BY HANNAH COBURN
There’s a new community emerging at Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles, while it continues to serve Angelinos as a destination for morning walks, picnics, and a swan ride for the love birds who could not get enough this quarantine season.
The park is now a growing epicenter of unhoused people localizing around this impacted homeless zone with attitudes like, “What makes a human life worthwhile is not what you get,” David Bush-Lilly, 65, says “but [it is] what you give back to humanity.”
Bush-Lilly is homeless for 20 years and has had his share of bad encounters while sleeping on the pavements of Skid row and sidewalks in Venice Blvd. Besides the forced warehouses he did not want to sleep in, his rights many times were denied during the pandemic. He made his move to Echo Park Lake 3 months ago.
“This is by far the most peaceful community of all. I am so grateful for the support of the community, and they have been so understanding,” Bush-Lilly states when asked about his move to the park.
Born and raised in Pomona, California, Lilly recalls being in the 6th grade and meeting a flower child for the first time.
“A flower child was someone who gave up every material advantage for the world to create beauty and love and give back; I thought I would never be able to give up everything for peace and love,” Bush-Lilly said.
A kid’s kindness in blue jeans and a fringed leather jacket gave young David a necklace that said, “love,” and said he would never forget that.
As Bush-Lilly grew, he became a mechanic for the Los Angeles transportation industry in the ’80s. As he thought he had achieved this dream of getting a home on the beach in Venice, he began to struggle for seven years on how to cope within a society that had complete disregard for humanity; seeing more mentally ill homeless and a capitalist-run government as the economy declined he said.
In 1987, Bush-Lilly left his job as a mechanic and his oceanfront property in Venice to become a human rights activist. He says, “I didn’t choose to become homeless, but I needed to do something more to stand up for what I believe in.”
Bush-Lilly slept in his car, worked odd jobs, and then started working for peace groups like Food Not Bombs, a non-profit organization, and developing a homeless newspaper that became his primary source of income, making $200 weekly.
Bush-Lilly organized a Food Not Bombs in Santa Monica with shopping carts and Santa Monica College volunteers, “We would serve about 300 people a week at the palisades park,” Bush-Lilly said.
You can find Bush-Lilly at the lake, sporting peace and love, spreading his homemade cardboard signs with sayings like, “We’re all in this together.”
He hopes to open a community center and develop an economy based on doing something loving for the planet.
Hannah Coburn is a Deputy Correspondent for the L.A. Collegian Times.