We Agreed She Was a Stunner; She Was Also Homeless and Mentally Ill, and No One Thought to Help Her.

Appearances really can be deceiving.

Joel Eisenberg
8 min readMay 30, 2024

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Kitera Dent; Unsplash (photo is not of the subject of this piece)

Introduction

I met her in 1990, the year after I moved from New York to California to find my way as a screenwriter. For the purpose of this piece I will call her Syd, not her real name but an alias she herself had used.

Syd stood in front of my then-local Hollywood 7-Eleven, panhandling daily, following the efforts of another — a male — to whom I had, more than once, offered a job instead of giving money.

I simply could not reconcile paying him for standing in front of the store when I was financially struggling myself. I was earning $12 an hour and could barely make the rent of my studio apartment. Besides, by then I was also canny enough to realize scams were prevalent in the world of Hollywood panhandling. Did I think the guy was a scammer? No, I thought he was legit and though I bought him the occasional sandwich and coffee I did not make a habit of paying his way.

I did, however, want him to take the job as a clerk in the telemarketing department of my local PBS station. I liked him. We had pleasant conversations and I wanted to help.

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Joel Eisenberg

Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.