Dear Dirty America


Cardboard Villages

March 02
15:30 2012

Los Angeles

Credit: Pineapple XV

(originally published in The Contributor, Nashville’s homeless street paper)

Los Angeles is a long way from Nashville, I know, but for me LA epitomizes the homeless problem because of the close juxtaposition of the haves and the have-nots. In LA beauty and tragedy are right in your face. You go downtown and here are these magnificent buildings, shimmering glass towers reflecting each other, and on the sidewalk there’s this medieval squalor with ragged dirty people living in cardboard boxes. I sometimes imagine a visitor from another planet landing in downtown LA and looking up at the 53-story Sanwa Bank Building and remarking to an earth dweller—you or me, for example: “Amazing planet. What beautiful houses you have!” And you answer, “Oh no, we don’t live in those buildings. These buildings are full of offices dedicated to making money.” “And the people, where do they live?” And you point at the cardboard villages on Fifth and San Julian.

Obviously the treatment of the homeless in America is unworthy of a civilized nation, but homelessness is not a political problem. It’s not a political problem at all. The problem is a lack of empathy, a lack of compassion. What is required is a shift in consciousness, and I don’t know how this can come about except on an individual basis. They say that the door of the human heart can only be opened from the inside, and I believe that’s true. You can’t legislate compassion. But we have to change the rules. We have to think in other categories. We have to change our way of life and begin to create a world in which the luxury and privilege of the few is not predicated on the misery and poverty of the many.

Donald O’Donovan is a novelist, optioned screenwriter, and voice actor with film and audio book credits. His novels include Tarantula Woman, The Sugarhouse, Night Train, and Highway. He lives mostly in Los Angeles, and can be reached

Find a list of O’Donovan’s books here.

Related Articles


Write a Comment

Leave a Reply

Brave Media


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Dear Dirty America Copyright

© Dear Dirty America, 2011-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dear Dirty America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.