The one thing that messes me up more than anything is when I see homeless children. I worked as a family outreach case manager for four years at a Los Angeles Winter Shelter. It was probably the most rewarding and most heartbreaking job I have ever had.
This morning I was on a call with an executive from one of my favorite homeless services. Because of the affordable housing crisis and the coronavirus pandemic’s influence on the economy, she was telling me about the increase in families with children living in tents.
I was handing out socks at Echo Park Lake talking to a couple who I met five years ago in their tent downtown. They both looked great. The last time I saw them, they were suffering from addiction. The woman is now in housing, and because some housing does not allow couples, her partner of all these years stays in a tent. They recognized me. It was really awesome seeing them sober and healthy.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man cooking on a camping stove in front of his tent. The man was kneeling partly sticking out of the tent talking to a young boy standing looking at the food. My guess it was dinner time. I don’t like to interrupt people, but I had to go ask if they were homeless living in that tent. I mean, it was rather obvious, but I don’t often see kids outside in homeless encampments, so I walked over and asked them if they needed socks just to start a conversation.
Adrien has been living with his son Rodger in a tent near Downtown Los Angeles for five days. Adrien speaks with broken English, and Rodger did help translate a little, but some of my understanding came from our conversations after this interview.
Adrien and Rodger were sharing a four-bedroom house with other people. One of them was Rodger’s babysitter. I am not 100% sure, but it looks like Rodger has special needs. The father and son lived in a bedroom together. That living relationship lasted for seven years. I don’t speak Spanish, so I am not completely clear on this next part, but drama happened, forcing Adrien and Rodger outside with no place to live.
When I asked Adrien if any homeless services were helping him, he didn’t understand my question. Adrien started referring to the Echo Park Lake homeless community. It is awesome they are in a homeless encampment that has formed into a community, but no one and especially no child should be sleeping outside homeless.
One of Adrien’s wishes was for more cans of cooking gas. After the interview, I opened my wallet and gave them some money. I started to walk away when Rodger came running saying “hey Mr. you just gave my dad one of his wishes.” I didn’t really understand what Rodger was referring to, so I asked. Rodger said, “my Dad wishes for cooking gas and now he can buy it.”
I have already been in contact with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, who said they will go find Adrien and Rodger tomorrow to offer services. I know from experience, that homeless services will do what they can to get children off the streets. The scary part is, with 30 million households at risk of being evicted, we are going to see many more children living in tents, which is where you come in.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.