Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Birth of a Hypocrite

I’ve been told Los Angeles has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. (40,000 is the estimate –that’s a TOWN!) Just in case you didn’t know that includes the infamous Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles and Venice Beach. From what I understand, the shelters are over-crowded and no one wants to pay to help resolve the problem.

Since it’s winter (yes, we have one) the homeless seek shelter (homeless does not mean stupid). As recently as last year there were areas on the boardwalk that offered refuge in front of stores. Many evenings, when Pete and I went for walks, we would see groups of people settling in for the night there. Now, there are metal gates that prevent them from getting cover. Where do they go? Parking garages – including ours.

In the past week or so, our garage (more like a large car port) became a homeless haven. When I left for work in the morning, I saw people lounging on a mattress, bikes propped up, people asleep between the cement parking stop and the wall. When I came home from work, they were either still there or back for the night. Everyone was really nice, and even said good morning and other niceties. But honestly, they bother me.

For all my life I’ve considered myself a liberal. I vote Democratic. I believe more funding should be spent on social services and education than the war. I believe we should fix the domestic problems before we meddle in more international ones. I believe there should be shelters and rehab facilities for people who end up homeless. I even think homeless have a right to someplace public to sleep. But then again, my garage isn’t public.

I’ve become one of them. You know, the “it’s all good as long as it isn’t in my backyard” people who claim to be liberal. It was easy when I didn’t smell urine walking to my car every morning. It was easy when I didn’t come home to a junkie puking in the corner by my neighbor’s car. It was easy when I had a washer and dryer and didn’t have to go to the garage to wash my clothes where the washers are conveniently placed so when I’m loading the washer, my back is to the door. There is nothing like doing laundry and looking over my shoulder making sure a crazy isn’t going to jump me (I’m not the only woman in the building who won’t do laundry after dark). It was easy when I could park my car at night and not worry that a person high on drugs wasn’t going to pee (or worse) on it. Before he knew better, Pete sometimes left his car unlocked. Once, he found a crack pipe, and once he found a person who’d been smoking a crack pipe. These things don’t happen in the suburbs.

It’s easy to be liberal when everyone is like you. I still believe the same things, but I thought I was a bigger, better person who could empathize with homelessness, and in theory, I do. I just don't want them in my garage.

I loathe to admit, but when I drove into the alley the other night and saw police officers herding the homeless out of our garage, I did a little cheer inside. And I hated myself for it.

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