If you are looking for a book that can help you humanize the homeless, this is the one. Author Susan Madden Lankford has lovingly spent some time with the San Diego homeless chronicling the story. She even lets some of the citizens write journals of their experience. Lankford took the photos. They are black and white and stark.

The book follows individual people. Lankford and her assistant, Hugh, spent time chronicling the street life. It was rough and not pretty. This book is going to push the comfort zone of most people.

Each homeless person was unique from one another. They couldn’t be lumped in a group. “Funny how a term like “homeless” could dictate how society reads people who live on the street,” Lankford notes.

Michael is one of those that have a running diary. He was one of those who was helped and taken off the street. Another person helped was Richard, who turned around and helped Michael. His interview is included in this book.

We also meet Bob, Hunter, Chelsea and Janelle. There is a person named Jed who also contributes a diary of his experiences.

Help was available at a place called The Palms., a shelter in the area. Other shelters in the area were the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul.

The section where Lankford is talking to Bob Daren and Cathy Mathews of the San Diego County Mental Health department is clarifying.

As you read this book you find out that the people on the street can be divided into two categories.

There is the homeless person who will seek help. Daren puts forth, “The Homeless, I have to assume they’d prefer to be indoors, to have a place of their own rather than being outdoors 24 hours a day.”

On the other hand there is the street person who would rather live on the street and fend for himself. Langford speaks for both of them.

Daren also said, “Part of their life has been a psychosis of their own choosing, by use of drugs and alcohol. The mentally ill on the street become really stuck on the street, either through mental illness or ambivalence about the rest of life.”

When asked about his role he said, “My role is to get them off the street, and to refer them to a program where people can help them.” He went further and stated, “I deal with getting them a place to live, and some money in their pockets. We won’t give them money on the street because that does more harm than good.”

When asked about the mentally ill, Daren postulated, “Mental ill are no more dangerous than the general population. They become more violent and dangerous when they drink or use drugs, just like the general population gets more violent when they drink or use drugs.”

The only problem with this book is it doesn’t give any solutions that can be transferred to our area. That is except for the shelters. Santa Monica has those. Maybe the usefulness of this book is that it exposes in pictures and diaries the segment of society out there that needs to be reached.

There is important information in books. Pick one up today and learn. Greet Dane at smdp_review@yahoo.com.

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