Dec. 21, 2014 (San Diego) “You made my Christmas. My feet don’t hurt now as they did with the old shoes.” A man who is homeless said to me. He only took shoes, they are all he needed, or all he wanted, and others were in more need than he. We were standing outside at the Civic Center, once dubbed Freedom Plaza, while patrons walked into the theater.
This is part of #opsafewinter, according to Donna Piranha, one of the organizers. This operation started in London and has spread globally to help homeless populations, especially during the tough winter months.
The goods that were distributed to the homeless came from both the community and businesses. The organizers also had chili, water and rice to feed the homeless, a warm meal to fill the stomach, while looking for blankets, socks, toiletries and other necessities.
Occupy San Diego, and Operation Warm and Fuzzy were prominent among the organizers.
There were two very different crowds that met at the plaza. The contrast between the two crowds was clear. It was as stark as it gets when it comes to the haves and have not. The bottom of society was, if for a second, in front of people who were on the way to a Christmas tradition in their Sunday best, The Nutcracker.
So who were these people?
Another of the homeless women, she still has a vehicle, only took a pair of gloves and a cap for her head. She did not want a blanket, since there were those that needed it more than she did. Her vehicle is a warm place to sleep, and she has access to a place where to do her laundry. She has a dog. This dog is a good companion to her, and they are inseparable.
Among the homeless were children, some who did not have shoes, and who did not find shoes either because the donated goods did not have enough children’s shoes. Women who were pregnant, and there were no maternity clothes. They were grateful for whatever they could find.
A young boy, he could not be older than 10, who wanted a throw with designs of Winnie the Poo, not for himself, but his sister. It is her birthday tomorrow, and he wanted that for her as a gift. The rest of the homeless agreed to let him have it.
There were the veterans, the disabled, and those who have been in and out of the street over the decades.
Miriam, her street name, said “It is a beautiful thing, because people need the help, and it is a blessing that they are doing this.”
Cherokee Rose, again her street name, said “I’m glad that there’s people out there that actually help and care about the homeless. I’m tired of the homeless doing without and the rich getting richer.” Cherokee Rose also told us that she has been on and off the street since she was 17, and she is 47 now. She would also like to get off the street.
Now some data on the homeless in San Diego: While the population is slowly dropping, we still have 8520 homeless, with 3985 who are unsheltered and 4535 who are sheltered. This is according to an April article from KPBS
This is a number for the whole county, and we know from data that half of them are veterans. As we saw today, quite a few of them are disabled and are also children. While people are grateful for the clothes, and the warm meal, this is but a temporary help.
One statement from one of the theatergoers reflected the attitude that some in our society have regarding the invisible population. “Is this legal?”
Given that any of us can end up in the streets within weeks if we lose our jobs that is a strange question to ask. It is not a surprising question, but reflects the contrast between the two worlds.
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