California’s known for having an extensive homeless population; it’s become so common that we’ve grown accustomed to them. We don’t actually see them, and, when we do, our minds typically revert to judgement. How many of us have actually stopped to consider the amount of trauma being held inside their body? Sure, it’s easy to see their sun weathered skin and matted hair, but what’s tormenting them inside is so much worse.

I used to live in an apartment building that held a variety of people and became introduced to a particular family. The inhabitants were a single mother and her young son. Her son was known as one of those obnoxious types. He was desperately seeking attention but was constantly being pushed away because of his erratic behavior.

When I’d interact with him I could see the hurt radiating off his small, boyish frame. He was a smart boy that just wanted love and connection, something that his family couldn’t provide. His older brother was a serious drug addict, while his mother dealt with mental issues—walking with her head down, hooded eyes, hump backed, and mumbling.

They were ostracized by society and their extended family as well. As time went on, it became clear that the window of opportunity for this boy to grasp a normal life was slipping away. This family’s problems were so visible on the outside, magnified by all of their outward failures. Her failure to keep a job, his failure to be sent home from school. As a society, we looked at them with such judgement, not even considering that there could be insidious trauma inside or contemplating if they’re okay.

Love and curiosity is not the reaction of overall humanity, and it’s disturbing.

As this boy entered his pre-teen years, his mother started dating an older man. I could tell that to her, she thought he was a knight in shining armor, here to take care of and love her and her son. But, the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he was a creep, but what could I really do? Just report a “bad vibe” to the police?

Now, all these years later, this boy has become a man. However, gone is the bouncy little kid with freshly tanned skin. In his place, lies a homeless, shell of a man. I could see him and could feel the drug use swirling around his frame, and, over time, he began to walk slower, looking so outside of himself, and batting at shit in front of his face that wasn’t even there.

He fell into what he grew up with—mental illness.  Before, he had invisible wounds that were manifested in outward form as some annoying and obnoxious child. Now, he has these visible wounds of mental turmoil.

But I ask you, how was he supposed to grow up and go to college and become “something?” How was he supposed to escape the trauma that was surrounding him? Is it up to us to pull these people out of these spaces before it’s too late? Is it up to us to provide help to those who are already too far gone?

I challenge you to actually look the homeless in the eyes. You will find that not all those have vacant and drug hazed stares. Offer them food or tell them about a local shelter. If you feel comfortable, hire them to mow your lawn. Do something, anything, except scurry by and berate them for their situation that they’ve been pigeonholed in.
I believe in people.

Xx- g.

Long Beach Rescue Mission

Department of Children and Family Services