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Morning Brief: Helping Your Unhoused Neighbors, Vaccine Mandate, LAUSD Masks

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Good morning, L.A. It’s March 24.

Freddie and I had the same schedule. 

Boston was new to me. I was an 18-year-old college freshman and a Yankee fan and thoroughly daunted by this new metropolis.

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My alma mater, Emerson College, was situated right on the Boston Common. Prime real estate, preposterously different from my remote upbringing. A block down from my dorm was the St. Francis House, the largest day shelter for people experiencing homelessness in all of Massachusetts.

For the first time in my life, interacting with unhoused members of my community became a part of my day-to-day. And Freddie was the first guy who got to know me. You see, back then, I fashioned myself to be quite cool — I rocked a bald undercut, a white denim jacket, and an awfully pesky smoking habit.

Freddie, too, smoked. He would sit in the main alley between our academic buildings for most of the day. And always when I was popping out for a cigarette or heading to and from class (while, you guessed it, having a cigarette). It started as him asking for a lighter, then asking if I could spare a dart, then we sort of got into a daily routine. We both knew it was a bad habit and both bemoaned our inability to quit, but it was something shared.

And I always felt bad that I couldn’t do more, but I was working my own work-study job and used any precious few extra bucks on, well, cigarettes.

He had been working with the staff at the St. Francis House to try and find work but faced roadblocks each step of the way. Sure, I’d offer whatever change or crumpled bills I had when I could, but I knew I could do more. So, I did my research and asked Freddie himself.

Cigarettes turned to subs from his favorite spot on the block, which turned into gift cards, which turned into basic toiletries. When we’d have our smoke breaks, I’d introduce Freddie to friends walking by — sometimes, even, I’d see those same friends giving later on, too.

The help, I’m sure, was greatly appreciated. But seeing folks recognizing Freddie as a part of our block’s community, not just someone you step over on the way to class, that was something that shaped how I interact with my unhoused neighbors to this day.

Forming those connections with people experiencing homelessness in L.A. can go farther than you can imagine.

“The homelessness crisis can seem like a daunting issue for many. But there are ways for everyday residents who want to get involved,” writes my colleague Ethan Ward. “Even small things can be of great help if you're looking for ways to help your unhoused neighbors.”

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Read Ethan’s full reporting on how you too can help your unhoused neighbors right here in your community.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go...A Monumental Week For The Hollywood Forever Cemetery

A large mausoleum is reflected in the still waters of a lake with palm trees nearby
Mausoleum for William A. Clark II, who became rich on copper and railroad investments and founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was built in 1934.
(David McNew
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Getty Images)

Other cities can try to lay claim to the title of “toughest city in America.”

Chicago scoffs at potholes, filling them with pickled vegetables. I once saw a New Yorker get clipped by a cab without breaking stride. The Boston accent could strip the paint off a car.

But in Los Angeles, we laugh at death. And with death. When we see a funny movie screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. How hardcore is that

And now, the famed resting place of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and two of The Ramones is a historic-cultural monument.

Read all about the L.A. City Council’s decision to bestow L.A.’s most morbid landmark with the distinction here.