Dear Eastsider: What to do with Ed’s “collection”

Ed is a homeless man who lives near Glendale Boulevard and Effie Street in Echo Park, part of a small but growing homeless settlement. Ed collects stuff – everything from clothing and plants to furniture and an aquarium – that is piled high on the sidewalk and the street. Ed spends some of  his time repairing and cleaning up his “collection,” as one neighbor calls it. He has even been seen washing and folding discarded clothing before parking it into boxes that he donates to charity.  There is a problem, however.  Ed’s belongings have sometimes overflow and block a portion of the street as the homeless settlement has grown, according to an Echo Park resident named Matt. Mat is looking for help to find a new and less obtrusive place where Ed can collect and store his belongings. Mat, a 35-year-old visual artist, writes:

“Ed’s “collection” ebbs and flows in volume and, most of the time, blocks traffic on the north side of Effie St. And while Ed is both personable and entirely harmless, his presence is, by nature, sometimes threatening or off-putting to outsiders who are not familiar with him and who may be in the area to conduct business. I genuinely believe he is doing a real service and I would equally so hate to see his things simply seized and discarded. However, in order for that to happen, he would, ideally, need a place to relocate. And I have the fantasy that someone out there might own a vacant lot that Ed could use to do his work in peace.”

Click on the link below to find out more about Ed and his collection:

Q: What are the items in Ed’s “collection”?
A: Ed’s “collection” is made up of whatever of value he has found on the street or during curbside trash pickup any given week. I’ve seen toys, furniture, strollers, plants, an aquarium, fruit, and lots of other things in varying states of disrepair. Its possible the majority of it ends up back in the trash, but some of it does get repaired and given to charity. But mostly salvaging discarded things and ordering them seems to be therapeutic for him. I suspect it would be for myself too if I felt as though I’d been discarded to live on the street but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.
Q: What are the items in Ed’s “collection”?
A: Ed’s “collection” is made up of whatever of value he has found on the street or during curbside trash pickup any given week. I’ve seen toys, furniture, strollers, plants, an aquarium, fruit, and lots of other things in varying states of disrepair. Its possible the majority of it ends up back in the trash, but some of it does get repaired and given to charity. But mostly salvaging discarded things and ordering them seems to be therapeutic for him. I suspect it would be for myself too if I felt as though I’d been discarded to live on the street but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.

Q: Where does Ed live or spend the night or day?
A: Ed usually sleeps in a little “room” he has constructed amidst his belongings. He seems to spend most of the day ordering,  re-ordering and repairing his belongings as well as scavenging for new ones. At one point he had a fairly reasonable old camper that he parked on Effie or on Allesandro where it branches off of Glendale. Myself and several friends found it amusing and somewhat endearing that, rather than sleep inside his camper, Ed used it primarily to store more possessions. Make no mistake, he is a true hoarder ….. But he’s neat, personable and doing no harm other than taking up space.

Q: Are you looking to find a home for Ed or just his belongings?
A: I think Ed would be interested in having a home but I’ve never talked to him about it. I know I’d personally be very happy to see him with a stable living situation. But then again I’ve been working out of this studio for nearly two years and regardless of my own biases about the nature of homelessness, I am impressed that Ed has always seemed at peace with his predicament.

Q: Does Ed know his stuff is a problem?

A: Yes, Ed is aware that several residents and business owners have a problem with his location. Though I’m not certain he fully grasps the how and why of it. Really, the situation has only begun to approach a head over the past few weeks. Unfortunately Ed’s presence veritably throws up a flag that seems to attract other homeless folks and the street has turned into something of a campground.

Q: Have you talked to him about moving or finding a new place for his items?
A: I have talked to him about finding a small warehouse space or a vacant lot and he confirmed this would be ideal for him. If I had one myself, I would personally trust Ed to treat that space with respect and to keep others from joining him there at least on a trial basis.

Photo by Mat, Echo Park resident


  1. seriously? this is not a problem that requires brain storming. homeless people suffer many hardships; one of them is that they cannot have collections, because they have no home in which to put their collectibles. ed needs to work on getting a paycheck & a home before he “collects” anything (i.e. leaves it on the street/sidewalk, which, however well organized & compulsively arranged, is basically piling up trash).

    i have a heart, but this is just stupid.

  2. For just a brief minute, I was shocked to discover the eastsider taking a creative an compassionate stance on the problems around us. Actually avoiding the obvious knee-jerk response and trying to open up a discussion on a problem that has no good solution. Trying to re-imagine the way we deal with the “trash” of our city, human and physical, and what it means to live alongside them, rather than step over them until they are hauled away. Rather than sneering at the refuse and crime, trying to take a sincere look at who our neighbors are and why they’re there. I can’t think of a good way for Ed to keep doing what he’s doing, but I was pleasantly delighted to see a response besides complaining and calling the cops.

    Fortunately, jakey is keeping it real. Why even try to imagine different ways of dealing with people like Ed? Trash is trash, right jakey? Talking about the way our society is constructed and how we can deal with a homeless population that will never go away? Waste! Of! Time!

    Much more efficient to follow the standard operating procedure: suggest a call to Eric Garcetti, and demand he get some skull-cracking LAPD down to the Jack in the Box, ASAP.

  3. Maybe a local church could donate part of there parking lot for Ed to do his thing, that way people could browse and see if there is anything they could use from Ed’s collection. He gets to do what he likes to do and people maybe get to take something home instead of it ending up in a landfill.People are here to help people.

  4. resident, no problem! i will always keep it real! you can count on that.

    roman, maybe we can dedicate one corner of each church parking lot for each homeless person that likes to collect things. that seems fair.

    seriously, there are over 250,000 homeless people trying to get by in LA. each is a person, not a piece of trash. however, the crap they “collect” and conveniently keep on the public sidewalk is trash. no need for creative or compassionate stances. if i kept my collections on the sidewalk because my apartment was too cluttered, you know what would happen? someone would throw them out. no creativity or compassion needed. in fact, just like every other person, i have to think to myself before dumpster diving or shopping, “hey will this work with my situation? will this fit in my apartment practically? SHOULD I TAKE THIS ITEM, GIVEN MY CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE?”

    how about real problems that homeless people face… food, crime, drugs, shelter. abraham maslow had a concept called ‘hierarchy of needs.” when you’ve got no house or income, don’t start collections. least of all, collections that are housed in the street.

  5. Oh man, you are so f-in’ real jakey. “Hey! You crazy people! Shape Up or Ship Out!” Dag. That is some straight Realness right there. Bold. Direct. Hard Hitting. No Nonsense.

    You are, in fact, so Real, you are jumping right in at the top of a discussion about the possibilities of some guy’s life, started by someone who sounds like their friend, by saying that guy needs to jump in front of the 1 in 5 unemployed and get his crazy ass a paycheck! So Real it Hurts!

    And what could be More Real than jumping in with both of your Real Feet into a neighborhood blog comments section? Why have an informal discussion with people about circumstances of life and the possibilities for the future when you can take aim with you Mighty Sword of Mega Realness and beat the crap out of that discussion from the first line? Blam!

    You don’t have TIME for fussy banter! You only have time to make comments on blogs about how such fussy banter is POINTLESS!

    So very real.

  6. yup, i’m real. don’t keep your crap on the sidewalk or the street. is that so mind blowing? if you have no home or car, you can’t collect crap and keep it in the street. sorry, that’s life.

    is that saying “shape up or ship out?” no, no it’s not.

    is that saying that this guy needs to get a paycheck? no, no it’s not.

    i trust you can read.

    and hey, if this homeless man’s friend didn’t want input, why did he submit this piece to a well-read blog? i’m sorry you don’t like my input. actually, no i’m not.

    and yes, i’m commenting on a blog. if that somehow precludes me from “keeping it real” (a phrase which means nothing, but which i love), i can live with that. clearly i have time for this “fussy banter…” who said i didn’t? look, the “keeping it real” label was yours to begin with. at first i liked the sound of it (perhaps because of the colloquial imprecision), but if it clouds the meaning of anything i’ve said, i’ll happily abandon it.

    and i leave the parting shot to you, sir/madam. you don’t seem to read what i write anyway, you’re just pissed that i don’t think this man is entitled to keep collections in the street…

  7. Oh, but I did read what you wrote. So I shall leave the parting shot to you…

    jakey: “ed needs to work on getting a paycheck”

    jakey: “is that saying that this guy needs to get a paycheck? no, no it’s not.”

  8. well, thank you, resident! i’ll take it, if only to correct your selective quotation.

    the full quote indeed begins with, “ed needs to work on getting a paycheck & a home…”

    but, significantly, it continues in the same sentence with this conditional phrase: “…before he ‘collects’ anything (i.e. leaves it on the street/sidewalk, which, however well organized & compulsively arranged, is basically piling up trash).”

    so to be clear, this guy can avoid paychecks, rent & paper currency for all i care as long as he doesn’t pile up his collected belongings in the street.

    now i’m really, really done. cheers!

  9. Oh please. Homeless man needs to let go of his possessions and he needs to get a job – McDonald’s on Glendale is hiring. And sorry but the homeless people hanging in the hood are killing the property values. They should find somewhere else to go. And remember, drugs and alcohol are bad kids, this is why most of these homeless folk are homeless. Get clean, get straight, get a life.

  10. I’m with Jakey. The problem with this society is that we value stuff and the acquisition of it above all else. And we damage the environment making things we don’t need but still feel compelled to buy and take home and clutter up our lives and thinking. He who dies with the most stuff wins, etc.

    Clearly Ed’s still worshipping at the temple of stuffism. But he forgot rule No. 1: If you want the luxury of collecting/hoarding crap, you need to be part of the rat race earning a paycheck to pay for the place to house your stuff.

    Let it go, people. All the stuff, and the useless crap, all the accumulated baggage (the physical as well as the emotional type that rile up people enough to be nasty to people they don’t know on blog comment boards) is just bringing us down.

  11. Bravo to Matt. It is such a relief to hear someone who seeks to help the homeless rather than just have them all thrown in jail. I personally know too many Echo Parkers who favor the latter.

    Even in this thread, people take the point of view to just get rid of his stuff, he should get a job so he can get a place where he can keep the stuff, but meanwhile he can’t have it. None of those people suggested helping him in anyway!

    Instead of worrying about how he hurts your overpriced property values, maybe people could worry how homelessness hurts the homeless, physically and psychologically.

  12. Tom – I gotta say that for all your hootin’ and hollerin’ about how nobody suggested helping him, you forgot one small thing: you did not make a single suggestion about how to help him. Or, actually helping him. Your words become like smoke upon the winds.

    I agree with the Buddhist gentleman above and I think he made a helpful suggestion: release our physical baggage and in doing so, release our emotional baggage. We too often think of the homeless as being outside of the human experience and exempt from personal work that would improve their experience here. That attitude is condescending.

    Instead, I agree that we should treat him and his colleagues as the human beings that they are – we all benefit by letting go. Conversely, if you are so concerned about letting him keep these objects, maybe you are willing to make room in your garage?

  13. I’m with you Tom. I thought it was nice that Mat thought he’d ask if anyone had some space they weren’t using that maybe this guy could use. Kind of sad to see it devolve into an unproductive judgmental face-off.

    Unless anyone here has a solution for curing all the many, many conditions that lead to homelessness, let’s remember that one person can help another person in need. That’s all this is. That’s all Mat was asking.

    Protesting a failed system by refusing to help its victims does nothing to mend either the system or the people in need. And believe me, if you think there’s no way you can help short of becoming an elected official, you are really decieving yourself. You could go down to Glendale ave right now and give someone a sandwich. Then that person wouldn’t be hungry tonight. I’m not talking miracles that instantly get 250,000 people off the street, but don’t forget that as a human, you are totally capable of helping another human.

  14. MGfromEP: Ed is not, in fact, “worshiping at the temple of stuffism”–he’s salvaging discarded things that he did not purchase but that were thrown away by people who probably worshiped at that very temple. I just wanted to clarify that.

    I do not know Ed but based on Matt’s description it seems that there are likely mental health issues at play with him. However, he sleeps on the street and quietly goes about his business during the day; if he were at Twin Towers or languishing in a County hospital psych ward, most of us would criticize him for the taxpayer dollars spent for his care. Ed lives here, in our neighborhood, and it does not appear that he has any plans to leave; let’s all come to terms with that, ok? Like Tom, I appreciate Matt’s kindness and his understanding that Ed probably just needs a little help from us higher-functioning people in order to maintain his daily routine. I don’t believe that such kindness is too much to ask from any of us. And I think the church parking lot idea is an excellent one.

    I’d also like to add that a grown human referring to himself as “Jakey” is ludicrous. Cheers!


  15. oh for god’s sake- this man NEEDS shelter, food and very likely medical and psychiatric care. why on earth are we discussing where he should put all his “stuff”? that folks can look upon a man living on the streets with real needs that are immediate and serious and concern themselves primarily with finding a good location for his collection of material crap is astounding to me .. and really very sad.

  16. Thank you @SM. Thank you for restoring some faith in humanity. But really, I have to stop reading this site… Property values? C’mon. He probably could put his stuff in the transitional housing everyone opposes on Vendome. And receive some mental health services. Some of your comments (not just this thread) lack any compassion for anyone to the point that I imagine you wouldn’t even extend a hand to an old lady who fell in the street. And then, there’s the probability that you all are my neighbors… Sigh.

  17. @boombala – Funny you should mention Vendome Palms because I was thinking the same thing but it won’t be complete until Dec. 2011. The construction trailer just appeared out front last week.

    I have spoken with A Community Of Friends as well as Homeless Healthcare of Los Angeles about the importance of doing community outreach and helping our local homeless mentally ill people as opposed to bringing all of them in from downtown. (It is not transitional housing, by the way, it is permanent). Sounds like Ed might have been a good candidate to refer to them but unfortunately the timing is off.

    I hope in the interim there is somewhere for him to keep the things he gathers and repairs. It sounds like that sort of is his job – the thing that helps give him a sense of purpose anyway – and i hope there will be a way for him to continue doing it until something better comes along for him.

  18. I can’t believe how many of you are missing the entire point about why this guy’s ‘collection’ in important – it provides him with mental stability! It’s not like he’s hogging up the side walk with his cabinet of prized-Faberge eggs or a jumbo big screen TV, he’s gathering junk and redistributing it in a way he perceives to be meaningful and helpful, and it is probably highly therapeutic for him.

    Cheers to Matt for being a kind and perceptive person (along with recognizing the inherent problems the situation presents) and boo to those who aren’t capable of empathy or even intelligent analysis.

  19. This dialogue is so interesting to me. I was the person who sent this to The Eastsider. I just wanted to comment that the line, above, using Ed as an example of contemporary culture’s addiction to consumer junk is incorrect. Things pass through Ed’s collection. He is basically acting as a better filter of the trash. He repairs things that probably should never have been discarded in the first place. And some portion of them find new use through Goodwill or otherwise. Whether or not he is a particularly *effective* corrective to the sickness of crass consumerism is another issue, but in spirit, he seems motivated by, and emblematic of, recognizing and contesting the absurdly low threshold at which we deem things to be trash. Cheers. Mat Keel

  20. The commentary on this story is a perfect example of what’s happening in our economy: there are plenty of unemployed and underemployed college-educated folks with too much time on their hands. What do do? Get on the internet and apply all sorts of semi-useless theories they learned in their liberal-arts education to real-life problems. Mental masturbation, folks. That’s all most of these comments amount to, mine included. (Ahh. I feel much better now.)

  21. James –

    Mental masturbation? Try ACTUAL!

  22. Thanks, Mental, for the advice. I went online and found a great Youtube video that explained the process. Then I read a blog that analyzed the ramifications, both physiological and sociological, of such an activity. Finally, I found a Facebook page that discussed various techniques and argued for the supremacy of water-based lubricants over oil-based (I wouldn’t want to support the oil industry, after all). When I was all done with my research, the mood had dissipated, so I tweeted my friends to let them know (“Libido has gone away — will continue my experiment another day”), and then I blogged about it some more, and then I went to bed. 🙂

  23. yes, this is a problem… for many reasons… but the solution is not to put his “collection” (and I am opposed to calling it that) in a vacant lot!

    It is an eyesore and would be no matter where it was…

    We live in a society with rules and laws… and TAXES… and those who pay them (myself included) do not want to see anyone’s “collections” on the street, in a front yard, in a vacant lot, etc.! I don’t care if you are homeless or have a 10 million dollar home… order people… order for the entire community… not for the individual.

    If you don’t like that, then might I suggest buying 100 acres in the middle of nowhere – so you can be alone and make your own “collections” without bothering anyone around you!

    yes he may be homeless – but that does not give him “extra” rights or a “free pass” to junk up a space… be it public or not!

    I’m a liberal – way liberal… but this is stupid!

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