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Plight of the Homeless

January 31, 1987

Lawrence says, "There are jobs for the homeless . . . people just don't want to take jobs that are beneath them." I am sick and tired of this attitude, which has persisted since the Depression about the poor in our country, and has been encouraged so much by the current Administration in Washington.

Jobs? Sure there are. As a former employer myself, let me give you an example of these jobs. I once hired a homeless person, unknowingly, because he had filled out a phony address on his job application and homeless people don't have addresses.

This man was willing to work as a dishwasher, for minimum wage, and confessed to me that he was living out of his car only after he trusted me, a period of several weeks into the job. (He was lucky enough to at least have a car.)

He told me that on the money he was taking home, less than $100 a week, he didn't see how he was ever going to get an apartment. How does a person eat and buy clothes, shower, and in his case buy gasoline (or bus fare to work) on $100 a week and save up for an apartment?

I no longer live in Los Angeles County, but it is my understanding that even some hole-in-the-wall place to live costs about $400 a month these days, probably more. Then there are utility deposits, first and last month's rent, cleaning deposits, and try finding a landlord who will rent to these people anyway, when their last known address is St. Vincent de Paul Shelter, or some broken-down Chevy.

My dishwasher didn't show up for work one morning because he was in jail, picked up for sleeping in his car. Another time he was stuck clear across town and didn't have gas money to get to work. He was a young man, so he finally enlisted in the Navy to get out of this "no-win" situation. What if you're 50 years old and the Navy won't take you? Or a single mother with children?

The ignorance of people who blame the homeless for their plight never ceases to amaze me. Could it be that these people simply don't want to face reality, that it's easier to blame the poor than to admit that the richest country in the world simply looks the other way when it comes to their fellow man?

I might add, also, that when my supervisor at my old job found out I had hired a homeless person to begin with, he was furious. "Forget these people," he told me. "They're lousy employees."

KIM CALLAHAN-HEDDEN

San Diego

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