This is a little bit of personal information for you – and take it however you want.
I have a 15-year-old daughter who wants to be a Vet. To her credit, she probably will be a terrific animal doctor. She is compassionate, animals love her, and owners trust her (this I assume from the number of friends, family, and neighbors who pay her to “animal sit” as often as possible.)
But, she and I had an interesting conversation about the reality of what you want verses the Hollywood ideal of what you want. I want her to volunteer at an animal shelter or hospital and experience it. I reminded her that the IDEA of animals all day rarely includes the REALITY of what that is going to smell like.
She asked me if I thought about what Skid Row smelled like before I started working there. To be honest I did not. Also – you should be told, that Skid Row smells like an airplane bathroom after a case of business class food poisoning. There are few public toilets and showers – and although people will be ticketed for defecating on the streets – no one has asked the mounted police to pick up the horse poo steaming in the streets. Dirty clothes litter the sidewalks and adults often smell unwashed and as my mother would say “ripe”. What?! Did you imagine those shopping carts they push around are filled with “Sure”, “Right Guard” and “Axe Body spray”?
The street cleaners come by in bulldozers – the cool little Zambonie like car with bristled whirling brushes and water never comes around. Business owners hose off the sidewalks as often as possible, and I have been seen more than once pouring PineSol onto the sidewalk to remove the crud and freshen the air.
Also, try this. After you read this – day or night – go out to the street and sit on the curb. Don’t move, don’t hunt for shade if it is sunny and don’t come back in for a coat if it is cold. Just sit. Sit for an hour. Watch the world move on past you, count the number of people who stop to talk, think about all the other activities you think you could and should be doing. Be homeless for an hour. If you have to pee – where is the nearest public toilet? If you were afraid – how far away is the police station. If you get hungry – how much change do you have in your pocket and where will you spend it on food?
Yes, sitting an a cold, dark theater with buttered popcorn and Whoppers on your lap while you watch The Fisher King, Holes, The Soloist, The Pursuit of Happyness, or any other movie with a homeless theme . . . well, it is a totally different set of sensory experiences from really being there.
By the way, if you want a tour of Skid Row, contact me and I will give you one.