My name is Marc Nicholson and I would like to share with you a story of struggle against poverty and homelessness, but not in some remote country, but right here, in The United States of America.
It is quite mind-blowing that in the city of Los Angeles, where I live and volunteer, we have 254.000 people who have experienced being with no shelter of their own, and at least 82.000 people who are homeless on any given night of the year. People would think that in the richest country in the world, in one of the most glamorous cities, the home of Hollywood and the movie stars everybody could count on some form of shelter and basic living conditions. Sadly, they would be wrong.
I grew up in South L.A. and have been seeing people down on their luck and stricken with poverty all my life. Living in these big cities you come to accept the contrasts of great wealth and glamour on the one side and sub-human living conditions, crack dens and violence on the other. Well, I never did accept that was the way things were, so I joined the Red Cross when I was fifteen and started volunteering to help those almost invisible people survive in the streets.
My friend Jimmy
I made the decision to help not because I was such a humane soul I couldn’t help it, but rather because of a sweet old man named Jimmy, who I knew only by that name growing up, cause he did not have a permanent residence. He didn’t have any possessions neither, just an old coat and his long white beard. But he was the sweetest human being I knew.
One day coming home from school I didn’t see Jimmy, and again tomorrow there was no sign of him. I later learned he died from an infection that no one treated medically. That got me thinking who many more nice people like him die from something that could have been healed had anyone cared to treat him…and that got me in the Red Cross.
People are strange
In the IRC I learned that there were a lot of people organizing every day to help the homeless but that the problem is so huge they just can’t reach everyone in need of help. So a couple of nights helping them with medicine and food and me and a colleague see some commotion going on under a bridge.
Turns out some very sick people are filming a show called “Bum Hunter” in which they “hunt” homeless people and act as if they were wild animals filmed for a documentary. It’s safe to say we were no ordinary volunteers and that those guys did not expect that kind of adventure going into the “wild”. We waited for the police to come after defending the human dignity of the homeless.
It is just so sad not only that people won’t help someone in need but that they would make fun of them, beat them, abuse them that no one cares about. I hope the people reading this will become aware of the less fortunate with whom we share our cities, and try to do just a little to help them survive in the cruel world from which they have no permanent shelter.