Stephanie Estrada struggled into a sitting position from her nest of blankets on the pavement behind a lamp store. She squinted into the beam of a flashlight and swiped at her tangle of graying hair.
Strangers wanting information before dawn? Fine. She’d answer. Soon, the questions had her laughing.
Had she suffered an attack while living on the streets?
“Attack or attacks?” Estrada tossed her head. The last time was three weeks ago, a fight with a bigger woman that ended when Estrada was stabbed, she said.
She was matter-of-fact about injecting drugs and drinking. Had she sought medical care in an emergency room in the last three years? That drew a bitter snort.
How many times?
“Oh my God. Um, I dunno, pick a number. More than 20.”
So the answers went over three days of early-morning questioning recently as volunteers fanned out across Los Angeles’ northern San Fernando Valley to gather information about the health of the city’s homeless.
The project was the latest effort of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a program overseen by Community Solutions, a national spin-off of the New York City homeless service organization Common Ground. The project – implemented in some 95 cities nationwide in the last year – aims to identify the frailest homeless people and move them into permanent housing through the use of a 34-question “vulnerability index.”