Help please?

Public phones in LA

My week’s been unpleasant. Compounding matters, couldn’t go wrasslin to blow off some steam. But I’ve been teaching my fencing class I had to go to that. Which is a good thing.

After class last night, walked by this very nicely dressed old lady who sat on a milk crate in front of a small metal cart. Her clothes were neat but slightly dirty. Her hair was up in a bun. She smiled meekly at me and held out a small crumpled paper bag.

Her: Help please? (holding out paper bag)
Me: I’m sorry ma’am. I just came from the gym.
Her: (sad smile) That’s ok, thank you.

Walked back to my pad and thought of another little old lady, which is a story for another time.

Got home, took a shower, and then got dressed again. Told my wife that I was going to head back out and give her a few bucks. She told me to be careful.

I think I can handle a little old lady.

A few minutes later.

Me: Hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t have anything before. It’s not much, but I thought it might help. (handing her money)
Her: (smiling) Thank you for coming back.
Me: Do you have any place to go tonight?
Her: Tonight, yes. And for for two more weeks. That’s why I’m collecting money.

She held up her crumpled paper bag that was filled with random bills. I told her to be careful and she said she would be.

Wanted to walk her home but figured that would scare her. So I stood around the corner for just a bit to make sure she was ok before I went home, feeling guilty about my dumb luck.

Didn’t give her much. Wish I could have given her more.

Of course, it could all be a scam but this rang true – even to my jaded NY ears. And it bothers me cause home is such a powerful word. It’s distinctly separate from house, apartment, pad, etc. It is safety, comfort, and belonging.

Chivalry’s dead, but repaying the aether is not. Tell me, my small but loyal group of internet friends: How can we help her?

Location: home, this whole @#$@# week
Mood: still unhappy
Music: All the lonely people. Where do they all come from?

12 replies on “Help please?”

without knowing more about her it's gonna be hard to know how to direct her. short-term she'd probably be best served calling United Way (think it's at the 311 phone number out where you are). if they can't help her they can typically direct her to a service that can. most places will have state and city organizations that help w/the short-term housing problem (a lot of folks avoid the shelters since they can be pretty janky), and depending on her age (or if she's mentally or physically disabled) she might be eligible for SSI/RSDI through social security (although they move at a pretty glacial pace).
but i'm guessing you don't know if she fits any of that criteria? not much you can do w/out more info… =(

Whoa, all really good information Mr. Foxworth! I'm actually thinking of heading out again tonight her way and seeing if she's there. I'll find out more information and then follow up with United Way. I'll keep you information of what's happening – and thanks again, super helpful!

i know a lot of the folks i work with have decent luck getting referred places by the welfare office. granted, that's here in MN, but i'd be surprised if you couldn't get some direction from someone (maybe a supervisor) at the local NYC welfare office. good luck!

Volunteers of America or a similar group might be able to help. CA has very little in the way of aid in my experience but NY might have a slightly larger network.

Thank you for caring.

Thanks for the comment! I'm going to add Volunteers of America to my list of places to contact. I'll try to find our more information tonight and post it here.

a lot of times city/county agencies have a separate agency that serves coordination to make sure that people get all the resources available. I'm thinking NYC must have something like that. Generally they even coordinate state/local with federal where possible. I'll try to find the name of the Sonoma county one so you might get a better shot at finding the NYC one.

Good on you, Logan.

Thanks Dana – she seems way too old to manage on the streets and I've got to figure that there's some city agency out there that can help her.

Yes, please let me know if you hear of anything!

dude, if she's 65 or older she should be immediately eligible for SSI (provided she's not making over a certain amount, but if she were then why would she be on the street?!). $698/month doesn't go super far, but it's better than nothing, and she'd just have to go to the Social Security Office to apply. i mean, i wasn't there so i dunno if she looked that old (plus, living on the streets ages a person), but you saw her, maybe she is? =/

Thanks buddy, you are a wealth of knowledge! I went out looking for her last night, and again today. I'm going to try one more time tonight. Hopefully someone else has helped her out already.

That was really nice of you to go back and help her. Times like these are tough and it's hard to spare some for someone who might need it a little bit more.

Here in NorCal we can't get gas without someone trying to scam us. But there are times when you can tell the difference between someone who is desperately honest and those who aren't. In fact there was an older man asking for change not too long ago. He was stuck and didn't realize he was out of gas. But I had nothing to spare him, literally. I walked away feeling awful. Hubby managed to find $2 to give him but I don't know how helpful that is for gas :

Thanks – I just wished she was there.

I'm like you, I'm deeply suspicious of most panhandlers but this woman really came off as legitimate. She was so old, I couldn't imagine that it was anything but true that she needed help. Something about the elderly, right? I feel the young have their youth to help them on their feet somehow; it's harder when they don't even have that.

That was nice of you and your husband; I think every little bit counts.

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