May 20, 2011

The Trend

When you live in this community, you receive a $15 stipend a week. The houses don’t have heat. Money that would go toward operating a furnace instead goes toward food and shopping carts for the poor.

The Los Angeles Catholic Worker receives no funding from the church and doesn’t cost taxpayers anything either.

Checks arrive in the mail and keep the place going, somehow, for more than 40 years now.

Within the community, there is what’s called the core community members, who have been a part of the place for at least several years. Catherine Morris and Jeff Dietrich, former nun and former hippie, respectively, are the longest-serving community members, arriving in the early 70s.

There are also the formerly homeless folks called house guests, including those who stay a little while to get clean or heal an injury, or to die, and those who have stayed more than a decade.

And there is the transitory community of hippie volunteers who stay for a year or two, or less, or more, before moving on to volunteer or just live simply elsewhere in the world. Some plan a come-and-see visit before moving in. Some show up on the doorstep and take a chance, as much of a chance as the community takes on them.

I have found community life to be a wonderfully evolved way to live, but it’s not without the obvious challenges that sharing bathrooms and a kitchen and common space, as well as chores, brings.

Although the police haven’t showed up for a couple weeks, my friends aren’t optimistic that their breakfast giveaway, which has provided oatmeal and coffee for 24 straight years, will survive the judgment of the city. Eliminating and limiting access to food is part of the playbook for many cities dealing with those without homes, not just Los Angeles.



This is Part 8 of the city's effort to criminalize feeding the homeless in Skid Row. Here's Part 9.

12 comments:

Brian Miller said...

the community life would be so fascinating honestly...bet there are a lot of great stories...not just from the core but from many of the homeless...hoping for you all

The Words Crafter said...

Those are some truly amazing people, to dedicate their lives to such a worthy and difficult cause. I read that Wilmington is one of those cities :( I live in NC! GAH!

Keeping you in thoughts and prayers for safety. Still hoping for that interview......

She Writes said...

Ed--These stories wrench at my heart. What are we doing to the poor? How have we managed to make laws against feeding the hungry? If this is truly the greatest country on earth, the world is hurting more than I would like to believe. Ugh.

Thank you for writing about these issues. So many people see the homeless as cardboard sign holders on freeway passes and have no idea what lack of privilege and opportunities and broken dreams do to the human spirit. It should break all of our hearts to the point of some action.

I admire and know that you humbly have been moved to action.
xxamy

The Empress said...

I can't imagine how anyone could ever go back to what they were, after seeing and living this.

It's like a rebirth.

Fascinating to read and follow.

Thank you, Ed.

Michelle DeRusha@Graceful said...

Ed, I've been reading your immersion posts -- this is important work you are doing, educating so many of us who are ignorant of what our neighbors face from day to day. Thank you.

Wine and Words said...

I think there's a book here, Shutter Bug! A combination photo essay and interviews with these community dwellers. I would be so interested in each and every one of their histories, as well as your completely biased recollection of the experience. As a journalist I know it is important to be impartial, or present so, but there is something more colorful about an opinion :)

Claudia said...

i guess community life can be a real challenge but also very rewarding. when i was on business in sydney i stayed in a house with around 30 people and two!! bathrooms...big challenge but also lots of fine people to meet - still have contact with some of them

Ed Pilolla said...

brian and annie, i drafted out a book a couple years ago about my experiences both living in the community and working in skid row, but it needs to be totally rewritten. hopefully this blogging will lead me to do that. one thing at a time, right?:)

Wine and Words said...

Well ya know...if you want a ghost writer...it's on my bucket list (not that I could improve on anything YOU have written, but I am task oriented and would have it done by tomorrow noon. Ha!...I'm not THAT bad :)

Hey, I want you to sign my book. Where can I send it with postage for the return? You can e-mail me your addy if you are comfortable...

pobox22athotmaildotcom

magdalawit makonnen said...

Great introduction to the LACW, Ed!! I miss the LACW house!:)

M Pax said...

Intriguing article and sad the cities are so against feeding folks.

I'll be back to read more. :)

Amanda Suzanne said...

I love reading the words of great writers such as yourself and my other favorite hippie writer. Keep writing and definitely let me know when that book shows up.