Saturday (7/25) three of us went out to Venice Beach in the morning to help the youth living on the main beach area. Here is my walk through of our time spent on the Venice Beach strip.
We arrived at 10:30 AM, parking on the south end of the strip. For those who don’t know, it’s about a mile long walk from the south to the north end (maybe more). We started our walk, and met two guys. One was wearing a cowboy hat, tattoos on various places, and a few scars on his face, while the other guy seemed a lot younger. I’m guessing they met recently and decided to just sit and chat. The younger guy was holding a sign, Starving, need money to buy some food. I struck up a conversation, “Hey guys, we don’t have any money but if you’re really hungry we do have some sandwiches.” Their eyes lit up, “Won’t turn down sandwiches, what’cha got?” We dropped our bags, pulled out two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and then I asked them, “Are you guys staying around here? Is there anything else you need?” The older guy replies, “I’m just passing through. I consider myself a traveler. I’m just hanging around to get enough money to continue my way up north.” So I asked, “Do you need some soap? We have care bags if you’re interested.” They both said sure. The younger guy didn’t say much, and I’m not the type of person to press anyone to tell us their story. We ended our conversation with some encouragement to stay strong and be safe.
We continued our walk, and I looked out for the youth like a hawk. The next person we met was a young man sitting by himself under a palm tree. He didn’t have any shoes on and was dirty. He was sitting close to the action on the strip, which was loud, so we couldn’t talk to him much. I did ask him if he was hungry and if he would like a care bag. His eyes lit up. We gave him a sandwich and a bag. And what he pulled out first might surprise you. I know I was surprised. He pulled out the toothbrush. Then I remembered that we had some toothpaste at the bottom of one of the bags. I stopped the group and then asked them to look through the bags for toothpaste. We pulled out a tube (which we got from the dollar tree), and then I threw it to him. He was so happy. I just thought to myself who would have thought brushing one’s teeth was high on that list when you’re homeless. I for one thought food would always be on the top. Come to find out, food is not a top concern to those who have been homeless for a while because they can always find ways to eat. What they don’t get are items to keep themselves clean.
Along our walk we met a bunch of different types of people. A few were living in the area because of the freedom, but the majority were there because their home situation wasn’t ideal for them. At the end of our walk we came across a group of young men. They called each other brothers. We ran out of sandwiches by that time, but they were grateful and said “That’s okay, someone else brought us Subway. We really need hygiene items.” And I said, “Well that, we have.” And then we proceeded to pull out soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, care bags, etc. They were ecstatic telling us we were “life savers”. One guy ran to the bathroom to shave, another guy was so excited to get deodorant he stated, “oh my god, I need this so bad. This is how bad I need it.” And then he proceeded to put it on under his shirt. One girl we met told us, “Yeah I’m homeless, but I don’t like to be dirty.” She was very happy to receive soap.
As we continued chatting with them I asked, “So are you guys here a lot? Are there usually a lot of younger people out here like yourselves?” They responded, “We live out here in our tents. It’s safer and happier for us out here than in our homes. We work here too, so it’s easier to just live on the beach.” They avoided answering the question about the young people living there.
I asked a few of the older people we met about the youth living out there and they stated that the police turned all of the sprinklers on the night before, hoping to drive them all out. So, I’m thinking that some of the people stayed while others didn’t want to risk getting sent to jail. One young man responded with tears in his eyes, “We shouldn’t have to feel like criminals out here. This is the land of the free, so why do I have to go to jail to stay out here? I’m not hurting anyone.”
I still wonder, who chooses this lifestyle and who was dealt this lifestyle due to circumstances? Either way, should they be punished for trying to survive on nothing? I understand having people live in front of a business or on the beach area isn’t good for tourism, so why not build a shelter or hostel in the Venice Beach area? I’m pretty sure there are places to stay, but they’re not cheap. (I’ll report back on this later.)
In conclusion, my question for you to ponder this week is:
What would you take with you if were to be homeless for 1 week? Besides the obvious of family, I’m referring to items here not animals and people. =)
I now know to take the following:
- Comb or brush
- Tampons (a lot of the women asked for these)
- Baby wipes
Please write your answers in the comment section of this post. I’m interested to read what others think is important.
Next month we’ll be heading out to the Hollywood area. We would like to have at least 50 care bags to take with us to hand out.
Do you think you could donate $5?
We can get 15 bars of soap with $5. We can get 5 cans of shaving cream for $5. We can get $5 tubes of toothpaste for $5. We have enough toothbrushes, combs, and shampoo for next month, so any of the other items listed would be great.
Just because I am homeless doesn’t mean I want to LOOK homeless.