Juan has been forced to live on the streets, in solitude, with just the clothes on his back and a small plastic bag of additional clothing or bedding items so that he can travel lightly. I met Juan as I passed by him propped in the corner of a crumbling brick wall this morning. Since the weather is turning, simply walking about one can sense the livelihood in the trees and sky with cheery birds as they take to spring time activities and song. Only, for Juan, he was still cold from surviving through the night: and he had made it through last night into sunrise.
As I passed him by I realized that he was homeless. One might not have been able to tell at first glance as he blended in well, but his head down to the ground, I had to turn back. I said “Hola” several times (it took a while to get his attention) and to his surprise I was speaking to him. Meeting his tired but kind brown eyes and weathered beard, my eyes knew that he was Bueno Gente. He looked up at me and I offered him my coffee which he accepted and I walked on.
I did have a few errands to run but by the time I had completed them I was ready to double back and learn more about Juan. I brought him warm breakfast and a large Coke, I always get kind of nervous about ordering for people, trying to figure out what they might like best or what would make them happiest or the fullest or just what their personal preferences might be. I also always end up spending more than I would on myself and then chuckle silently about my constant and apparently replicating predicament. Deciding I needed to get something that I wouldn’t mind eating myself should he have moved on, and settling on instead finding another person to drop the food off with, I got him breakfast because it was morning after all and I knew the word for Breakfast in Spanish. I swung by my local corner restaurant, also Latino owned and operated, and I continued onwards hoping that he might still be where I had seen him last.
Turning the corner to see if he was still there, something I’ve probably done hundreds of times and found that the person has long gone; this time I was relieved to see his tidy plastic bag of possessions unmoved. I asked him his name, and offered him breakfast and his large coke. He was smiling, and I think a little shocked that I made it back around. I noticed that he had placed my cup of coffee on top of the wall a sign I’m not quite sure of meant either he had finished it or disliked the soy and sugar free options that I am accustomed to. Either way he seemed to be happy that I had brought him a Coke so that made me happy in turn. I spoke with Juan. I spoke with him eye to eye. I asked him his permission and treated him with kindness that I would hope to be treated with. It made me happy that he proudly told me his full name and origin, I liked that he was still able to maintain that despite the circumstances.
Juan is forced to live on the streets because he cannot find work as he is here illegally. He has nowhere to go and no one to call. When I asked him where his family was he said they were in Mexico. He is currently doing his best to survive. His continued quest for refuge and safety will only beat on minute by minute.
Juan was wearing hospital scrubs, written on them “Property Of…” a degrading sign that upset me deeply. It signals that he potentially had gone to the Emergency Room at one point in time, which is how many many people end up in the streets. Medical bills put more people out of house and home than you would imagine. And while it’s true the Emergency Room must treat all patients, when the patients are unable to pay, they are immediately escorted in the back of a police car and dropped off in the middle of MacArthur Park. They leave them in their hospital gown, with no shoes, no socks, no clothes and they do not attempt to help that person. This is a similar fate that those who suffer from mental illnesses meet when they are picked up by the police and do not have the means to pay for their ER bill.
We are focusing on the people who might have a fighting chance, or the people who we feel are being treated with the most injustice like #DACA children who were promised refuge and then are being arrested. Their story is being told and it IS disgraceful. But what of those who cannot speak, what of those who are hiding on the streets, whom racial profiling will make easy targets, who will attract the brutal arm of ICE in one easy and fell swoop without any effort being made to speak in their language to them? What of Juan Garcia who had just made it through the cold night and the weeks of rain on end and was able to finally see the warmth of the sun? When #ICE comes for him, will they have him sign a waiver of his rights and deport him immediately in the back of a hollowed out van? Will they call him a criminal and miscreant who should not be here? Will they harm him?
What we are witnessing right now are threats before the storm of Racial Cleansing. Our streets will look different soon, and Bueno Gente will have the stain of injustice imprinted on their hearts if we do not take to action.
I’ve started a GoFundMe for Juan, & I will post when it has been approved…
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