This post was written by Recycled Resources founder Rebecca Prine. Recycled Resources is a Highland Park based organization that attempts to provide acess to services to the area's homeless through monthly outreach events.
On Tuesday night there was a knock at our door and behind the door was a woman in tears. It was Jacqueline Sheffield, one of the many folks I frequently visit and check in with during our homeless outreach and engagement events. She had asked if I had seen that Veterans Square had been fenced off, I responded that I had. What could I say? Nothing. I just listened. She told me that she felt betrayed by her community, that she didn’t understand why people don’t like the homeless--a group of which she is one--and pulled out a slip of paper from her pocket.
This paper was a certificate of appreciation issued to one Jacqueline Sheffield. It was a certificate issued from Paralyzed Veterans of America. Jackie told me that every time she has an extra dollar or more she sends it to this group in order to give back to the men and women who were injured while defending our country. I wanted to cry. How ironic, I thought, that this woman had been sending in money on her limited monthly Supplemental Security Income of $854, and now had been banned from one of the few places she called home, and further more by veterans themselves.
Jackie has been living in Highland Park since 1977, however when her mother died both she and her brother had no safety net and became homeless. Since that time she has been living out of her truck at the Square. I listened to her frustrations and again felt sorry that I had no answers. She told me that when they erected the fence last week to prepare the area for the Memorial Day celebration she was there. She offered to help, but she was turned away. Not only was she turned away she was informed that "the homeless need to relocate to a park by Home Depot." She said "they were even kind enough to give me the address and told me how much nicer this place would be. But this doesn’t help us and it’s in a much more dangerous area." I said to her, 'you spend one night there.'
The area being referred to is located in Cypress Park and also in District 1. Sadly, like Veterans Square, District 1 has given little attention to assisting homeless individuals in Northeast Los Angeles. I was frustrated but not surprised. Skid Row stands today as a result of communities shipping off their homeless for someone else to deal with. What did surprise me was that this new location given to the homeless to gather had come from someone who once supported assisting the homeless--not relocating them. I listened to Jackie, but I started to fade out with frustration and sadness.
Jackie ended our conversation by informing me the last thing said during this Memorial Day celebration was directed at the homeless, "We don’t want you here, don’t come back." I gave her hug and told her I’d be in touch as we continue to work on finding a location for a homeless access center. I then sat down to think about everything. I understand there are drug activities and interactions that take place at the Square and I don’t care for them either. But not everyone living in this location is using drugs and alcohol. So shall we banish all homeless from our happy clean bubble of urban bliss?
I say now to the people who believe, comment, and blog about homeless people not wanting services--you could not be more wrong and I am inviting you to actually have a conversation with those you so seemingly despise. Those homeless in our community want services, but much like you and I they want to stay in Highland Park. This is their hometown too. I ask again the same question posed in a , how is relocating those who are homeless to someone else’s neighborhood a humane kind or ethical solution? Shame on you Mr. Ed Reyes for the lack of attention you pay to those less privileged living within your district lines and I shall be happy to see your term come to an end. I find it absurd that you have a background in urban planning yet only plan for those who have means.