Sunday, April 24, 2011

Homeless and hungry in Cerritos

I was off on Good Friday. I made good use of my free time by playing disc golf, donating to Good Will, and running a dozen errands. One side trip took me to the beautiful city of Cerritos for a visit to a pharmacy and a quick stop at a grocery store for some fresh vegetables. While walking into the pharmacy I noticed an old woman on the ground laying in the fetal position. She was being cared from by two indigent people, and old man and a young girl. I did nothing.

When I left the pharmacy 20 minutes later, they were still there. I walked past them without a second look. When I was 20 feet past, I heard the young girl ask a couple of women for spare change. She had not asked me for anything. I tend to scare people. I’ve mentioned before that I am the size of a small bear and that small children often cry simply because I smile at them. My guess it that they took one look at me and decided to pretend that I did not exist. I’m used to it.

In the grocery store I realized that I had stepped around an old woman who was laying on the ground and had ignored two people who were obviously in need of attention. My internal dialog was not something I can repeat here. Suffice it to say I felt like a jackass for not staying true to my core values. I resolved to do something.

They were there when I left the store. I stepped into subway and bought them lunch. I dropped sandwiches, sodas, and chips off a few minutes later. They were hungry and grateful. I asked after the lady on the sidewalk. She was sleeping off a night on the bottle. I asked if hey needed help, and the pointed them in the direction of the nearest homeless shelter.

As I walked away a woman stopped me in the parking lot. She was my age and pretty. She asked why I had helped them. I asked her what she meant. She said, “When you feed them they will never go away.” I looked at her without speaking for a few seconds, she added, “I’m calling the police”. She walked away in a huff. The thing I remember the most is a small silver cross hanging between her breasts.

Cerritos is a city without homeless people. It’s a wealthy city with great services and nice parks. Its policed by the LA County Sheriffs. The city has a zero tolerance policy for the homeless and they offer no services for them. I live just over the border in Buena Park. We have lots of homeless people here. The distance between the two cities is only a few hundred yards. I’ll never understand how the wealthy and religious (lots of churches in Cerritos) cannot see past their own borders.

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