A week of parking lot hopping, meeting friendly folks who have faded from society and survive despite it. Curling up between duffels of clothing and nestling under my coat has been comfortable in the southern California nights. Days have been filled with finding places to charge my phone, use the internet and eat. It's hard to prepare food in your car, in a parking lot.
Valerie moves her location during the week, her message to everyone is "Please do not be blind and silent. Please, if you see someone committing acts of violence against women, children or homeless people call for help, make your presence known. Do not be a silent accomplice." She says it's the worst feeling when someone threatens or hurts her while people just look away and ignore it.
Greg was hopeful, he's working on improving his situation. He tends his three dogs and always has a smile. It can't be easy.
We met Michael, from Canada who came down to tend his parents when they were ill. After they died, his sister took everything. His parents should have done a will. She lives in a mansion in Santa Barbara while he survives in his old car. He is frustrated at how the country has changed. When he came in the sixties everything was different. People were friendly, now he says people act standoffish. He has a sprained ankle, but isn't from California so he hasn't pursued medical assistance. I gave him information from a local shelter and food. I looked at his ankle. He said it has been a long time since he met people like "they used to be" - His message: be human first. Stop accepting things, start living and caring, quit choosing to live unhappily.
We also met Enrico, with a friendly smile. He's living out of his car here too. Quite a little community.
RVs come and go, with travelers and wanderers bearing a myriad of stories within them. Even the night I spent at Oxnard in the Wal-Mart lot I wondered if their donation bins had someone dreaming quietly inside. I hadn't realized those bins are the metaphorical watering holes for the truly homeless.
Here in the valley of wealthy and prestige, there are shadows and desperate, defiant survival of forgotten folks. Valerie telling me through tears and the walls of the donation box that she ate from a garbage can again and contemplated the offer of a millionaire for sex for $20- as it was more than enough to feed her for the day. She chose hunger instead, so I chose to share my food. Her dignity should be worth more than $20.