07/30/2010 09:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

BLANKET OF STARS: Homeless Women in Santa Monica

BLANKET OF STARS: Homeless Women in Santa Monica

Actor and political satirist Harry Shearer once dubbed Santa Monica "home of the homeless." An apt description for a city that's gone from the "People's Republic of Santa Monica" to one of the most affluent and gentrified beachside communities in the country. Approximately 10,800 homeless people live on the streets of this beloved Shangri-la by the sea. Forty percent of them are women. Many of them look like your girlfriend, sister, daughter, mother, or grandmother.

Blanket of Stars

"If you had told me that I'd see a woman old enough to be my mother sleeping outside on the ground, that I'd walk by her without shock, and, further, that I wouldn't' stop by to help her - I wouldn't have believed you. But that's what I did." So begins author Frances Noble's account of what drove her to write and photograph, with her son Ian, the remarkable "Blanket of Stars: Homeless Women In Santa Monica," recently published by Angel City Press. Five years ago Noble and her son took to the streets of Santa Monica to chronicle the lives of as many homeless women as possible. "We wanted to document their presence," writes Noble, "to bear witness to their lives, to leave a tangible record of their individual words and faces so that they would not disappear from public memory - with the hope that the next time you see a homeless woman, you will really see her."

Noble has achieved that goal. "Blanket of Stars" is a deeply compassionate and disturbingly beautiful photography/essay book that bears witness to a heartbreaking sub-culture that exists not only in Santa Monica, but in the country at large. If becoming a bag lady is a woman's secret fear, "Blanket of Stars" is a luminous nightmare - and a wake-up call. Proceeds from the purchase of "Blanket of the Stars" go to organizations that benefit homeless women.