
• Redlands, California
2 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane Yeah believe Salt Lake City does something like that. Gives them places to stay and give many jobs as maintenance to keep the upkeep for the people they are housing. It is really not that hard of a problem to fix, our leaders just do not want to take the time and also goes against their everything has to be capitalism approach. As far as mental health, they could be using that to their advantage too while taking care of people. Use them in studies and further research how how to better treat people with mental health issues. Can probably learn these people are geniuses in some aspects and teach them to put those skills to use. Our leaders and general society is just looking at this problem all wrong.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@crossbones27 - I completely agree that our leaders are looking at this problem all wrong. Shuffling people around is NOT a solution. We actually have to provide affordable housing. It seems so clear, it is just ridiculous that they don't make a real effort to solve this problem. Meanwhile, it seems to be getting worse.
1 person likes this
• Redlands, California
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane Yep, see many more homeless around my house.
1 person likes this
• Pamplona, Spain
2 Nov 17
I would not guess that he was homeless no. Its really well written and gets across to people their plight and the suffering that goes on in inside of them. Very well done.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@lovinangelsinstead21 - Thank you so much! I am glad I have succeeded in helping people understand the homeless a little bit and realize that many of them are good people, just struggling to survive.
1 person likes this
• Pamplona, Spain
2 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane Over here there are a terrific amount of them. People that came to live here originally in their own houses and found themselves stranded and loads of other stories. Through no fault of their own they are stuck but there are people here that do help them get on their feet again. They are just like you and me and anyone of us could end up like this.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@lovinangelsinstead21 - I agree that any one of us could end up homeless in the wrong circumstances. It is sad.
1 person likes this
@1creekgirl (12501)
• United States
1 Nov 17
Thank you for your post. Many of us never have any interaction with the homeless and what you do is so important. I know God blesses you for it.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@1creekgirl - I know that, in the past, I just walked by them without saying a word. Now, I speak to the ones I know, if I think they are comfortable with that. I also see them as humans, not as pariahs who annoy me by their very presence.
1 person likes this
@1creekgirl (12501)
• United States
2 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane We live in a really small town without any homeless people that I'm aware of. We help at times at the shelter in a larger town where our son lives.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@1creekgirl - That is so wonderful that you help at a shelter in a larger, nearby city. It makes you feel good, doesn't it?
1 person likes this
• China
2 Nov 17
You are kind-hearted people and serve meals to the homeless on the regular basis.Your post make me see the homeless in a new light.They are a good mix of people and each has their unique background.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@changjiangzhibin89 - Thank you. I am glad that I succeeded in showing people that the homeless are not all lazy or ungrateful. They often are people who would really like a better life, but they don't know how to do anything other than survive.
1 person likes this
• China
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane You know well about them on account of frequently coming into contact with them and I can tell the homeless feel an affinity for you .
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@changjiangzhibin89 - Thank you. I wish I could do a lot more for them!
1 person likes this
@DianneN (88052)
• United States
2 Nov 17
What a touching discussion, Deb. The homeless come from all walks of life and are worthy souls in every respect. Bless you for what you and your husband do for them.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@DianneN - Thank you, Dianne. My husband especially loves doing it. Last time, a man came up, introduced himself to my husband, and gave him a big hug. My husband was walking on air after that! I agree that they are worthy souls, despite their current situation.
1 person likes this
@DianneN (88052)
• United States
2 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane I know you are both walking on air for the mitzvah you are doing.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@DianneN - Awww! Thanks!
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (137137)
• Bunbury, Australia
2 Nov 17
Thanks for a very insightful discussion. I'm sure you and your husband gain much from these encounters too.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@JudyEv - Yes, you are right. We feel richly rewarded by the experience of feeding the homeless. It is also very humbling. "There, but for the Grace of God, goes I."
2 people like this
@JudyEv (137137)
• Bunbury, Australia
2 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane It happens easily to some. One man in Perth was retrenched then his son got really ill and needed expensive treatment. Soon he couldn't pay the mortgage and that was that. Homeless.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (137137)
• Bunbury, Australia
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane These are good ideas and I'm sure there are many ways to help the homeless if the bureaucrats really wanted to.
@LeaPea2417 (22471)
• Toccoa, Georgia
6 Mar
That is very interesting and you and your husband's concern is uplifting.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
6 Mar
@LeaPea2417 - I have always believed that the world is a better place when everyone does what they can to help others.
1 person likes this
@LeaPea2417 (22471)
• Toccoa, Georgia
7 Mar
@DeborahDiane I believe that too.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
7 Mar
@LeaPea2417 Together we can change the world!
1 person likes this
@responsiveme (16874)
• India
4 Nov 17
Lovely post.you wrote about this last year too but not in details and you posted that bubble blowing picture
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
5 Nov 17
@responsiveme - What a good memory you have. Yes, I wrote about this last year, but I didn't know the homeless as well then. Now, I have had a lot more experience with them and understand more of the different reasons they are homeless.
1 person likes this
• India
5 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane I remember because the picture touched my heart. Good work on your part
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
6 Nov 17
@responsiveme - Thank you so much!
1 person likes this
@sueznewz2 (10161)
• Alicante, Spain
3 Nov 17
thank you for sharing.... it's such a big problem ... and governments seem unable to find a solution... What a blessing you and the other volunteers are to these people... in their difficult times... that come about with frightening speed and circumstances... I'm glad you get a blessing from doing it ....
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@sueznewz2 - Thank you for your kind words. I truly enjoy helping these people. There are solutions. It is just that we have a segment of our population which does not want to do even the minimal amount for these people. It is so heart-breaking. These people need cheap housing. Low-cost motel style buildings spread throughout our cities would make a huge dent in the problem ... places which the homeless could rent for $10 to $15 a night. Many of them could afford to pay that and it would improve their lives so much! Imagine how much better off they would be with a cheap, small, furnished motel-style room with a bed, bathroom and a combination refrigerator-microwave, like you see in college dorms. Someone like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Mark Zuckerberg could build thousands of them around the country and change the lives of these people forever.
1 person likes this
@sueznewz2 (10161)
• Alicante, Spain
3 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane that would be great... and it would make duch a difference to them....
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@sueznewz2 - Hopefully, something will happen to help the homeless in the coming years.
1 person likes this
@Daelii (6185)
• United States
1 Nov 17
I really love that you put in such details in a clear caring manner to offer insight to many people who don't understand the plight and the issues / struggles homeless people can face. Its really sad when you think about it, that someone ran the numbers that if each house, those sitting empty/ vacant, were opened up, everyone would have a home and there would even be more houses left over vacant. So the resources are there to help remedy the situation, just the desire to share the wealth isn't. I love that people are making more efforts to try and fix the situation. I love the missionary I go to, because its open to all women to all walks of life and offers different things homeless people (and anyone really) needs.
1 person likes this
@Daelii (6185)
• United States
2 Nov 17
@DeborahDiane that is a wonderful idea! I also really like that there are cities now making the tiny houses for the homeless to give them a place to call there own.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@Daelii - Yes, tiny homes are another way we can help the homeless. Moving them around does absolutely no good. We need to take meaningful steps to get them off the street permanently.
1 person likes this
@YrNemo (14768)
2 Nov 17
I read in the news about some homeless cases, they were once famous concert pianists or musicians. Then they lost their jobs and their high income, and eventually losing their houses. In the end, they just decided to drift.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@YrNemo - Yes, that describes a number of the homeless. Many of them are very interesting. The man making bubbles in the photo above is fascinating. He sits at the beach, on an old oriental rug, every day, listening to music on earphones and reading books. Once he showed me he was reading a book about the different planes flown in World War II.
1 person likes this
@YrNemo (14768)
2 Nov 17
1 person likes this
@MALUSE (44696)
• Uzbekistan
5 Jan
You are a good person.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
5 Jan
Awww! That is sweet of you. I really enjoy helping the homeless, and I have learned so much about them that I did not know before. I hope I can help a few other people be a little more compassionate about the homeless, too.
@BelleStarr (39847)
• United States
6 Nov 17
It is such a sad situation in such a wealthy country that we can not supply housing for the homeless. I have seen some places trying to do tiny house communities which are quite inexpensive other communities are fighting it. I think we all know people who live hand to mouth and are just one bad event away from losing everything. So many don't have the family network to provide them with a home, which is also very sad. I think everyone should volunteer in this way, it is eye-opening.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
7 Nov 17
@BelleStarr - I agree that it is a very sad situation that we cannot do more for the homeless. We have torn down many of the old housing projects, which were too big and unmanageable, but at least provided shelter. We haven't replaced them with anything and seem to accept it as "normal" for people to be living in the streets. It is shameful.
1 person likes this
@Bluedoll (17050)
• Canada
3 Nov 17
I like the last part the best. Good for you and your caring.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
3 Nov 17
@Bluedoll - Thank you so much. We truly enjoy volunteering at the shelter. We look forward to it.
1 person likes this
@cahaya1983 (10037)
• Malaysia
2 Nov 17
This is very enlightening. Interesting to know how being homeless can be so different in another country. Here you would never hear about homeless people owning cars.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@cahaya1983 - Thank you for reading this. Most of the homeless here do not own cars, but some of them do. Their cars are usually old, but they become their houses as well as their transportation. It is all they can afford and they appreciate being able to park in a lot where they will not be aroused by the police and forced to move in the middle of the night.
1 person likes this
@maezee (33976)
• United States
1 Nov 17
Most definitely good stuff to know. I also try to volunteer with the homeless and the stigma that exists out there toward the homeless is terrible and not helping anyone. Thanks for what you do!
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
2 Nov 17
@maezee - Thank you for volunteering to help the homeless, too. I agree that the stigma around them does not help anyone.