The 2012 feature film “Little Red Wagon” is based on the true story of Zach Bonner, who was 7 years old in 2004 when Hurricane Charley devastated parts of Florida. Wanting to help, the boy walked his neighborhood with his beat-up red wagon collecting water, blankets, food, and other items for people in need. Other characters in the movie include another young boy and his newly widowed mom. Theirs is the side story, but it was the one that brought me to tears. They face many hardships that force them to live in their car and in various homeless shelters.
I was struck by life’s random quality and the fact that one tragedy can start a chain of events that makes life dramatically change course. Our cover package this month (Page 78) highlights that reality through interviews with those trying to make changes for the homeless population here. The article also underscores how unforeseen events have left many without a place to call their own. There’s a preconception about who is homeless—mentally ill individuals or those with substance-abuse problems. Actually the majority of the homeless in Orange County are people who suffered job losses or simply could no longer meet the financial obligations to keep their homes. A health crisis, layoff, or change in family structure shifts things quickly. We hope this article will help change the “us vs. them” mentality about homeless people. We found plenty to be optimistic about—success stories, declining numbers of homless people, and a program in Utah that has made a large dent there. It’s easy to believe the problem is overwhelming. But as Zach Bonner and “Little Red Wagon”—the movie and the nonprofit foundation—show, the small steps from even the smallest among us can help.