Highland Park veterans memorial becomes a symbol of homelessness

The  traffic island at the corner of Figueroa Street and York Boulevard in Highland Park has served as the site of a memorial to U.S.veterans since the mid 1970s. But for many residents, the traffic island is better known as a gathering place for the homeless than a place to honor veterans. Here, under a large American flag, the homeless and those without a permanent home sit and sleep on a circular concrete bench and seek the shade of huge  ficus trees that rise above what some call Veterans Memorial Square. A story in this week’s EGP News profiles some of the homeless who frequent the area near the traffic island and the challenges facing a Northeast L.A. group trying to help people living on the streets. Some of the semi-permanent residents of Veterans Square Memorial are veterans themselves.  The EGP story says:

Two Vietnam veterans are among the people living at the memorial to honor US vets. One of the men told EGP his personal items were tossed out by city employees cleaning up the area for the Memorial Day ceremony held in May; it wasn’t right, he said. Gary, 60, highly respected among the area’s homeless for his honestly and charisma, says he’s been on the streets for nearly three years. He recently filed a claim for his Veteran’s pension, and is waiting for the benefits to start.

“People laughed at me the first time I came here. They sent me to the 99cent store and I came back with a receipt,” he told EGP on Monday. When someone sends you to go buy something and gives you $5 to get it, you come back with $10,” he explained.

Recycled Resources for the Homeless, a group dedicated to assisting the homeless across Northeast L.A., has delivered food and other supplies to the homeless at the memorial but it’s been tough finding volunteers to help, founder Rebecca Prine told EGP News.  None of the last four volunteers who assisted her on the last round of deliveries came from Northeast L.A.

Related post:

  • The guardian of the square. Patch

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