Most don’t have to think twice about getting mail, checking out books with a library card, and using the restroom in the middle of the night, but for those without a home, these things become difficult.
Nonprofit mental health center New Beginnings demonstrated this through a reading of a play Friday night during its annual fundraiser. Jane Anderson penned “Food and Shelter” almost three decades ago with an anticipation that homelessness would improve over time. However, homelessness has almost doubled since she wrote the play, and bringing the play to the stage attempts to give fresh perspectives to a decades-long issue.
The reading centered around a family that lives out of their car — the mother, Loi,s played by Faline England; the father, Earl, played by Eric Lange; and the daughter, Chrissie, played by Hope Dekkers. After winning the lottery, Earl decides to do more than just fill his daughter’s stomach at Sizzler; he takes her to Disneyland in order to “feed her soul.”
At Disneyland, Lois and Earl try to keep Chrissie as engaged and content as possible, but the child is constantly hungry from lack of food. Earl and Lois regularly argue at Disneyland over Earl’s behavior that Lois called “bummy” — scavenging for food in the trash for his daughter or searching for cigarette butts for a moment of nicotine in his system.
Throughout their special day at “the Magic Kingdom,” Lois consistently shows that she is an educated and loving mother. She makes lemonade for Chrissie with free lemon wedges and water, telling Chrissie to drink up for some vitamin C. Lois also teaches Chrissie to read by using the little things she has in her purse, like the tickets that granted them access to Disneyland.
At the end of their day, after realizing that finding a food bank and returning back to their shelter was not financially smart, the family decides to hide and then stay the night at Disneyland.
All begins to come together for the family, even if only for a moment. Chrissie gets to sleep with the Tiki birds, and Lois and Earl rekindle their fire. The magic of the night fades, however, and things begin to unravel as the sun rises: Earl loses his temper while trying to force open an ice cream truck (which turned out to be empty) after Chrissie began to cry out of hunger; the family is separated; and Lois becomes a single mother while Earl is nowhere to be found (it was later revealed that he was jumping trains through some extensive travel).
During Lois’ single, homeless motherhood, the audience gets a glimpse of what homelessness entails: a snail-paced bureaucracy; condescension from the job-havers; and loneliness. At a point in the reading, Chrissie has what some may call visitation or an imaginary friend: an angel named Rafael. Lois asks Chrissie why Rafael is not talking to Lois too, because she is desperately lonely.
Half a year later, Earl returns after his adventure, and after a period of Lois releasing her rage at her husband, Earl tells his wife about individuals who “get off” on living as the homeless do. He tells Lois about a lawyer and developer from Beverly Hills who spend one week each year to live without a home. They, unlike Lois and Earl however, seem to have an escape button: Earl tells Lois that the lawyer, developer and others like them have credit cards sewn to the inside of their pants, in case they get too dirty for their liking.
The reading ends with the family holding onto each other, in the face of an unstable future.
Those who did not get a chance to attend the reading can head over to https://www.samuelfrench.com/p/1337/food-and-shelter/.