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Start the Presses: Living outdoors in the holiday crush

December 16, 2011|By Dan Evans

As I get to work in the morning, I often see the same guy: a gentleman staring darkly at the empty tables at Chess Park. He smokes and walks up and down the 100 yards or so of that Glendale pocket park all day long, unwilling or unable to venture out.

I've tried to ask him his name a couple times; each time I've been ignored. I don't know the story, whether he's homeless, mentally ill or simply unsociable. Given that he spends more time on that plot of downtown than I do, it seems likely he doesn't have anywhere else to go.

The weather is as unpredictable as the economy these days: hurricane-level winds one day, sudden thunderstorms the next, followed by the warm sunny days that brought us to this region or keep us here.

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The wind and rain pull my mind back to the smoking man in the park. What does he do in the inclement weather? Hide in the FedEx Kinkos until he gets shooed out? Bundle up and mutter at the sky? What?

It’s not likely that he goes to a shelter, seeing as being homeless or vulnerable in our towns is a lot harder these days. This year, Glendale decided to go its own way, partnering with Burbank to create a 50-bed shelter, far fewer than the 150-bed shelter run by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in past years.

This will likely put additional stresses on the region's worst off, as Glendale's lucky 50 — so to speak — is but a small dent in an ocean of need.

The Rev. Pat O'Reilly, the executive director of the Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Congregation, told reporter Adolfo Flores that the situation seems to be getting worse.

“We had kids come in their school uniforms; it's heartbreaking,” she said, talking about those the group helped last year.

And earlier this week, reporter Brittany Levine wrote how Glendale's winter homeless shelter is far short of the money and volunteers it needs for its scheduled 90-day operation.

Joe Colletti, the executive director of Urban Initiatives, which is managing the shelter, said his group is struggling just to get everything in place.

It’s sad, but not surprising. The economy, as you may have heard, continues to struggle. The alleged recovery remains just that: alleged. People with jobs are just happy to have them; the recently laid-off spend their days on a hamster-wheel search for jobs and trying to make do on the $450 a week provided by unemployment insurance.

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