A Homeless Man Died at the Kid’s School Today

11.12.10

I got an email today from our new head of school. It read in part:

At approximately 9:15 this morning, the body of a 39-year-old homeless male was discovered adjacent to the main parking lot between the south wall of the school and the bushes. The police and coroner came and went without incident. The children are unaware of what occurred, other than some noticed the police cruiser parked in the lot.

Jane was aware. In sixth grade they are becoming aware of everything. Alexander hadn’t noticed that his school was locked down. Same school, same event, two very different kids.

So when I picked the kids up from school this afternoon I was trying to prepare myself for the questions they would have. The kids hopped in the car just after three o’clock and I asked them how the day was.

Alexander had a great day, but Jane said that they were in “lockdown because of a hobo problem”. I gently corrected her, “It was a homeless man, and he died.”

“He did die? See the girls said he died and that they saw the dead doctor [coroner?] at school, but I didn’t believe them, and the boys said that it was probably a fight, and the security guard didn’t tell us anything.” As is customary she said it all in one big breath.

“Wait, what do you mean he died?” Alexander interrupted.

“I’m not sure about the details honey, but this morning a man died near the school. It’s very sad whenever someone dies.” I said.

“Who was he?” They both asked.

“I don’t know” Was my reply.

“Why did he die?” Someone asked. I was white knuckle, driving, hoping they wouldn’t ask me any difficult questions.

“I don’t know.” Was my next honest reply.

“Do you think he was murdered?” Alexander asked.

“Possibly,” I said, “though I hope not.”

“Where will he be buried?” Jane asked.

“I don’t know. If you’re homeless sometimes people don’t really know your name, so I think the city just does their best. Do you have any other questions?” I asked the kids.

“How old was he?” Alexander asked.

I blinked back tears, “thirty nine.” That’s one year younger than I. That’s just not long enough for anyone to live.

I pulled the car over.

And we talked about what a corner does. We talked about food pantries, and how important it is for us to buy good quality food for the pantry each week so people don’t have to decide between food and rent, and maybe they won’t have to be homeless. The kids recognized that he died because of homelessness.

And we talked about how homeless people are just like us, except that even if, even if, and even if a thousand different scenarios happened Jane and Alexander would have a home. A real home. And then I silently thanked G-d because I wasn’t lying to my kids, because with a thousand different bad luck scenarios taking place, my family would always be there. All my kids wanted to know was that they were safe. I could tell them they were. Honestly.

And then we all cried a little. Because Los Angeles is too rich to have people dying on the street.

Buy the book.

We Wrote A Book Y’all!

11.9.10
Open Our Eyes

Click the image to buy the book now on Amazon (available on Kindle too!)

Exclamation points everywhere because we surely did write a wonderful book.

Several years ago I met Mark Hovarth through The Los Angeles Social Media Club. At the time he was a guy with a camera who was struggling to make ends meet (I am not convinced that isn’t still the case). Mark has created volumes of video interviews of the homeless, both in Los Angeles and throughout the country.

When I met Mark, if you’d have asked me what value those videos have, I’d have shrugged my shoulders and said, “dunnno”. I only knew that they elicited an emotional response from the people around me. It is only in hindsight that I can see the enormous value of that emotional response (my chapter in the book addresses this).

Fast forward a few years and, with the help of a grant, Invisible People TV has made people visible again. There has been one success story after another, Mark has traveled all over the nation affecting positive change, and empowering our most at risk citizens.

The story of Mark Hovarth’s work and Invisible People TV isn’t just about homelessness. It’s about marginalized citizens, those who are a check away from losing their homes, perhaps that is you. Open Our Eyes isn’t just about Mark, it’s about how we are all touched, and how we behave.

It’s about giving, and triumph, and using social media for good. It’s about changing our world. It was an honor to be asked to contribute.

All of the profits, and I mean every single penny, will go to Invisible People TV. I am in awe of Kevin D. Hendricks and the fine work he has done.