For me, it was another interesting and challenging week. Just like many others, I worked on trying to stay sane and focused. As I was going about my daily affairs, I again ran across a few of the street people that are frequenting the street corners of South County here and now.
It was Thursday and I was tired and driving down Alicia Parkway. I was deep in thought as I saw this lady holding up a sign. I pulled aside, grabbed a bottle of water and a snack and went up to talk to her. I admit I was nervous thinking what Jane Doe might think and how she might react. I went up and began with a simple question: What happened & Why are you here?
She began by noting that she had worked at a local Toshiba divison in Irvine that shut down. I had noticed that the name of the Toshiba building off Jamboree had all of a sudden disappeared and realized that I was talking to one of the victims of that downsizing. She told me that she was a receptionist for that company. She talked about how she had to figure out a way to keep it all together for her kids who ranged from 4 to 17. I talked to her about the Father and where he was. She did not want to get into it except to note that he was non-existent and had no role. She shared how her 17-year old was mad as hell about it all and questioned why it had to happen to them. Despite my best effort, I could not come up with an answer.
I asked her about how she was coping. She noted that she was going out to the local One Stop Center every other day. She was involved with 211.Org and they were willing to help with the first two months of a home. She had been involved with her local church and they were trying to help. She had left applications with everyone and yet had no feedback from anyone. She shared with me how she hated standing by the street corner because it was not her. She shared with me how the cops seemed to keep an eye on her to make sure she was at least safe. She also told me about how she was even solicited for Sex–in Orange County!!! She shared with me how she went back to her shelter at night and cried asking why? why?
It made me ill to think that such is even possible in Orange County!!!
The only thing I could tell her was to encourage her to keep the faith. I was struggling to see what else I can do to help keep up her spirits.
The week went on. As I continued on, I saw the Veteran who also was manning another Street Corner. He told me that he had a friend who had a potential job offer. He also reminded me that hardly anyone wanted him because he was “too old”. The only thing I could do for him was to suggest for him to engage the Local One Stop Center and also to get 211.Org engaged. I hope that at least he takes that up. As I walked away from him, my thought went back to the apparent onslaught being planned against VA benefits. It seemed to me that there has to continue to be a better way to deal with it. Shortly afterwards, I ran across another of the old-timers who was occupying the street corner whom I had talked to before and briefly reported on here.
I asked him how it was going. I reminded him about 211.Org and handed him a card on it. He told me that it had been three and a half years and it has been rough. I asked him about his face. He told me that it was because of the Sun and he constantly had to scratch because of itching. I again tried to give him some encouragement and noted that he was not alone.
As I drove away, my thoughts again drifted away towards Washington and Sacramento. As I encouraged these poor souls to get engaged with One stop, I got word that One Stop is going through cutbacks because some of the funds that have helped to sustain the center are going away. There are at least three staffers who are losing their job and the caseload of WIA specialists continue to expand ever more. What are such people who are desparate to hang on to do? Where are they to go?
As I continued to think about the predicament of the brave souls, I wondered about this Neo-Darwinistic Notion that seems to be the order of the day under the guise of Freedom. I also thought about De Tocqueville admonition that, “….America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” The GOP told us that America is an Idea. They are right in this respect. It is an idea that is worth fighting for. That is why those voices from street corners have to matter. I wonder if they do and whether such brave souls will continue to be lost in the shuffle as the rich apparently grow to be richer while the Middle Class continues to whither away.