Homeless 90210: On the Streets in Beverly Hills
Homelessness is no joke, as at least one of our members can attest. Your full attention must be given over to survival and self-maintenance if you ever want to escape the spiral. However, environment is a huge factor as well: if you end up homeless in, say, Queens, you start off with a bigger environmental disadvantage than if you were somewhere like... Beverly Hills.
In this manicured community of 35,000, Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis glide around city streets, movie stars live in gated mansions and Rodeo Drive price tags provoke gasps from tourists.
But the city also features about 30 rather scruffy residents who live in parks, bus shelters and alleyways.
They're an incongruous sight amid the shows of superfluous wealth, underscoring the pervasiveness of the huge homeless population in Los Angeles County. Some 74,000 people live on the streets or in shelters, making the county the nation's capital of homelessness.
But the homeless in Beverly Hills have direct access to something most street dwellers do not: rich people, who can afford to be pretty generous. They pull up in Porsches and SUVs offering trays of cooked food, designer clothing still in dry-cleaner plastic and odd jobs.
"They have a sympathetic thing for us and we're grateful for it," said a man with grizzled hair pulling a train of wheeled suitcases, an office chair and a stroller piled high with a motley bunch of items found in the trash.
Sometimes life even imitates the 1986 movie "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," in which a homeless man (Nick Nolte) is taken in by a hoity-toity couple (Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler).
At a park where homeless people congregate next to the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Young found a benefactor who is allowing him to live free for a year in an empty house in swanky Benedict Canyon.
"He said Here's your second chance,' " said Young, who has lived in the TWA lounge at Los Angeles International Airport and on the streets of Hollywood, where he got wrapped up in drugs and alcohol. "I couldn't believe it."