Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week
November 15 – 23, 2020
Before the pandemic, almost 600,000 people were homeless in America. COVID-19-related illness and job loss has increased those numbers, although the exact impact is yet to be known. Everyone wants to help, but how?
Our first obligation is to truly understand the problem. What is it like being homeless and hungry?
There is no “average” life of a person experiencing homelessness. Life on the street is as varied and complex as life anywhere, and an individual’s homelessness experience is a product of their age, health, relationship and employment status, and many other factors. But, if you or I became homeless tomorrow, what would we be likely to experience?
- You may start your day in a shelter or a motel – if there was space or a voucher. If not, you’d be in a doorway, under a freeway, on a friend’s sofa, in your vehicle, or elsewhere on the street.
- Your day begins early – many unsheltered people report waking before the rest of the world to find opportunities for warmth or hygiene in public places. If there are none, you will go without a shower, brushing your teeth, or grooming.
- You may or may not get to eat – shelters and missions provide meals and services, even for people who aren’t able to spend the night due to lack of space. But not every neighborhood has a homeless shelter and beds fill up quickly. Food in a garbage can begins to look ok when you are really hungry.
- You might go to a job – for an estimated 25% of unsheltered people, the typical day includes a shift at work. Others spend their time seeking employment. Some people who experience homelessness say that traveling, often by public transportation, can provide temporary relief from the elements.
- You will have little dignity – with lack of proper rest and hygiene, homeless people are generally not welcome in stores and other public places and are often expelled from wherever they try to rest.
- If you’re sick, healthcare and mental health services are hard to access – the emergency room is often your doctor.
- You may commit crimes and take unsafe risks – people with substance use disorders are compelled to drink and/or use drugs and they are desperate for the money to do so.
- At nighttime, it’s time to look for a safe place to sleep – when shelters are full, you may have to keep walking.
Our day being homeless and hungry was only imaginary. But for over 63,000 people in L.A. County, this is reality. Every day, Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse serves over 378 homeless adults with substance use and mental health disorders. And you can help. Please consider donating today by calling (562) 777-7500.