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His name is Eddie and for the past 14 years he has been a statistic among the millions of homeless men, women and children in Los Angeles County.
Retired at 65 years of age and a former college student at Texas Southern and a United States Veteran, he has been a survivor in an American riddle for which there have been few answers.
A father of grown children, he came to California from Texas in 1993 and began living in abandoned houses and self-made encampments in San Bernardino until he moved to Los Angeles a few years later.
Currently Eddie has been residing in a neighborhood that encompasses the construction of the Los Angeles Expo transportation rail line, USC and the Los Angeles Coliseum.
He was brought to the attention of this writer during lunch with a couple of friends who asked if I’ve seen this expanding encampment underneath the 110 Harbor Freeway.
When I replied that I had not seen the living quarters of Eddie, we quickly consumed our meals and embarked on a journey to see it.
Driving south bound on Figueroa I made a quick left one block north of Exposition and there it was.
Nothing unusual, aside from it being covered completely by black garbage bags, but as I arrived for a closer inspection I noticed the makeshift golf course on the pavement in front of the camp.
Using old rubber padding from carpet, he has carved his own putting green. I was confused by the baby stroller with the golf clubs sticking out it, and compelled to stop and get out to ask questions.
Initially I blew my horn and out came a middle aged African American man dressed in a clean white sweater with a black apron draped over it.
I could not help but notice what appeared to be window blinds shielding a framed window and asked if I could inspect his living quarters.
He removed the plastic to allow the three of us in. We saw a plastic white tube table holding a bowl of fruit, a neatly kept queen-size bed decorating the bedroom to the right and inside the bedroom was a dresser with neatly folded shirts and pants.
Moving about I observed what appeared to be a kitchen, a sink that allowed for water to flow through the drain and into an open plastic container.
To the east was another bedroom with a closet and neatly kept clothing.
Eddie was generous to his houseguest and there were no signs of drugs or alcohol.
Eddie says that he doesn’t use drugs or drink. He’s been living under the freeway for the past four months and keeps the area clean and also encourages the neighbors to clean where they live.
His plight is not unique, one in every 10 homeless people in America resides in Los Angeles County and many of them are African Americans.
Many of them have documented mental health issues; drug and alcohol addictions and some just like Eddie fell on hard times.
All of the furniture in Eddie’s home he says was throw away trash such as the leather reclining chair, the wool couch and love seat and the meals that he receives are donated by passerby’s or people he might meet while working on his golf swing at Exposition Park.
Asked if he has frequent visitors and his humble reply was, “Not much unless they are coming over for small talk.”
Eddie says that the Los Angeles Police who have come to his camp were just as impressed as we were.
As he escorted us out I noticed an oil painting propped up next to his kitchen.
“I’m not quite finished. I just added this room and I want to cover it but it gets too dark and until I get my battery charged I will not have any lights,” he explained.
He says that the blankets keep him warm enough during the evenings.
The traffic overhead was quiet at the moment, but there is nothing quiet or simple about the homeless condition of Eddie or anyone like him.