It has been a month since “Living in the Shadows” ran in the View section on Dec. 2, but Marjorie Bard is still receiving calls and letters about the story. Some who contact her simply want to share their own tales of how they slipped from middle-class luxury to living in their cars. Others call to offer housing, employment, medical, dental, legal or financial aid.
“My answering machine is groaning from the overload, and I have filled six legal pads with names of wonderful, caring individuals who say they want to help,” says Bard, whose phone number is listed.
The article, about capable, educated women who fell on such hard times that they became homeless, spurred offers of help from men as well as women.
Typical of the calls was one from a Beverly Hills physician, who needed a receptionist and said he’d consider hiring one of the women. Another call came from a Woodland Hills woman who offered to share her “huge, almost empty house” with a woman--or a succession of women--who are temporarily without homes.
But putting would-be helpers together with those who need help is not an easy task, Bard says. “The irony is that most of the homeless women are non-smokers, most of those offering shelter are heavy smokers. The non-smokers refuse to live in a smokers’ house.”
What’s more, Bard says, the homeless women are unwilling to move from areas with which they are familiar. Offers of shelter from places like San Bernardino, or the far reaches of the San Fernando Valley have so far been refused. Bard says the homeless women feel “connected” to the Westside neighborhoods where they used to have homes, where they now sleep in their cars, and where they hope to re-establish themselves with jobs and apartments as soon as possible.
Bard is neither surprised nor daunted by any of this. Since the article appeared, she says, she has been contacted by women in enough different parts of Los Angeles that she can finally start a volunteer network of people who will help others in their own neighborhoods.
In fact, within a week after the article ran, she was contacted by women in Brentwood, Woodland Hills, Palos Verdes, Reseda, San Bernardino and San Diego who want to be part of such a plan.
Specifics of how the network would function are not complete, Bard says, but she thinks the “grand plan” she’s had in mind for years may finally come about in 1991.
On the glitzy side, Bard says more than 30 film producers submitted contracts to her within four days after the story appeared. She believes her tale of homeless middle-class women may be turned into a TV film.