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Piece of Mind:

Respecting one’s space

May 13, 2010|By Carol Cormaci

In the mornings we see her when she passes by our building on foot, one hand clutching the handle of the wheeled, soft-sided suitcase that rolls along behind her. Sometimes she pauses to gather herself in a quiet corner of our strip mall, near a lamppost. She shifts her belongings from one arm to the other, then walks east, past Bikram Yoga, Fairy Tale Fantasy, Ichiban, Mike Kobeissi’s new office, Jersey Mike’s and Penguins.

She rounds the corner and heads up Oakwood toward the public library. I’m told that once there, she waits until the library opens so she can lock herself in its restroom to wash up before taking on another day. Sometimes we see her after her morning ritual, again passing by our office, then heading west on Foothill to a destination unknown.

I don’t know her age, although her gray hair, lined face and weary gait tell me she’s a senior.

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I haven’t a clue where she rests her head at night.

I will probably never learn her name, or what brought her to this circumstance, because well-meaning gestures from strangers are spurned. “Leave me alone,” she says in a none-too-friendly voice.

While I have merely observed her on many occasions, others have actively tried to lend her a hand. One of those is Nancy Turney, who, as the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA’s gerontology expert, writes the Senior Living column that appears in our pages.

When I contacted Turney this week to get her take on the homeless woman’s situation, she replied that when she approached her with an offer of assistance, she got a wordier answer than the simple, “Leave me alone.” The woman instead expressed to Turney in no uncertain terms her disdain for social workers and “do-gooders.”

Of course this is not the first homeless person we’ve seen around La Cañada; there are others today and some who have lived in our midst in years past before moving on. Their number is small, but nonetheless their appearance can be slightly jarring in an upper-middle-class community. They’re out of context as they pass our manicured gardens or step into our businesses.

For many of us, though, this is the first senior female street dweller we’ve encountered in our town.

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