I walked through Skid Row, seeing things, questioning things, feeling things. What was valid yesterday is not valid today. Yesterday feels like light years away. It is not because of the Thanksgiving Day. In fact, the thanksgiving dinner and the trip to and fro are cose to my heart. It is what I feel that is timeless. It successfully fought off the perception that I would never erase the association of a geographic area with an episode over a period of time. It, yesterday has that level of power.
There are no experts on Skid Row. It is so secretive and such a closed society that no one knows what the other is doing. I know a program director who could not get me in to any dental department in Skid Row in the month of April. He called, himself, several places. He had one contact. She said it was against policy to let someone not in their program to utilize that service.
However, somone outside in the courtyard, not in the program and not in a shelter bed in the building was able to obtain service. It is a LOTTERY down here.
I want to share something with you. I had a case worker who really tried to help me in one matter. She USED me to advance her career in other matters. She acknowledged that.
However, she attempted to get me dental services. The reason I bring this up is for one reason. I was trying to throw out old stuff today and I found a piece of paper. The paper had writing on it that was not mine. Once I examined it, I realized who wrote what was on it.
The writing said "DENTIST IN MEXICO" 888-..................
She could not find me any dental service in Skid Row. The only thing she could find was a dentist in Tiajuana, that she called, who could do the service cheaply. Needless to say, that is a long way to go to get a service and there were many risks to consider. I might add, that I am on probation and can not leave the state, let alone the country.
I know this lady tried to get an appointment for me around here. She knows how to ask questions. If it were not for her, I would not be here now, living at the Marshall House.
It does not make sense that with all of the resources around here, that a man, a man who cooperated with the standards of a respected program in Skid Row, who received a Certificate of Completion of the program can not access health services in this area. IT does not make sense that I would have to go to Tiajuana, Mexico to receive routine Dental Services.
I am told by staff members that I am a success story. I am told by residents of the program, when they see me, that I am a role model. Yet, I can not get dental services so I can feel better about myself and move forward in my life.
I asked for these services for 7 months. The best that was arranged was a referral to a place in Tiajuana.
There is no expert about Skid Row. Those who know the most about Skid Row are the residents and the people in the streets. Those that work on Skid Row, know only what goes on in their department at the place of their employment. And that is only if they are in the loop of recent policy changes. Policy changes occur every hour on Skid Row.
Makes sense to me. A person can be in three different programs in one day. I saw one guy, a lecturer at meetings at a program one day. He moved into another program the next day.
He told me he moved their because the people needed help. The fact is, he relapsed. Few will tell you the truth about relapse. I question, at times, the wisdom, of going pubic with my use of drugs, in my past. I quit drugs before I was forced to come down here.
Here is another bombshell like the Tiajuana bombshell. And keep this in mind, I took a picture of the slip of paper that said dentist in Mexico. I do not want anyone to think I am embellishing.
They have mandatory meetings at places. They have speakers come in to speak to you. I sat and listened to someone speak one night. This guy sat there and lectured people as if he were an expert. It was all bravado. He knew he was on stage. Someone asked him how long he had been clean? He mentioned that he had tried 12 programs before he was successful. His answer regarding his length of clean time---------30days.
Everybody stood up and walked out. That is not unusual on Skid Row. Everyone is a so-called expert. There are meetings every block. Most of these organizations down here confuse meetings for treatment. In my opinion,...... no I will not go that far yet. I will say that later on.
I must tell you the truth. I can not stand holding things in. There is a large majority of people that actually believe that it is not the purpose of these organizations to help people really get treatment. They feel that the organizations down here aim to frustrate the patron so they leave. If they leave the organization does not have to perform the service that it advertises it is ready, willing and able to perform for the patron.
I am not going to quote people on this. I can, however, I am tired. I just feel like talking. If anyone wants to hear the quotes, just ask me to play a tape. I will make sure I get it uploaded somehow.
These are not my stories. I am merely trying to stimulate dialogue. They feel that the organizations do not want to provide the services they claim they can perform. They feel the only reason they advertise these things is because it is a way to get funding. They feel the benefactors will give the money to the organization that performs the most services.
Top City Officials have said, point blank, that the organizations in Skid Row make claims that they can do certain things but do not deliver. That sentiment has come from several government employees frustrated with dealing with bureaucracy on Skid Row.
I thought it ironic because I am the one who needs service and I am listening to officials vent to me about their frustration.
People do not think homelessness is the problem, perse. They feel that everything that goes along with homelessness is the problem. They feel that if other areas are given strict attention, like mental illness and REAL drug programs and real educational programs that can funnel people into jobs so that they can maintain and sustain a housing situation, then the homelessness will solve itself.
The Mayor said, at Zocola, that only 3 people out of 100, at Locke High School, qualify to go to college. He said that 50% of LAUSD students drop out of high school. What does that tell you?
It tells me we have a continued recipe for ongoing and GROWING HOMELESSNESS.
That ingredients of that recipe are alive and well in Skid Row. You can have the buildings but the people must have the self esteem, habits and drive to maintain their housing situation.
There are overlaping problems that contribute to these problems.
I know this. The best program that I see on Skid Row, without a doubt is the STRIVE PROGRAM. IT IS THE BEST. Graduates come back and sit around and help students.
What does that mean? It means the students have a support system to help them succeed and encourage them to perservere. They help their students get jobs after all of it is done. The problem is that they need more corporations to alter their policies on those with felony records.
That is how they were then. Those are not the same people now. People who run corporations may be able to relate to this. They were married to someone a long time ago.
They are divorced now from that person. If they look back at the time they were married to that person, they see a different person than they are now. Some of them neglected their kids in a previous marriage but they learned from that. They are in a new marriage. There are just as many demands on their time but they do not neglect the time demands that are necessary to raise a healthy and happy son and/or daughter. They learned from their mistakes. These people are no different. Mistakes show up in some areas of life different than they do in others.
People need access, not a labyringth down on Skid Row. It is a maze of gigantic proportions.
It is sad that a case manager has to tell me to go to Tiajuana when there are dentists within 100 yards, in several directions, from where I lived. Yet there is no cooperation with eachother.
Skid Row had a man who completed a program and is regarded by peers and staff as someone who can continue to grow and not need their services in the future. Help him out. Help her out.
Does a person have to be a successful program of a particular program to get further help from a program or place that he or she can not get elsewhere. Is it important that a particular program get credit so they can get funding? Or is it important to have the person advance and then the collective resources of Skid Row can believe that they all played a part.
Unless there is less competition for money, more cooperation andSHARING OF SERVICES, more open communication and more incorporation of people who are in need of the services in the discussion process, the status quo will remain. "The Soul of a New Machine " by Tracy Nelson, is a story of cooperation and creation within a management context. That STORY can apply in a rebuilding of human beings, not just the creation of a computer. READ IT and adapt the concept to Skid Row.