I asked a participant the other day, “What do you do when it rains?”
I couldn’t have anticipated his response:
“I get wet.”
This winter season has been uncharacteristically rainy here in LA. As I write this, we’re in the middle of what is forecasted to be four straight days of rain. And it’s hard to think of this as a bad thing, given California’s severe drought. There’s a sense of relief when it rains, that perhaps we’re going to get through the drought and recover after all.
Working with our population at the Center, however, makes my feelings toward rain a little more complicated. While of course I care about the long term sustainability of California, I also know that for people experiencing homelessness, weather is not simply something they notice – it’s something that happens to them. When you are unsheltered, a lot of decisions are made for you, and a lot of life falls out of your control. A lot of every day life just starts happening to you, whether you like it or not.
For most of us, rain slows us down and maybe causes some delays in our commute or forces us to cancel plans. For tens of thousands of people living on the streets in Los Angeles, though, rain does one thing: it gets them wet. And being wet can not only be discouraging, frustrating, and a hindrance to going about your day. It can also be an extreme health risk, coupled with cold weather, for people unable to change into dry clothes or find refuge.
When it rains in LA, however infrequent it may be, I find it helpful to take a few moments to reflect on all that it means for the diverse population of this city. Rain brings life to a dry state, and slows down the pace of our hustling culture. And for our most vulnerable, it is a day ruined, and a reminder that their circumstances in life are so rarely in their control. Rain is all these things and more simultaneously to this city. It offers us, or to me at least, a meditation on perspective and privilege; reminding me to look at all things from the vantage point of the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods.
Post by Kevin Nye, Group Facilitator