If you exit the I-710 to Valley Boulevard in the morning or mid-day, you would usually see a shambling figure standing by the end of the freeway. Sometimes it’s a man wearing a camouflage jacket, holding a cardboard saying “Anything Helps,” and gazing aimlessly at the busy students and workers in their cars. Maybe one of them would be willing enough to donate him something.
Sometimes it’s an older woman. The wrinkles on her face are clearly outlined based on her dark complexion, marking the years of vicissitudes. The spring drizzling rain in SoCal makes her loose hair float in the wind, despite her attempt to tuck her head in the hood. You could see her belongings tightly wrapped in a trash bag, sitting on the dirt right next to her. She tries to curl her hands into the thin layer of sleeves as much as possible, but she has to hold out a pinched paper cup with one hand so the drivers could throw in a dollar or two.
Many people ignore the existence of the homeless, or worse, treating them like pests of the city. Some show empathy toward the homeless, and try to help as much as they could.
Santos Juarez, Vice President of the Association of Student Social Worker (ASSW) on campus, interns at the Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) in Downtown Skid Row, works in the Center for Harm Reduction specifically.
“The people I have met and worked with have taught me that homelessness can affect anyone,” Juarez said, “[I’ve heard] a story about a man thrown out of his own house due to a cancer diagnosis; a young girl who believed she had finally found a home through the foster care system but only to wake up on her 18th birthday and find her new home was on the streets of L.A., a hardworking man who was worked to the bone by his employer due to his physical strength and is now turned away because of a physical disability he acquired.”
According to statistics provided by Los Angeles Almanac, the total number of homeless in the Los Angeles County was 44,359 by 2015, in which 31,018 were unsheltered. Ranking by the causes of homelessness, 32 percent of the population had mental illness, 31 percent were chronically homeless, 24 percent were caused by substance abuse, and 21 percent experienced domestic violence.
“As community members,” Juarez said with hope, “we must do our part to ensure there is safe, adequate, and affordable housing for everyone.” And with this belief, students of the ASSW have decided to host a unique fundraiser on campus for Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, called Box City.
Originally from Cal State Fullerton, Box City focuses attention on “the many homeless people in our community, and raises money to help support HHCLA and harm reduction agency that assists homeless individuals in the Los Angeles community,” written on their Eventbrite webpage.
The event will take place on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 and Thursday, May 26, 2016 at the Student Union Plaza. Registration will start on 4:15 pm and the event ends at 2:00 pm the next day.
All students at Cal State LA are welcome to participate by raising a minimum donation of $22 to sleep overnight in a cardboard box “home” as a resident of Box City. You can donate the money directly, collect pledges, or organize a fundraising event.
“If you plan to attend with a group, you may pool your energy and creativity and put on an event such as a car wash, bake sale, or anything your imagination and resources will allow. The team/individual that raises the most money will be honored as the Mayor of Box City,” as they stated.
“The purpose of this event is also for students to develop empathy for the homeless,” said Doris Harrington, outreach officer of ASSW. “All funding will go to Homeless Health Care Los Angeles.”
There will also be performances from dancers and speakers during the event. For more details and registration, you can visit www.asswboxcity.eventbrite.com.