Dr. Maxine Thompson

“Are you Homeless?”

“Are you homeless?” the woman with bald spots over her ears and a thunder cloud of natural hair, asked me.

I was standing in Jack In The Box in Inglewood. I looked down at my outfit. I did look a mess—a comfortable mess though. I had on my worn-looking gym shoes, tights, a somewhat faded but clean African print dress, topped by my freeform dreadlocks, which were thick, but a little fuzzy looking.

I should be embarrassed that I was mistaken for the homeless, but when I write, I get in the zone and become invisible to myself and to my characters whom I’m observing. I am vulnerable when I write, but I am happy as a hummingbird.

I had been on a writing binge at McDonald’s and was experiencing the afterglow that only writers can understand.

“No,” I replied. “Why do you ask? Do I look that bad?” I laughed out loud. I am blessed in that I have a roof over my head, but it’s funny how I can look “throwed away” (my late mother’s old expression) when I’m writing.

“No. You look fine. It’s just you are rolling a suitcase.”

I looked down at my laptop bag. “No, this is a laptop.”

I thought of all the women I see with suitcases walking around LA and Inglewood.

Many are homeless. They sleep in Starbucks and McDonald’s. They sleep on the sidewalks, in homeless camps, and in shelters. They wash up in the public restrooms.

In talking to the woman, I found out she was homeless and looking for food. She gave me the address of a homeless shelter which was helping her. I kept it to hand out to people. (I am still a social worker at heart.) The woman also admitted she had been clean from cocaine for two days. I had a few single dollars on me, so I gave her something. “Buy you something to eat,” I admonished.

I’ve blogged about the homeless before and given statistics.

Today, 1-28-18, in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, there is a new series called “Without a Home” about this ceaseless crisis.

According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in 2016, the county’s homeless number rose to 47,00, with 28,000 in the city alone. “This could be the year that we bring the numbers down.”

Can and could. But didn’t, so the newspaper says.

So, what can we do as citizens? There have been millions of dollars and endless political promises about homelessness, but the situation is getting worse. Can you rent out a house and give rooms to the homeless? I believe there is city money available to help to this end.

Just thinking out loud.

Blog: Why are the Homeless Invisible?

By Dr. Maxine Thompson

In my moment of silence today, I want to write about a woman I see who lives on the streets near my home. About 15 years ago, this woman was beautiful. Maybe she was in her mid-thirties at that time. Statusque. Shiny long black hair. Good looking by anyone’s standards.

However, I knew something was wrong when, one night, she came up to our car at the gas station and asked for money. She was holding a blanket, which supposedly had a baby in it. Of course, there was no baby in the blanket. She was just hustling.

Today, I see this same woman and she could pass for a beat-up 90-year-old woman. All her hair is gone. All her teeth are gone. She is gaunt. She sleeps on the ramp going up into the post office. I see her sitting on the curb, drinking beer in the morning. Sometimes, she is with other friends. I’m assuming they are substance abusers, when they get in a huddle and smoke crack on Friday nights. But, often, she is alone. I see her when she gets on the city bus, reeking of urine. She rides for free. She talks to herself. When she disappears, she is gone to jail. Then, she shows up again, when she is released. To many people, she is invisible.

It brings me to this question. Why are our homeless people invisible? All over the city, I see homeless people. I always say, “But for the grace of God, go I.” Perhaps some of these people used to work and lost their jobs. Rent is extremely high in L.A. People have begun to prop up tents on the sidewalk. I’m sure everyone is not a drug addict like the woman I described.

So what can I do? I understand the city has money to help the homeless. The missions in downtown LA are full. So where is this money going? Maybe it’s too late for the lady I see stumbling around in the street, but some families with small children could use the help. It could change the trajectory of their lives.

I’m just thinking out loud.

Here are some statistics for homelessness in California:


United States:

• In January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States
• Of that number, 216,197 are people in families, and 362,163 are individuals
• About 15% of the homeless population (84,291) are considered “chronically homeless” individuals
• About 9% of homeless people (49,933) are veterans
• California hosts a total of 113,952 homeless individuals
o This represents 20% of all homeless people in the United States
• There are approximately 15,179 homeless veterans
Santa Clara County, California:
• In 2013, there were 7,631 homeless individuals in Santa Clara County
• By contrast, in 2015 there were only 6,556, representing a 14% reduction in homelessness in Santa Clara County.
o 4,654 of them were unsheltered
• There are approximately 683 homeless veterans
Did you know that homelessness costs Santa Clara County $520 million a year, an on average cost of $62,473 per chronically homeless person? Other consequences of homelessness

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