Living in the Shadows in Sunny Shiny Southern California

There’s another side of California that you might not know about.

Sandwiched between the manicured lawns of upper middle-class residential subdivisions in SoCal, there’s a microcosm of humanity living in the shadows — migrant laborers from Mexico in makeshift camps.

In my own neighborhood, just minutes from the beach and overlooking chaparral-studded canyons, hidden behind purple sage and giant coyote bushes, we recently went for a hike and found evidence that suggests there are still active encampments.

Mostly these men are invisible, ignored by us as we speed up and down our streets, shopping, caring for our families, and only sometimes do we notice these shadow people standing on the roadside waiting to be picked up for day work or at the local liquor store buying twelve packs of beer and money orders.

Like the crows that fly in and out of our trees in a raucous cacophony, there’s an exodus out of the canyons at dawn and back at sunset.

Whatever side of the undocumented worker discussion you’re on, it’s a  blight on our supposedly civilized society that in 2015, in this country of overabundance and excess, men and women live in the bushes without benefit of safe shelter or even running water.

When you scratch off the thin veneer of Pilates classes, weekly mani-pedis and facials, that fifty dollar bottle of pinot noir, and glance beyond Anthropologie and Sur la Table, in the hills behind The Forum, and probably most of the other open spaces that are clinging to life —  that’s where you’ll find them.

It doesn’t seem quite fair for us to have so much while others are living in squalid conditions.

It’s sad, don’t you agree?


We especially liked the misspelling. There’s a certain poignancy.

There were several white rags hanging from trees along a certain path; we assumed it was to mark the way when it was dark.kellytrail2I think this is a creek, or it could be runoff from all of the developments.
Kellytrail Hard to see the turkey vulture among the clouds.
kellytrail4Do you know who and what lives beneath the surface in your neighborhood?



16 thoughts on “Living in the Shadows in Sunny Shiny Southern California

  1. It’s more than sad…it is a disgrace. Governments have to tackle this problem…and not by breaking up the encampments leaving the homeless to start again elsewhere.
    Investigate the industries exploiting these people…make them provide housing and pay a proper wage…
    It’s not just California,,,,governments everywhere turn a blind eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Living in the country, you don’t see much homelessness. There is housing for the destitute and it’s pretty nice, actually. Food is difficult, but there are a lot of food pantries and several local churches and other groups who feed the hungry … nicely, too, with table cloths and silverware and food as good as anyone cooks around here (this is NOT gourmet central) But I’ve lived in New York and Boston and it’s different there. Homelessness is endemic and the weather is so cold, it’s amazing anyone survives a winter on the streets. It ought to be different. Maybe someday it will be.


    • Didn’t I hear once that most of us are only 3 paychecks away from homelessness ourselves? It’s really NOT the way things should be; people out here really hate these guys (not really any women except for an occasional prostitute) and I’m sure no one chooses the life of living in the bushes under a plastic tarp, building fires to warm up tortillas. I love to camp, but I still have a home. It’s not very civilized. I can’t believe anyone could survive a winter back east. Thank you for your as usual thoughtful commentary!


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