Bay Area-based playwright Robin Bradford says she’s never been homeless nor a veteran, but that hasn’t stopped her from sympathizing with the population.
“I have great respect for people who serve our country,” she says, “and this seems to be the culmination of so many instances of our country turning its back on people who give so much.”
She takes on the topic in “Low Hanging Fruit,” a show directed by Louis Parnell and produced by Three Girls Theatre, which premieres locally at Z Below this week.
The play tells the tale of four female veterans, who, after surviving the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan, must contend with the brutalities of life on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, living in a tent encampment under a freeway.
“What inspired it initially, was reading a Huffington Post article, three years ago, that reported that female veterans were the largest growing demographic of homeless in America,” Bradford says.
She began researching the topic, visited Skid Row and met with homeless veterans and representatives from the VA Hospital. Stunned and saddened, she made it her mission to draw attention to the plight of these forgotten women.
“I think there’s a tendency to turn away from difficult subject matter, and this is not something that anyone can be proud of,” she says.
For many of the veterans, difficulties manifest months to years after returning from deployment, in the form of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, often exacerbated by military sexual trauma.
“A typical story could be that somebody returns from serving and the reality of what they thought they’d encounter when they came home turns out not to be the case,” Bradford says. “If somebody doesn’t have resources, they can find themselves on this downward trend.”
Unlike their male counterparts who were once welcomed home from World War II with kisses, confetti and the G.I. Bill, these survivors of the War on Terror return largely unnoticed and unsupported. Their promised benefits are tied up in so much bureaucratic red tape, many end up living out “the best years of their lives” on the street.
“People don’t realize how many homeless women veterans there are,” Bradford says. “If you have that knowledge that this person that you’re looking down on actually served our country, or is a mother, or has people who love her, then that’s the start of thinking of them as a fellow human being. “
IF YOU GO
Low Hanging Fruit
Presented by 3Girls Theatre Company
Where: Z Below, 470 Florida St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes July 30
Tickets: $35 to $50
Note: At Thursday performances, local nonprofits assisting homeless veterans will collect donations of items (including clothing).