For most people, it is easy to see a homeless individual and immediately form strong opinions: ‘They got themselves into this mess, they should get themselves out’; ‘I shouldn’t give them money, they will just spend that money on booze’; ‘I wish I could help them, but I don’t have time – I’m sure someone else will help them.’ These are just a few of the thoughts people tend to have – and especially when you live in an area in which a lot of homeless people reside, it can be easy to become calloused to the needs and (perhaps even more importantly) the stories of the individuals who make up the homeless population.
One area in particular that fits the bill of “abounding with homeless people” is southern California, as the pleasant year-round weather makes this part of the country a haven for those without a home. While the weather is certainly one benefit for homeless people who call the area “home,” however, the abundance of homeless individuals in the area can cause that callousness to be turned on full-blast, and for it to become quite easy for the residents of any given area to ignore homeless individuals entirely.
Thankfully, for Yvette Dobbie, this was not the course she took upon seeing a man in a wheelchair, holding a sign that read: “Pay It Forward – God Bless.” Instead of ignoring this man, she decided to pull into the parking lot in which he sat – and this decision changed her life.
To be certain, Yvette is no stranger to being an advocate on behalf of others; after all, she spent years serving under former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s administration as an advisor on animal issues, ultimately achieving success in her goals to ban gas chambers for euthanasia and to prevent the slaughter of horses. On the day Yvette pulled into that parking lot to speak to the man in the wheelchair, however, she began to take on a new advocacy task – one she had never seen coming.
The man in the wheelchair was 49-year-old Bobby Landfair, and Yvette quickly realized that this man would have a difficult time explaining to her exactly what his situation was, as he was unable to talk at all.
Yvette and Bobby went across the street to the shade of a Starbucks patio, and he began to communicate to her as best he could using signs and a dry-erase board. In that time, he managed to communicate the gist of his life story: His parents had abandoned him when he was a child, and he had been raised by a family that fostered mentally disabled children; he had left Ohio on a Greyhound bus at the age of 21, and had been living on the streets ever since; he no longer had any teeth because of deficiencies in nutrition, and the only time he was able to get off the streets was when he could scrape together enough money to get a cheap motel room. The reason he was in the wheelchair and was unable to talk? A severe form of cerebral palsy that he had dealt with all his life.
After sitting with Bobby for a while, Yvette helped him back across the street and gave him the $40 she had in her wallet, then she went to see her husband and bring him back to meet Bobby as well. After that day – after Yvette and her husband, Steve, were able to spend time with Bobby and understand his story – they immediately took it upon themselves to help Bobby any way they could. They soon found out that Bobby had recently had his Social Security benefits slashed from $935 to $400, and they took him to the Fountain Valley office to straighten out the matter. One of the obstacles to straightening out Bobby’s Social Security benefits was the fact that he was unable to receive mail; as such, the Dobbies added Bobby to their post office box. They started helping to make sure he had enough money for motel rooms more frequently, and they became active in spreading the word in the community about Bobby’s situation.
One of Bobby’s few luxuries is the cell phone he uses for text messaging; this is a large expense for Bobby, given his situation, but it is his one lifeline – his one way to communicate in a natural manner – and as such, it is a luxury he finds a way to pay for every month. In his texts to the Dobbies, he calls them “Mom” and “Dad.” He recently texted to tell them, “It’s nice to have a friend.”
The Dobbies continue to raise awareness for Bobby and others like him – homeless individuals who are in the position in which they find themselves due to cerebral palsy or other physical ailments they cannot control…homeless individuals who who are doing their best to survive, and who could use the honest help of others. They continue to raise awareness…and they continue to hope that situations will improve for Bobby and others like him – those who have fallen through the cracks, and who could use the love and the help of those around them.