Several times now, two colleagues of mine have seen this elderly woman at a busy intersection in central Los Angeles. She's been there in her wheelchair, with her cardboard sign, for a couple of weeks now. Her middle-aged son, also homeless, stands by quietly.
Probably half a million people have glimpsed her as they drive by in their SUVs and BMWs. As yet, no social-action organization or church group have thought to take her in.
Finally, yesterday, my friends went back with a camera, feeling horrible that they couldn't take her in either.
While Tyler kept the car idling at the curb, Davyd hopped out with his camera. They gave her some money, and asked her permission to take her picture and publish it everywhere, in hopes it would spark some help.
"Yeah, about five thousand people have taken her picture already," the son said wearily.
Ninety-seven and homeless. It shouldn't happen. Not in L.A.. Not anywhere. She was born in 1912, when women couldn't vote yet, when World War I hadn't happened yet.
Long ago, wasn't there a poem about immigrants arriving in New York City that began, "Give me your tired, your poor...the wretched refuse of your teeming shore"?
Well, America doesn't need to import any "tired poor" from Europe or Asia any more. We are busy making lots of them right here at home.
Incidentally, this woman is one of the many thousands of low-income Californians, including people with HIV/AIDS, whose lifeline is ruthlessly being cut by our governor and legislature so they can balance the budget.
I hope all the well-fed politicians with their lifetime packages of income and healthcare take a long hard look at her. She's the human face of the holocaust they're creating.
Photo by David Daniels & Tyler St. Mark