Friday, January 4, 2008

A Shocking Point of View by a Skid Row Resident

I took this picture of City Hall on Friday when it rained. I am surprised that the building came out as clear as it did.
For those of you that love ice skating, there is still time to skate. You have about 10 more days(I am sure it is more) to experience the ice at Pershing Square.

This morning I did not have my phone on me when I went for a little morning walk. For some reason, I was restless. When I returned I check my phone. There was a call from Robert. Roberta Vietnam Vet, lives at the Transition House. I met him when I was living there. He arrived in June after I had been there for months. He kept me pushing forward and refused to let me have a defeatist attitude.

I returned the call and recorded the call.

"What is up Walter? What did you do yesterday?"

"I blogged about the LA Mission."

"Why the Mission?"

"I talked about the drug dealers on the grounds of the mission?"

"Why do you write about that, write about something more constructive for you."

"Robert, I believe that the executives need to know about what is happening on their grounds. The people who are trying to get their lives together need a chance without drug dealers drawing them back into a life of self destruction."

"Walter, wake up. That is not going to help you. Concentrate on things that are going to help you. THE OFFICIALS AT THE MISSION ALREADY KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON. They have eyes. Ray Charles could see that drugs are being sold on their property and at the other missions also. It is no news. They know about it and they choose to do nothing about it. Wake up. You know that saying, 'Keep coming back, it works.' Well, that saying is not meant for those that use drugs. That saying is meant to benefit the missions and the non profit organizations. They want people to keep getting loaded because if they didnt the same people would not keep coming back and then they would not get their money. They do not care if people get well. Half of that garbage they talk about in the meetings is brainwashing. They know they can tell people anything and they do. They tell them they are powerless then those same people believe there is no hope for them so they go out and get loaded because they think they have no options. It ain't going to get any better until they change their agenda."

"Robert, do you really think that is the agenda, to perpetuate the drug usage"

"Damn right I do , Walter. Come on man think. Arrests are being done every day out side of the LA MIssion , and the Union Rescue Missions. They smoke cocaine right outside of their doors, all day and all night. They have been doing it for years and nobody stops the dealers from selling the drugs on the properties. The dealers no they are safe from the police on the properties unless the officials call the police and they do not. They are not stupid, Walter. They know the drugs are being sold AND SMOKED on the outside and on the inside of their properties. They have not stopped it because they do not want to stop it. They sold drugs when I was there. I know because I bought them and smoked them there. Nothing is going to change so why waste your time. You have done alot for yourself in spite of your circumstances. I am amazed at how you have hung in their and maintained your progress towards your goals. Don't get distracted and try to be a one man army out here. I know you want to help those that are prone to relapse, walter. but you can not help them. You can not save them. Find one person that wants to be helped and help that person. Until that time, do not concentrate on what you can not change.
They have been smoking dope and selling dope at these missions before you came to Skid Row and they will be doing it after you leave unless the missions want to stop it and they dont. They want to appear that they do but they dont.

I watched you for months write on paper, all day and all night. I could not believe how much you wrote. Nobody could. That takes alot of discipline. Don't lose it writing on a hopeless mission. Yes, it is sad. Yes, people relapse because they turn a blind eye on what is going on. but Walter, that is the business they are in.

They make money off of homeless people. They all do. That is a fact and there is nothing you can do to change it. I know you believe things can be different.
Walter, you do not have any desire to do drugs. You have no urges. You are through with it and from our conversations I learned that you stopped everything in life and made sure that you ended that part of your life. Few people can do what you did. They have to want to help themselves and they have to be in a place, home or otherwise that helps them do that. These missions are not the place because if they were, none of these places would allow cocaine to be sold outside on their courtyards. They have cameras. They see it all. Walter, they do not care.

"Now you are writing on the computer. Walter you do not know where this will take you. I am amazed and other people are amazed that they saw you write on paper and now you write on the internet and have readers. It does not matter how many you have. The fact is you have some and you are learning more about the internet and the various businesses every day. You even sit and practice that programming stuff.
Just keep doing what you need to do for yourself. Dont worry about these people. The missions are not."

That is how my morning started. I was amazed that he was so adamant about what he said. He gave me his permission to transcribe hour conversation. There is no escaping it. The fact is Robert's opinion is one is more than just common in Skid Row. It is the dominant opinion. I wish I could get in touch with Herb Smith and hear what he has to say about this. I just can not buy into the fact that he knows about all of the drug selling. I do not know why. Maybe it has nothing to do with him. Maybe it is because I remember nobody talked to me about anything and look what happened. I guess I firmly believe that someone should be given the chance to give their side of the story.

It is hard to see people try clean themselves up and they have such negative activity in their eyes everyday. They should not have to wake up and see it in the places where they live. One guy, once, opened up his coat, pulled out a packet of drugs and pipes, once at the Transition House. He put a rock on the pipe and started smoking in front of everyone. People were shocked. Finally a counselor came and removed him from the dormitory and they discharged him. They asked him why he did something so boldly. "I thought it was ok to smoke here. Every where else I have been to, all of the missions and shelters I smoked and the people who are here that I know smoked also. I thought it was ok to smoke here. I was told that it is ok to smoke in all of these shelters. I bought dope in them also.".

I talked to a former police officer last night. He was on the force for 21 years.
He is in recovery now from drug usage. He said again to me--"Walter, there are so many dirty secrets about Skid Row. It is by no accident that some people have information and others do not. Skid Row is a membership club. Those that are in make it and those that are not, do not. You can feel the secrets that lurk in this area every day, can't you. The longer you are here the more you will feel it. The more you will see things that just don't add up. When they do not, you know you have stumbled on a secret. They will exist as long as no one talks about them. Simple as that."

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