All Sorts of Interesting People

Posted: June 23, 2009 in Justice

So I’m in a DPSS office in Compton today, and I start to think about some of the interesting characters I’ve seen over the last few weeks.
* Today, there was a guy who kept slapping himself on top of his head. I don’t know why. At first, from the back, it looked like he was trying to pull off that old test of patting his head and rubbing his belly, but on closer inspection he just had this habit of slapping himself on top of the head repeatedly.
* Yesterday, there was a little old lady on Skid Row (picture an African-American Rose from Golden Girls), and one of our associates reported back to me that this 65-year-old lady thought she was 40 years old, mostly because she was convinced the Russians were turning back time.
* My favorite guy was on Skid Row a couple of weeks ago wearing a pirate’s hat and eyepatch. Nothing to report from him, just a guy living this life wearing a pirate’s hat and an eyepatch. I liked him immediately.

I’m sure I will have a collection of interesting folks to report on over the course of the summer, but beyond the little smile the stories bring to our faces, the reality is much more tragic than fun. Over half of the homeless in L.A. have some type of mental illness, and only 19% of that group are receiving treatment of any kind. I cannot imagine even the most hardened “homeless people are lazy” type of person thinking that the mentally ill deserve to be homeless.

Can you imagine what it’s like to try to navigate “the system” when you have the combination of mental illness and homelessness? Although we live in a country that does have a significant amount of resources for the mentally ill, getting the people in need matched up with those resources is… well… it’s just that the devil is in the details.


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