I first noticed the blue Tyvek tent while driving to work. It was tied to a sycamore tree outside our apartment, stretching from the sidewalk to the edge of our lawn. When I returned home, I saw the homeless man. He looked to be in his 30s, white, a bit pudgy. He was asleep, half in and half out of the tent. I parked in the rear carport where my neighbor Joseph greeted me.
“Can you believe that prick,” Joseph said. “The balls on that guy.”
“Who,” I asked.
“The homeless guy in front. I called the police but they said there’s nothing they can do unless he threatens us or commits a crime.”
“Did he threaten you?”
“His presence is a threat. His stink is a threat. I pay thousands for rent and this guy wants to squat for free?”
Joseph lived upstairs with his wife, infant daughter and their husky named Luna. He worked for Netflix as a social compliance officer. Though he was much younger than me, we bonded over basketball and the Lakers.
We live on a busy street in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles. Homeless folks are common in the area. Usually they stay a few days then disappear. Tenants enter their units from the back behind a locked gate. There are security gates in front of each door and plenty of motion sensor lights.
That night, there was a text thread from the neighbors discussing the situation. Everyone had a different opinion. Kai, a furniture designer from Orange County, wanted a group of us to approach the man and demand he leave. Wyatt, an NFT broker and digital artist, said we should turn on the sprinklers. Kayla, a makeup designer from San Diego, asked if anyone had contacted the landlord. The landlord, who was on the thread, said she’d initiated a trespassing complaint with the city but it might take 30 days. Ricardo, a hairdresser from Mexico, said he brought the man food and water. This prompted an angry text from Joseph:
Don’t give him money! He’ll buy drugs!
He’s just a kid, Ricardo replied.
He’s old enough to be dangerous.
You’re being irrational, Ricardo said.
How do you know he’s not going to start masturbating in front of your window, Joseph…