Letters to the Editor
... input from forum participants


Dealing with the homeless - Ideas for appropriate action?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's an inquiry from one of LACP's most supportive participants:

January 2, 2005

This lunchtime I passed what looked like a homeless man shuffling along Figueroa with his pants around his ankles. As it was impeding his ability to walk, it seemed pretty obvious that he didn't know where he was or what was going on. So I called 3-1-1, who then connected me with the police, who then said they would send a car out to pick him up. (I made it clear that this wasn't a case of a guy exposing himself, as he was still wearing a coat, but a case of an old man needing some serious help). Well, the police are busy with murders and armed robberies, so no LAPD turned up in the half hour I waited. In the meantime, the old guy shuffled into Pizza Hut for warmth, and they seemed kind enough to let him sit there quietly. (My daughter later suggested I should have just nipped in the 99 cent store and got him a belt, which would have been good thinking, but it seemed that he really needed more than that.)

So.... what would have been the best action to take? I assumed that he would welcome a homeless shelter - or at least wasn't of a mind to protest assistance. Who should I have called?

Pat Griffith
Mount Washington

~~~~~~~~~~ a reply ~~~~~~~~~~

A similar thing happened to us earlier this year. A man in a hospital gown and pants came wandering up my street. Turned out that he had slipped away from a senior care center in Chinatown, and had walked about three miles on his own, in very warm weather. He asked me if I had any water, and I invited him to sit on the porch and have a glass of water. I found some food for him as well and my boyfriend and I sat with him until LAPD came to take him back to the center. Lucky for him he was wearing a hospital ID bracelet. I was nervous about calling the police (this was before we saw the ID bracelet), but I did the same thing you did. I told them that the gentleman wasn't at all a threat and looked like he belonged somewhere.

Sounds like you did what you could. In our case, the police had been out looking for the man on our front porch for 4 hours. They came pretty quickly and were very kind to him when they took him back.

Lincoln Heights