Today’s L.A. Times op-ed page had a touching account from Les Gapay, a former reporter at the Wall Street Journal, of how precious a permanent home is. Les, someone will all the qualifications to be successful in this knowledge economy, found himself homeless 6 1/2 years ago:
“It was surprisingly easy to become homeless. A recession hit, and my freelance writing and public relations work dried up. By June 2002, I could no longer afford my rent, and so I had to give up my apartment.
At the time, I thought that living in my Toyota pickup truck would be temporary. But finding an affordable place to live proved overwhelmingly difficult, as I wrote in an Op-Ed article for this newspaper on Thanksgiving Day. With most of my belongings in storage, I camped at public campgrounds and once in awhile at a Wal-Mart parking lot, staying in the deserts of Southern California in the winter and spending summers in Montana, where I had once lived.”
Thankfully, his story has a happy ending, as he recently secured a spot in senior housing in Rancho Mirage, allowing him to recover his things he had placed in storage years ago and enjoy the simple joys of having a stable place to live.
“Every day now seems to me like a gift. One of my delights was finding my toaster and having an English muffin with jam, a morning routine that belonged to my former life. I am eating healthier meals now that I don’t have to rely on fast-food outlets. I use the heated pool and hot tub to sooth my aching muscles.”
As Les concludes, he did what he could to survive and got the help he needed. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of people in our country who have not gotten the help they need, and the situation today is even more dire. Les’s misfortune resulted from the recession of 2001-2, which paled in comparison to the meltdown we’re experiencing today.
You can read his entire column here, as well as his piece published on Thanksgiving (“Homeless but not Hopeless”) here.