Have We Reached Age of the Disposable Human?

March 16, 1985

In this modern age of disposable products from paper goods to machinery, is it odd at all to find a society that has disposable man.

Though media coverage has been given to the homeless population, little in reality has been done to alleviate the problem. Homeless people in Los Angeles are unwanted. Homeless women in Los Angeles are forgotten.

Women through the ages have been discriminated against and are the most undeserved minority in America today. Add other disadvantages to their lot such as lack of education, skills, poverty and of a minority race and you have a person totally disregarded and disposable in our society.

Lack of emergency services and shelter available to women in Los Angeles is apparent. Services and shelters structured for women are very specialized: rape, battery, alcoholism, gay. So a woman who is homeless and does not fit into these four categories again falls through the cracks and is even more greater disadvantaged and undeserved.

Few shelters are available to single homeless women in Los Angeles. Those that exist can house only small numbers, 4 to 30 maximum, not much in comparison to the men's shelters that hold 75 to 150 men per night. Again, many homeless women are left out in the street.

Much talk comes from the federal, state and county governments that the private sector must become more involved in the care of the homeless. But any nonprofit organization will tell you that contributions are down. The private sector isn't giving. As an employee of a woman's shelter, I know how hard it is to raise funds for the operation of such a facility.

The founder of our shelter, Sunshine Mission for Women, was way ahead of her time. In 1951 she not only opened an emergency shelter for women, but also opened a low-cost residential hotel for women. For 44 years the Sunshine Mission has provided these services to Los Angeles doing its fair share of taking the burden off the taxpayers.

Within the last four years the request for shelter space has increased dramatically. Now the shelter is financially strapped. Add to that a fire that destroyed 20 of the 42 hotel rooms and you have a shelter that is dying.

The death of the mission will go unnoticed by the general public, but it will not go unnoticed by the hundreds of homeless women walking the streets. Women who are trying to escape poverty, violence or are the discarded baggage of families are the ones who will miss the mission.

As a director, I am frustrated. As a woman, I am angry. Angry because this is the city where extravagance and luxury are hyped by the media across the country. There is a tremendous amount of wealth in this city. Celebrities abound and their life styles are incomprehensible.

Joanna Carson cannot live on her alimony of $44,000 a month. The mission can feed, clothe and provide emergency shelter for 300 women in a clean home-style environment for that amount of money. But we don't have it.

But then, who really cares? How can one sympathize in a warm bed, at home, eating dinner--going to work knowing that your family, your home is waiting for you, not a cold bus bench or a trash-filed doorway with a gnawing pain in your gut that won't let you sleep.

Why do I work there with such anger? Because I know hunger and the insecurities of poverty. Hunger is not missing lunch or skipping dinner. Hunger is when you don't know where your next meal is coming from and pride fades to a point when you reach into a trash can to eat the remains of someone's tossed Big Mac and unfinished soda.

Our heroes are those who overcame all obstacles and adversity to succeed. But not all people have the strength, the courage and the will to do so.

Three basic needs are mandatory for survival: food, clothing, and shelter. One cannot survive without all three. These basic needs that we freely and lovingly give to any stray animal, we do not give to our own kind--man.


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