Mayor Garcetti’s A Bridge Home

Last week I attended a Los Angeles City Council meeting with members of LA CAN.  On the agenda was a vote on a proposed shelter for Korea Town.  The president of the council Wesson allowed speakers on each side 25 minutes to state their case.  The chambers were full and not everyone was allowed into the meeting.

Homeowners and people who live in Korea Town were divided about the shelter going into their area.  The mayor’s A Bridge Home would put similar shelters in each of the city’s council districts.  Never mentioned at this meeting was what will happen to the thousands of people who do not make it into one of these shelters.

Since the mayor is also putting over $20 million into increased police enforcement and sanitation workers, the belief is that this plan will start criminalizing homelessness, even though there is nowhere for the thousands left out of A Bridge Home to go.

LA CAN has started a petition for a forensic audit of how the HHH money is being spent.  The fear is that some of the money designed to be used only for permanent housing is being used for other things such as increased sweeps.

The mayor and city council members owe it to the people of Los Angeles and especially the homeless, to tell their plans for the thousands left out of the mayor’s plan.  We should also be asking why the shelters are only scheduled to exist for 3 years.  With the price of housing, how can they expect homelessness to go away in a period of 3 years?

A Bridge Home seems very unrealistic given the number of homeless and the price of housing in the area.  It is time we hold city council accountable and demand answers.

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Shelters are Not the Solution to the Homeless Crisis in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing spending $20 million dollars on building emergency shelters in each of the 15 districts in Los Angeles and providing the city with more police and sanitation workers for homeless sweeps in the city’s A Bridge Home program.  This proposal is not viable as a solution to the homeless crisis Los Angeles and will not work as a temporary fix.

 

The most important reason his solution will not work is that the numbers don’t match.  Garcetti’s proposal to put a shelter in each district will not have enough beds to serve all of the homeless in those areas.  For example, a proposed shelter in Korea Town would provide 65 beds to an area with 368 homeless. Where are the other 303 going to sleep?  Providing a shelter with only 65 beds would put the other 303 people at risk for being arrested or being given tickets for sleeping on the sidewalk which they would not be able to pay.  Possibly ending in incarceration for not paying a ticket. This creates a situation where housing and employment would be more difficult to find.

 

Shelters are not permanent housing, can be dangerous and have time limits for those staying in them.  These time limits can be a couple of days weeks or months. If at the end of their stay in the shelter a person has not found permanent housing they are sent back to live in the street.  Many people staying at shelters experience violence from others who are staying in them or sometimes from staff. The large numbers of people staying in a confined area make it hard to properly ensure personal safety.  People down on their luck financially are mixed in with drug addicts and felons creating dangerous conditions.

 

There is no follow up from staff as to what happens to or where people end up living after leaving a shelter.  Because of the time limitations very few people leaving a shelter end up with permanent housing, as permanent housing is not available.   I personally was in a shelter where I was asked to leave one week prior to my having a place to stay. The staff at the shelter knew I had a place to stay in one week and made me leave anyway.  This left me with nowhere to stay for a week. This shelter and its staff failed to keep me safe, took 30% of the income I was making and intentionally made me homeless again. I call this the circle of homelessness where one is given shelter for a short period of time and sent back out on the street.  Being homeless is a barrier to employment as employers require workers to have an address, making it hard to get housing as most housing requires some type of income. This creates long periods of homelessness for many people.

 

The only solution to homelessness is permanent housing.  The $20 that Mayor Garcetti wants to spend on temporary shelters and homeless sweeps by the police and sanitation workers would be better spent on permanent housing.  The homeless do not need shampoo, backpacks or socks. The homeless need housing.

The Hate Movement (Part 1)

The Hate Movement began during the Obama Administration and has continued on into the Trump Administration.  I am writing this as a historical record of what has happened to me over the last 8 years so that future generations can learn from the mistakes of the past, and I do not mean mine.

The last 8 years of my life have been nothing short of terrifying.  Terrifying that American society has sunk this low.  I am a highly educated person, having earned a master’s degree in 2003.  Until March of 2009, I worked for a Canadian insurance company with a salary of $45,000 per year.  I lived in a condo, owned a vehicle and lead a fairly normal life.  My relationship of 13 years had ended a few years before leaving me in debt as I had supported us for most of those 13 years.

Because of the debt, which was not only accumulated by me, but I was the one stuck with paying it off after the relationship ended, I was staying with a friend as I could not afford to rent an apartment of my own.  When that ended I rented a room from a stranger.

The house I lived in was shared by my landlord and another man who was an artist.  I had a small room on the first floor.  Having gone from a condo to a room I had to put most of my belongings in storage.  This was a huge adjustment for me as I had lived on my own in apartments or condos since age 18.  I did not feel like myself living in a stranger’s house, having to live by their rules.  I had always been very independent and responsible.  Not only had my relationship ended but so had my independence.

Who is Responsible for Homelessness?

Homelessness has become a huge problem all across the United States. Wages have not kept up with the economy, rents have skyrocketed and politicians have largely looked the other way.  Each year in our major cities the number of homeless continue to increase. It is the responsibility of each community to make changes to tackle this problem.

The number of homeless in major US cities continues to rise as rents become increasingly higher.  The cities with the most homeless, both outdoor and in shelters are New York with 76,501, Los Angeles with 55,188 and Seattle with 11,643.  Once known for its prosperity, the United States is beginning to look more like a third world country with the large number of its population without housing.  Many Americans are one paycheck away from living on the street with many major employers paying just above minimum wage, which is not a livable wage.

One of the misconceptions of homelessness is the actual definition.  One can have a roof over their head and still be considered homeless.  This can be a barrier to living in a permanent space. Communities often look to shelters as a solution.  In reality they are temporary and are often not a fix. Time in a shelter is limited and if one can not find permanent housing shelters put people back out on the street.  What shelters do is provide a place to sleep other than the street, but they are not a solution to homelessness. Communities would fare better if they came up with solutions for permanent housing.

There are many reasons people become homeless.  Many people live paycheck to paycheck and the loss of a job can result in losing ones home.  Major employers such as Amazon, Walmart and others pay low wages requiring their employees to seek public assistance.  Mental illness and drug addiction to cope with mental illness are also large factors in people becoming homeless. A major problem currently are increased rents, tenants not having rights which make it easy for landlords to evict for tenants who will pay higher rents.

Once one is homeless everything becomes more difficult in large part because of the stigma surrounding homelessness.  Employers do not want to hire people down on their luck choosing instead people who have not had this problem. Society tends to lump the homeless into one category regardless of the reasons people ended up in that situation.  The homeless are constantly on the move as police, business owners and the public force them to leave. It does not matter if you do not use drugs or alcohol, if you have employment or are genuinely trying to get back on your feet.  Being constantly forced to leave makes it nearly impossible to re establish oneself. Society complains that they do not want to see the homeless and are also the ones keeping people in that situation. Making it a lose, lose situation for everyone.

Politicians often use tackling homelessness at election time, making their constituents envision a city without the awful eyesore.  Once in office they realize the enormity of the problem and choose to focus on other things. They will enforce sweeps to clean the city up, but do little to help those in need.  Resulting in the homeless being moved from one place to another, but remaining homeless.

It is currently a crime to be homeless.  If you do not have a type of shelter in some areas the police issue tickets for being homeless.  This only raises money for the city and does nothing to curb homelessness. It results in the person not being able to afford to pay for the ticket and then spending jail time for not paying the ticket, making it harder to obtain housing as one now has a police record.

There is no easy solution to homelessness.  Communities would fare better by increasing tenant rights, making it harder to evict tenants, a huge cause of homelessness.  Large employers should be held accountable if they do not pay livable wages and constituents need to hold their politicians accountable for their promises to tackle the problem of unaffordable housing.

What is Causing Widespread Homelessness?

In this day and age to have to rent instead of being a home owner puts you at risk for becoming homeless.  In the city of Seattle some crooked landlords are creating and adding to the problem of homelessness.  Being able to charge higher rents may be the cause.

My story begins in 2009 when I rented the basement apartment from a woman named Hla Yin Yin Waing (aka Wang Helmstetter).  I made the mistake of not insisting on a rental contract, which I will never do again.  Our verbal agreement began with an agreed upon amount for rent and the stipulation that I would pick her children up from school and watch them until she arrived home around 6PM.  That would give me the day to work on my photography business, which I was trying to start after attending fine art photography school.

 

Wang Wang

Unfortunately Wang began asking for more and more favors until I was waking the family up at 8AM, helping get the children ready for school, driving Wang downtown to her job at the senior services center and driving the children to 2 different schools.  I then had to pick them up and take them to their after school activities, come home, cook them dinner and wait for Wang to get home around 9 or 10.  It was a full day and did not leave me time to work.  All of this was done for free and she demanded rent.  At first I could pay with my unemployment money, but when that ran out I had nothing.  She demanded more and more and I felt I had to do it to keep a roof over my head.  I had never  been homeless.

I reopened my unemployment claim and began paying her rent again.  I told her I could no longer be a nanny to her children as I needed to look for work.  That is when she really got ugly.  She intentionally flooded my apartment, which began to smell from the water damage.  She told me when it happened that she was not going to help me.  it was an attempt to get me to move.  She began putting pressure on me about what I was going to do when my unemployment ran out.  She began with holding my mail, coming into my apartment when I was and was not there.  if I had a date or plans she would call me and say she was coming home late.

I finally moved to Denver to get away from her controlling behavior.  My nightmare with her did not end there.  She started a campaign of hate against me stating to people that I owed her money, that I was crazy and convinced people that I need to be held back so that others more worthy than I can fill job positions.

I have mostly been homeless since that time.  I moved back to Seattle in 2013 where I was harassed by Asians on a daily basis.  I was hit on the back of the head on the bus by an Asian man, I was ran off the road, harassed on public transportation and a bus driver refused to pick me up until I started standing in the road so he would have to stop or run me over.  My complaints to police went unnoticed.  Public transportation finally put up signs against harassment.

An elderly couple from my synagogue let me stay with them for a while.  At first I thought it was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I soon learned otherwise.  They began emulating my landlord whom I believe they met through senior services where she taught classes on how to do to others what she did to me.  They knew things only she could have told them.  They tried simulating the flooding of the basement, which ended up almost getting me killed as I was going to plug in a hair dryer but at the last minute change my mind.  Had I done so I would not be here now.  I do not believe it was intentional, but the flooding was.

Hla Yin Yin Waing is now the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called the Center for Ethical Leadership.  I believe this organization conducts classes on how to do to others in Seattle what she did to me.  I know this from a Facebook post where she and her organization were recommended for just that sort of thing.

if people are being manipulated into leaving or eviction, that is causing the number of homeless to rise.  She is emulating Ang Sung Suu Kyi the leader of Myanmar who uses the same techniques to control the muslim minority there called the Rohingya, where a genocide of these people is now occurring.

If we want to end homelessness we need to stop supporting organizations that are creating homelessness.  Before you donate money to an organization be sure you know what they are actually doing.  In looking at the Center for Ethical Leadership’s website the explanation of what they do is vague.  Be sure an organization can provide concrete figures and results of what they provide.

Let us make 2018 the year we begin to end homelessness.

Let 2018 Be the Year the US Tackles its Homeless Crisis. (part 1)

The United States has a homeless crisis. In the year 2000 it was estimated that nearly 3.5 million people were homeless and each year the numbers increase. In order to address this problem the way that non-profit agencies are structured needs to change.  States need to decriminalize the state of being homeless as giving tickets and locking people up in jail does not fix the problem and rent control needs to be implemented.

After a long term relationship ended I was living in Denver and found myself in the situation of being homeless after not being able to pay the rent on my apartment.  It was the first time I had to use social services and it was an eye opener into the world of poverty and homelessness.  I never imagined I would end up in that situation having a master’s degree and a lot of work experience.  But there I was and in that experience I learned a lot.

The first service I signed up for was food stamps.  I was surprised that when one uses food stamps they are not allowed to purchase hot food.  Apparently our government does not feel that the poor should be allowed to eat a warm meal, however one can buy a gallon of icecream.  In Denver in order to be on food stamps one has to volunteer at a non-profit agency for a certain number of hours per month.  I had no problem with that as I already volunteered at a food bank.  However as I learned more about homelessness and the non-profit agencies serving them, the issue of volunteers has a downside which I will discuss later.

I volunteered at a food bank a couple of times a week.  I served as a social worker in an office where I would see people before they got their food with any other services they may be in need of.  I was in a unique position because I tried a lot of the services before recommending them to others.  That is when I learned the horrible truth about non-profits set up to serve the homeless.  I went to several agencies that promised help online or a pamphlet I had received.  I would make an appointment with the agency and show up to the appointment on time or walk in depending on the agency.  A volunteer, many of whom were food stamp recipients, would hand me a sheet of paper with the names, addresses and phone numbers of other agencies that would be able to help me.  I would take the piece of paper to other agencies where I was greeted by a volunteer, again a food stamp recipient and handed another sheet of paper with names, addresses and phone numbers of other agencies who would be able to help me.

The only help most of the agencies gave me was to hand me a sheet of paper referring me to another agency, but I never actually received any help.  I saw that most of these agencies were staffed with food stamp recipients and not social workers with master’s degrees on that subject.  Actually most of the agencies I went to did not do much.  I do know however from my master’s degree in management that non-profit agencies receive funding from the United States government and that funding is based upon the number of people served.  Each time I went in and was given a sheet of paper with names and numbers of other agencies, that particular agency could mark me down as a person being served.  The executives of these agencies were being paid salaries while the agencies themselves were staffed with food stamp recipients.  The executives were being paid for doing nothing, and our government was paying them to do nothing.  There is no incentive to get people off the street and back on their feet if employees of social service agencies are paid based on the number of people served.  If they actually were successful at their job, they would lose their job.  The homeless are sent around in circles from agency to agency and receive almost no help.  

In Seattle I volunteered at my synagogue’s homeless shelter for women.  I would drive a van downtown to pick them up at a shelter there to bring them back to the synagogue where they would spend the night.  When I would enter the shelter downtown often the staff would be screaming at the top of their lungs at the homeless women.  One time the police were there for some reason and one of them looked at me and said, “Oh my God!”  The staff at places that serve the homeless need to be educated and trained and not to view their job as disciplinarians.  The homeless are people not animals and should be treated as such.  If the police are appalled you know it is bad.

If we restructure the way non-profits are funded there may be more incentive for these non-profits to serve the poor and homeless and help them get back on their feet and into housing.  The people who serve the homeless need to be qualified social workers and not food stamp recipients who have no interest in helping the clients at a non-profit.  Until this happens the number of homeless in cities all across the United States will continue to grow.  We need to hold the agencies helping the homeless accountable for the services they are providing and to make sure their clients are not just given a piece of paper referring them to another agency, but that their agency actually does provide the help and services they advertise themselves as providing.

We as citizens, both wealthy and poor, need to demand from our government that the structure of non-profit organizations be changed.  The wealthy do not want to see the homeless living on their streets and the homeless want homes, not pieces of paper referring them to another agency.  Let 2018 be the year that the United States tackles its homeless crisis and becomes a model for other countries.