The Invisible People

Thelma Smith, “Capoeisitera”

My good fiber arts friend of many years, Thelma Smith, made this series of homeless people she met up with when she was searching for her son, Norman, who suffered from mental/emotional issues probably stemming from a developmental challenge. She generally made the quilts bigger than real life, painted them and then stitched them. She also put very few facial features on them in one way giving them dignity, and in another way showing them as the invisible people in our society. This series of quilts always held great appeal for me and I always wished she could have put it out into a public gallery where a lot of people could see it and realize how important and unaddressed this problem is today.

Left Turn Lane Series Quilt by Thelma Smith

I think of the homeless people all the time. I have had young people show up in my classrooms, and when I offered them food that I used to bring for my teens who were in my study class, they would come back everyday just to get a breakfast/lunch though they were not actually in my classroom. They would come during a break when the other children were gone and always would talk to me. I remember one boy who told me his folks and he and his sisters and brothers were sleeping on the floor in a store owned by someone who knew them. I always made sure he took extra food. I cannot begin to imagine what a child who is homeless must go through emotionally, having to keep it a secret to prevent being bullied, and arriving at school hungry in the morning. The homeless are “cracks in the pavement.” We see them, but pass right by them as we would step on those cracks.

Thelma Smith – Left Turn Lane Series

I’ve seen and tried to help a lot of homeless people in my life. Sometimes the people are clearly suffering so much, I could not possibly help but cry. How sad is it to see an elderly woman in barely enough raggedy clothes to protect her from the cold, pushing a recycled wheelchair likely from a garbage throwaway, with her husband in it, and the only blanket covering him as she tried to protect and push him to the free clinic near where I used to live. But the saddest thing is how others turn away from them, pretending they don’t exist.

Left Turn Lane Series by Thelma Smith

All of these people at one time or another were probably just like you and me. It may have been only for a very short time when they were very young, but we need to remember that they are human beings just like us. We cannot know what happened in their lives to make them into homeless people, but it had to be dramatic. No one wants to live out in the rain or snow, and to sleep on concrete or on the cold ground, to have to find food in trash cans, or to go to the bathroom out wherever they can find a place, and have no way to clean themselves at all. And no one wants to get hurt, tortured, raped, or murdered perhaps for as little as the blanket they are using to keep warm.

Wild Bill, Thelma Smith’s Left Turn Lane Series

Their need to communicate is no different than ours. I remember when I was out of work from one of those jobs with a big title, and could not find a job, not because I was not qualified, but I was overqualified. I too had a short period of semi-homelessness. Luckily I had a lot of friends who would let me stay a night or two at their home and feed me and my pets, and I did find another job quickly. The time was never wasted. I was working as a volunteer at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, a teaching hospital, and if I worked four hours, I got a free lunch in the doctor’s cafeteria, which had the best food. I would get a salad, a full meal, and dessert. So I would eat my salad for lunch, wrap up my dinner and desert and have that later. I could go to the free clinic and get in quickly since I had my volunteer vest on, and I could also get needed shots downstairs in the hospital. I quickly taught myself how to go in the library and do my own medical research to determine pretty much accurately every time what I had, and the doctors in the free clinic always looked forward to treating me because I saved them time and always made the correct diagnosis. It is a habit that has followed me thru life, and I have made the right choices every time by doing my research.

I had the priviledge of working as a volunteer in the Neonatal Section of the hospital, where we treated hundreds of women with all manner of issues – homelessness, drugs, poor prenatal care, etc. I was responsible for the Newborn Hearing Screening, and I did my job well. The people I worked with actually wanted to hire me, but as hospitals tend to do things, they decided to hire a service instead so that they would not have the expense of an employee (i.e. benefits, etc.) to deal with. I also taught the women in the Neonatal Section about the benefits of breastfeeding when it was possible. The drug addicts could not nurse their babies, and it was heartbreaking to watch the babies shaking and crying all the time from the damage done to their tiny systems.

One night a Hispanic young lady came in and had her baby. It was premature, and would have to stay in the hospital, but she wanted to breastfeed her baby. I suspect she came over to the U.S. as a mule, or person who came over with drugs inserted somewhere in her body, a very common thing. We fixed her up with the equipment to pump her breasts for the baby, and she left for the group home she was staying in. She was NOT one of the drug people at all, and a very sweet and very young woman. I doubt she was older than 17, and possibly younger. She never came back to to the hospital, and we suspected that she was picked up again by the men who watch out for the mules, or some other form of human trafficking. So the problem was that the police could not look for someone they knew absolutely nothing about. She was literally an invisible person. Now a child will potentially grow up without ever knowing its mother, and a mother somewhere might be mourning her loss, or perhaps be even dead. We will never know. I send prayers for the homeless, and I am glad that Thelma Smith gave them dignity by not painting their faces, and making them bigger than life.


31 thoughts on “The Invisible People

  1. This is a beautiful post, Anne. So much sadness in the USA where you don’t really expect it because we are all told all our lives that the USA is the best and the most powerful and the best place to live. I am reading your lovely book and finding it fascinating and informative.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you most kindly, Roberta. I hope your sweet children are doing better now healthwise and emotionally. It must be such a physical and emotional challenge for you. I had no idea, so I really admire you for being able to be creative and do a lot of things when your children are needing so much attention. Good for you. I wrote a nice letter to my daughter the other day wishing her a happy Thanksgiving and telling her all the things I remembered that she did and how it affected me. I know it is very hard for her to deal with, but I will just do the best I can with her and who knows? Even the stubbornest people can change if they become willing to let go of needing to protect themselves from further pain.

    Thank you most kindly for reading my book. It was fun to write and I got to meet so many nice people who shared their old recipes from years ago, or their memories. One of these days, I will put together another book of a slightly different type, but I might have to do my own artwork for it, and that will be a challenge. It’s one of two children’s books I wrote a long time ago. One is Tenshoes and the Skitty Foot, and the other is That Dog, Liver! Well, eventually, those may come to be. Right now I am helping my physically challenged friend whose house burned up in the Paradise, CA fire. She has finally managed to relocate, not anywhere near that town, the site of the worst fire ever in California since the one in San Francisco. It burned the entire town down. Anyway, she is a fiber artist and has a book she would like to get written. She has posts on her old blog, and so I am pulling information to use for steps on how to create her black and white quilts, or any of them with complex landscapes. So that is my project now, that and looking for a new (not literally new, but new for us) home in Arizona, where we want to move and get out of this mobile home park. I have to get my title as our park owners were genuine slumlords and shysters, and they were both attorneys, and possibly the nastiest people I have ever dealt with. They kept saying I have not paid off my loan, and when I show the Housing Community Development how much they were trying to charge me for a $4,000 loan, they will likely punish them in some manner. $9,200 for a $4,000 loan is considered usury or predatory lending, and I have told them I will take them to court if they don’t give me my title, so another thing besides taking care of my significant other, Richard now. Always something, but I am making good progress, a step at a time.

    Thank you for your kind note. It is much appreciated, and you are in my thoughts for the wellness and well-being of your two special children. Anne always

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so kindly. I am so glad you liked it. It sure has changed my heart and how I view others. I think it has put us all more on the same level. Not everyone is homeless because they are on drugs, etc. Some have mental illness, and children are the worst victims of all because they did not do anything to end up where they are. If anyone in the school district finds out they are homeless, they will be bullied, and that is a guarantee.If everyone tries to do just one thing, we could all sure help make a difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Anne it is dreadful that we still need to write posts like this. All over the world every city town and village has its homeless. I see them most days even here in middle England..I have seen homeless in The U.S.A, Canada in fact everywhere I have been I have seen it. I have written about it too. Here is an old one written for Christmas but sadly homelessness us an all year round state.
    I hope you don’t mind me send you a post of mine.
    We must never forget them 💜

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Willow, I never mind if someone wants to send me something. It is so nice to reach out across the many miles and be able to touch the soul of another. Thank you so kindly for this. Yes, we have homelessness throughout the world, and some of it is different from what we see here, where people are picked off the streets, be they adults or children and they are abused in slavery or other forms of human trafficking. I have seen it too, and it breaks my heart. When we are enjoying the warmth of our own homes with our loved ones and having a meal that is so abundant, I always think of them and hope that they will be taken care of for the day, and hopefully longer. Thank you so kindly, Willow. You are a really nice lady.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am all too aware of the plight of the many, and the failure of society to provide for them, particularly during the winter and the heat of summer. We can spend tons of money on all sorts of unneeded things and those that are unwanted, but we cannot figure out a solution to give these people the dignity they need if they are ever to recover their human selves. There are so many possible things that could be done cheaply – tiny houses, etc. and let them have plumbing – enough to shower or bathe, and water to drink. Let them have heat too, to help them stay warm and dry in the winter. I should think that universities could let their architecture students figure out and help build such solutions. We have all sorts of waste materials that could be used to make shelters to help them out and perhaps give them a chance to recover. Yes, it is VERY sad. Here in California, they put the homeless onto buses and ship them out to some area like Palm Springs or beyond where it is so hot in the summer, they have little chance to survive. And people in my area fill the trash bins with uneaten food that is not bad, clothes that are very little worn, and some never worn with the price tags still on them, shoes, boots, etc. How this could help not only the homeless, but help to protect our environment as well. But we are too busy running around thinking of only what we can buy next for a loved one or a relative.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It is pretty shameful that we’re a “first world” country but can’t take care of our homeless. I agree, there are so many ways that could work. Like, why not make the homeless shelters and animals shelters combined? It would be a win-win in terms of companionship. There would be no need for volunteers for the animals, it could be part of the service for room and board for the homeless…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Painfully sad. And that poor Hispanic lady and her baby.. just one nameless number among the millions.How is it some lead a jet-setting life, with more money than they’ll ever know what to do with it, and others have so very little, then end up on such a different path in life? It seems incredibly unfair and unjust. A beautiful post, Anne.
    Caz xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, life can be very difficult for some, often people who have done nothing to cause such a thing. I wish that the areas that have all the homeless people would do something to help them all. Very sad state of affairs for this world. It isn’t just in the U.S.; it is true in every country. Thank you very kindly.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. This is specially for Eliza, but for any of you also who care to read it. The same thing Eliza is speaking about, foster children, also happens with special needs children and young people, and most of those are grossly taken advantage of because they do not know how to protect or take care of themselves, and sometimes they are very trusting of people and don’t know when to run or try to get word somehow to the police. The world has come to be very uncaring for its own. I have told people many times that there are no accidents when it comes to people on this earth. This earth and all that is in it is sacred. None of us would be here – be they muslims, buddhists, or whatever religious belief or spiritual following, what race or color or culture if we were not intended to be here. And so it is with the homeless. What would any of the great spiritual/religious leaders do with these people?

    The world needs to care for all the people, all the creatures, all the growing plants while it can. Thank you so much for caring about others.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For Alethea:

    I totally agree. It doesn’t have to be an expensive project. The City could give minor felons an opportunity to learn to build with recycled materials. High school students in Jr. and Senior classes could also take part in such learning, particularly in the summertime. Youth today seem to be very bright about using recycled things. I have read many experiments involving young people. What a good start in responsible caring for our earth that could be. Thank you for the kind remarks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Heart breaking stories Anne. I’ve been following the life of homeless people in different communities on YouTube. Seems like there are no easy solutions, but I wonder about the will of government to actually try and erase the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and me both, Len! You know, there are so many leftover parts and things going to waste. It would be a great project for seniors in high school and young architectural students to design and help build inexpensive but suitable housing for the homeless, and it would not really need to cost the cities anything. So much could be done without the necessity of building homes that create more debt and less useful shelter for us all.


    1. I always believe that people have a voice if they choose to use it, but generally they do not. I wrote a response above yours to Len about this and what could be done. Those who are homeless could pitch in and help with the building of their shelters/homes, which would provide them with a sense of pride and the skills to be able to perhaps get more work to help them support themselves at least a little. I have, for years, followed the work of students in architecture building self-sustaining shelters/homes and it can be done economically with little pre-acquired skills. So I think that there IS hope, and some of the right people just have to make themselves heard on this issue.


  8. This is absolutely beautiful, Anne. Your title is spot on. The homeless are often the invisible people. I think about children, and how they manage to go to school and get through even trying to focus and learn anything. It’s so sad. You are a role model for giving, I am always inspired. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The work to build homes for those without could be done without cost to the cities by students of architecture using sustainable building techniques, and even high school students could do this work. It would provide learning for both sides, and give people a sense of pride in having helped to build their own homes. As my mom always used to say, “Where there’s a will, there is a way.” We all just have to keep making ourselves heard.and ultimately someone will hear us. People were doing these things long before we even thought of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Every vocational technical high school could build “little houses”. I think the bigger question for most locations is where to put them. There isn’t always available land. But yes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Read my posts in response to a couple of others right above you. I think it is possible for us to do these things to help, and without huge expenses. There are so many potentials in recycled materials, and using architectural and engineering students as a hands on way to learn, and even high school seniors and possibly juniors interested in learning the tasks that can help them to get good jobs later on. I think we need not go into national debt to make sure that everyone who really wants a home can have one. It might help give them a sense of pride too if they are helping to build such homes for themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There is always land available someplace. They don’t have to stay in the state or area where they are. They can be relocated to other areas that may be even more suitable for them. So that is one thing to consider. There are still lands that are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Some areas are selling plots of land 20 – 40 acres large with one tiny mobile/manufactured home on them. I hope that one of these days before it is too late, the States will consider helping the homeless in their state even if they don’t have much space themselves.


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