Monday, June 30, 2008 Comes to Skid Row

On Wednesday Afternoon, I walked into my building and everything on the street was real quiet. two hours later I walked out of my building, going to work, and the street was packed. There was a street party going on and I did not even hear it being set up. Needless to say, I was quite surprised. gave a street party for Skid Row.

As I understand it there philosophy is to put on events in desperate areas,complete with entertainment, food and prizes. This will show people that God loves them and the area will transform into one of peace and tranquility.

Everyone seemed to be having fun and they definitely enjoyed the food and prizes.
It was a nice surprise.

It was easy to identify the wowjam workers. They were very eager to please, extremely enthusiastic and delightfully polite.

I had to go to work so I could not participate. But next time....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Betrayal on Skid Row

Sometimes something must happen to help you regain your perspective. I experienced that kind of event tonight, on my way home from work.

I have been working hard, trying to find employment opportunities that will offer me better income. I have to admit that I enjoy my job, co workers and even the clients but I do want to save more money, get out of debt and move out of Skid Row.

I sent an acquaintance from my past a copy of my resume. I thought he might review it and then offer me a job or refer me to someone who may be hiring. He did neither.
He had his assistant review it, make some comments and send it back to me with a message "Good luck with my career". I felt I received the brush off. For a long time today I felt like I was damaged goods. I felt sorry for myself, not remembering that a year ago, at this time, I had nothing. I had no job. I slept in a shelter by court order and pretty much felt I had no future.

thought about all of that for a while. Within a short period of time a few people who live where I work came by to get their mail. Some are severely physically challenged. Others have tremendous health issues. I put things into perspective and was grateful that I had my health and that I was not using subsgtances and that my life had a bright future. It may take longer than in my youth to create opportunities but sooner or later something will happen. I must keep digging.

With regaining the proper attitude, I walked down the street with a coworker, escorting her home. We walked by many people who were homeless, sitting down on the sidewalk. Suddenly we came across a young man who was laying down on the sidewalk next to a building.

On the surface, it was no different than anybody else but I knew the story of this guy. Sure, he relapsed. That is not unusual but in my opinion he was betrayed by a program that is in Skid Row.

There are many programs on Skid Row and they purport to provide training and placement. Here is an example of what happens:

John was in a program. He started out in a shelter. The shelter then started an educational program. John entered the program. Keeping John in the facility an allowing John to go to an education program allows the umbrella non profit organization to receive more money. Upon graduation John was placed in employment.
They gave him what is known as a "Packaged Deal". They provide you with employment and housing. The housing happens to be owned by the very same non profit organization that owns the shelter and the educational program. It is also very expensive.

One of the prospective employers in the various "packaged deals" that are presented to the clients is known to hire people, treat them extremely unfairly, and do every thing they can to fire the employee before the probation period is over so the employer does not have to provide medical and other benefits. 95% of the people who are sent to the employer are terminated within 90 days.

The non profit organization that provides this program knows this. They know that it is highly unlikely that the client under their guidance and who trusts them to stir him/her in the right direction will survive longer than 60 days.

They could stir the client to different housing services that are much less expensive and provide the client with supportive services they need but they choose not to do that. For instance, the Marshall House costs seventy five percent less than the housing which is offered to the client. The client is also in an after care drug treatment facility where he can get support from other clients. A case manager is also assigned to the client.

However the client is not directed there. The client is directed to
one of two buildings for housing. Both buildings are owned by the non profit organization that is the umbrella for the educational arm. Both buildings are notorious in their reputation as drug environments. EVERY PERSON THAT THE PROGRAM HAS PLACED IN THOSE BUILDINGS AS RELAPSED. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Furthermore, the administrators know the buildings are de facto drug houses and they do nothing to clean them up.

They place them there because it looks good on the stats because it is defined as permanment housing. The Marshall House is defined as transitional housing. It may look good for the company but it is terrible for the client. The client is directed to permanent housing but they are, in reality, headed for permanent failure.

That is what happened to John. He relapsed because he was exposed to drugs all of the time.

It amazes me that a programm which is targeted to help the chronically homeless receive skills and employment, chooses to dump their clients in an environment where drugs run rampant. It is more important to look good in the stats, and fill their corporate coffers with rent payments than it is to make sure that their clients have a fighting chance.

I believe it is criminal. definitely immoral and it disgusts me.

Usually they would let a client go back into the shelter and receive more funding. However John was a client that required effort. John was the client that they were supposedly targeting to help. A difficult client, one trhat needed attention.
He was a problem that they were able to get rid of and they do not want him around so they told him he was not allowed to go back to the shelter. However, in 99 percent of the cases, they allow a client to return.

John will be sleeping again on the streets tonight. How the administrators of the program can sleep with a clear conscience is beyond me.

I forgot about my ambition and my frustration in not being able to obtain a job with a higher income. I felt good that, for now, I am at least helping people that need help. It is something about which I feel good.

I do have housing. I do have little comforts. I am in a much better position now than I was last year. I will steadily improve. However, There are people on the streets who have little chance of obtaining shelter. There are those who have little chance of receiving help. There are those that are 'receiving help" but in some cases they would be better off if the help given was not provided. It is because the help will lead them to a disastrous end even though the corporate stats look good for the organization that led them down the wrong path. this is quite common on Skid Row.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Chris Farley

When I was in the human resources office, while being hired, the woman told me that the most valuable employees in the whole organization were the maintenance/janitorial crew. She did not elaborbate. I intuitively understood what she said. I had seen the maintenance crews throughout Skid
Row constantly on the move. They are timely. They are organized. They are efficient and they are fearless. They put their hands in trash bags every day and have no idea what they will encounter. And that is exactly what the lady said to me. Expect anything at anytime because the bathrooms are the most abused public areas. Feces could be on the floor, the walls or in the trash cans. Urine could be in cans or bottles. Blood could be anywhere, hidden beneath things as well as needles that could infect you at the moment of impact and penetration.

And yet these men and women are are loyal and dutiful. And amazingly they spend a great deal of their day boosting the morale of tenants, exhibiting so much patience when each tenant is suffering moments of doubt. Imagine, exercising that kind of patience with people all day long while having problems and doubts of your own.

Chris E. Farley was one of the Skid Row maintenance crew. He worked down here temporarily but the lessons he taught will last a lifetime. He was on temporary assignment by one of the staffing organizations in the area.

In Skid Row, many of the tenants are upset with their lives and complain about anything. Many of them suffer from mental illness and yell and scream at you. Others can not control their bodily functions and whereever they are at the moment is where they relieve themselves. The maintenance men and women are the first and only line of resoution of these problems. They must clean up again and again. It does not matter if they just cleaned up the bathroom. If someone drops urine in a bottle or feces in a bag, they must return and handle that unexpected yet constant contingency. They control the spread of disease while risking themselves simultaneously.

Chris spent ten years in prison. He came out and is so optimistic about life. I heard him talk to his mother and daughter everyday. He could not be there for his other children because he was away. He guides his daughter and gives her encouragement to study. There is no doubt that she will succeed. He instills that cofidence in her.

He reinforces that attitude in me. After responding repeatedly to urine in bottles in the trash, and defecation in the trash cans, and listening patiently to the tenants about their concerns, He has the time to listen to me. I ask him over and over the same questions, the doubt and insecurity pinned on my shoulders.

His teachings began to have an effect on me as did the teachings of the other custodicans with whom I had the good fortune of being the recipient of their endless selflessness and wisdom. Sometimes I would ask Chris things because I wanted to marvel at his positive attgitude. In him, was the embodiment of all of the teachings that others bestowed upon me. If he can survive ten years of prison, then I have it easy. If he can believe, then I can believe. I have learned so much from those who had to learn how to have patience behind bars. What they have drilled into me has proven to be true. Things do change. Be patient. Endure. Perservere.
Keep your head up.

These are the things that the Janitorial Crew teach on Skid Row. They are, by far,I am sure, the most efficient maintenance staff in all of the different sections of downtown. More is required of them than any other maintenance staff and they respond trememendously. They are also outstanding "Professors of Life", giving lectures every day, without financial compensation.

They lead by example. The principles that they espouse are practriced every day.
They want only that you to live by the same principles so that you can be healthy, and also by doing so, lead others. I have found that listening to them, watching them, and having faith in what they say has led me to have a new positive attitude in life. It did not come overnight and the janitorial crew worked very hard to make sure I maintained faith. Chris worked harder than most because he had to listen to me nightly after doing his hard chores and answering to the needs of the tenants where I work.

Thanks Chris for your optimistic spirit and Skid Row thanks everyone who is on the Janitorial/Maintenace crew in the neighborhood. You do alot more than what people know about.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vernon E. Stone

I came from a memorial this morning. I started not to go to it but I had no choice. It was as if Vernon's spirit drew me to it. The Memorial was to celebrate the life of Vernon E. Stone.

Vernon was the very first person that I met when I landed on Skid Row. After the administrator completed my intake information. I walked into the male dormitory athe Transition House on Crocker Street. Earlier that morning, on February 7, 2007, I was released from Los Angeles Country jail, having spent nearly four months in there for a misdeamenor. I was shocked at what I saw in Skid Row, and I was in a state of shock after 6 months in the twilight zone.

I walked into the men's dormitory and sat on my bunk, bed number 67. There were 100 beds in the dormitory. He walked in behind me, introduced himself and gave me a bunch of tobacco. He told me his name was Vernon Edward Stone. My father's name was Vernon and my uncle's name is Vernon Edward. There was something special in the way Vernon and I communicated.

He told me of his background. He was from Harlem, New York and started doing heroin at a very young age. When I met him, Vernon had been clean and sober for over a year. He had been in numerous programs and in and out of prison. He had two jobs and was saving money. He would not let me pay him back for tobacco or cigarettes.
"Walter, you can not afford to give me back anything right now. Keep the tobacco. Just make sure you help another brother out when he comes in here. Make sure that he feels welcomed. Show him the ropes. Each one teach one."

After about two weeks, I hardly saw Vernon. He had two jobs. Occasionally he would leave a bag of tobacco on my bed. When I came in, I knew who left it there.
When I did see him, he always made sure I did not need for anything.

Finally, one night, when the night monitor was making a bed count, it was announced that Vernon was moving. He had been accepted in the Ballyntine Apartments on Wall STreet as it is a facility for veterans. The monitor gave a speech about how Vernon was leaving the Transition House under his own terms. Indeed, he was. There was a round of applause for him.

We talked that night after the lights were out and he expressed his gratitude. He always expressed his gratitude. He was always upbeat. Finally he told me something that I would hear again and again. "Keep doing what you are doing Walter." Every time I heard that line. I would think of Vernon.

When he left, I recall, I felt that sinking feeling of being alone again. Tears came out and he told me he would always come back to see me. He did. Whenever he picked up his mail, he never left before he saw me. Never. He reminded me of my uncle who treated me the same way. They shared the same name, Vernon Edward.

After I moved out of the Transition House I saw him in there. He had returned. I did not ask him any questions. I could see that he did not want to talk about it.

He saw me every day. He was in the STRIVE program and he helped everyone in the program. He instilled confidence in those that had none just like he did for me when I had arrived on Skid Row. I would sit with those that were afraid of the computer and made them learn it. He was so good. Whenever I was blogging he made sure that people kept quiet in there so I could concentrate on what I was trying to say.

One day we talked and he told me he was proud of me. He knew better than anyone else how far I had come. He more than anyone laid the groundwork for my long climb. He gave me a few principles by which I have followed from my very first day on Skid
Row. I told him not to get down on himself--that he was a leader. Sometimes leaders take a fall. But leaders get back up. He taught me how to get back up.
He taught people how to stand up every day. We hugged and he started to climb that mountain again. He had plans. He graduated from the STRIVE program and on graduation day, he kept everyone laughing with his jokes. he thanked every teacher and praised everyh student.Many students credited Vernon for helping them learn what they felt they could never learn.

Many people are considered family at the Transition House. Many people relapse who stay there. People return and, sadly, some people die. Some people who were considered family at the Transition House have died since I arrived on Skid Row. Yet no one has had a huge memorial held for them there except Vernon Stone. That will tell you how much he was loved.

His death reminds you that Skid Row was a battlefield. Soldiers fall in battle. Vernon Stone was indeed a soldier and he fell. He won't get up this time. However he instilled many lessons in men and women and through them he lives on.

I walked slowly today from my weekly class. I walked through downtown and thought of Vernon Stone and the lessons he instilled in me.

I also realize that people downtown do not know of Vernon Stone. Yet Vernon Stone was the kind of person that represented the spirit of Downtown Los Angeles. He was a fighter. He was also the son of someone. He was also the husband of someone. He was also the beloved father of a little girl.

People talk about Skid Row. They talk about the policies of Skid Row. Committee members shuffle papers and budgets. Press releases are made. And yet no one really knows or sometimes cares about the lives of the people.

These people have lives. These people have dreams. They have the same concerns and hopes that everyone has. Vernon Stone had those dreams. He also told me to keep dreaming. I will miss you Vernon Stone. I will keep doing what I am doing. I will keep fighting.

I turned down a street and saw people smoking crack and shooting up heroin. I was back in the battlefield. "Walter, keep doing what you are doing. Ignore them", Vernon would say. I am Vernon. However, I cant ignore how I feel when I know they are hurting.

I love you Vernon Stone. Thank you for being you.

WAlter Melton aka Scribeskidrow

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Officer Royce is leaving Skid Row

LAPD Sargeant Kevin Royce will be leaving the Central Division and transfering to North Hollywood. Today is his last day.

Sargeant Royce was the point man for the Safer Cities Initiative however that does not adequately describe himself or his contribution to Skid Row.

I was fortunate enough to meet Kevin when I moved into the Marshall House.
Kevin took things personally. He wanted to make a difference. He did in my life.
He saw something in me and wanted to make sure that it had a chance. He went beyond the duties of his job and answered to the standards of fellowship and brotherhood.
He saw that I needed a friend and he gave me his friendship and loyalty. He introduced me to his family and invited me to spend Thanksgiving with him and his family. Again, on Christmas, he invited me to spend it with his family. This time I was invited into his home.

Those were very special moments for me and those times spent with his family went a long way in providing me with the strength to keep fighting for a better quality of life. His wife Debbie kept encouraging me to keep writing my blog and baked me chocolate chip cookies on several occasions. I felt wanted. I felt like I belonged. I had forgotten how it felt to feel like I belonged. It carried me through some very tough times.

I believe that public servants like Officer Kevin Royce see the need to go beyond the scope of their duties to really bring about change. They see where the "human' factor is much ignored yet very much needed.

Skid Row will miss him. He is transfering to North Hollywood. They will get an outstanding officer and an outstanding man. Feel the spirit.

Good night world. I love you

PS. After I wrote this blog, there was a disturbance in the building where I work. I had to call the police. They came out immediately. They always do. And with volatile individuals, I never know what could potentially happen. It is my responsibility to protect the people where I work. After the police left, a sargeant came by to speak to me. She was making a "quality of service" inquiry.
I was impressed. She wanted to make sure that her officers were responding to the needs of the community. Frankly speaking, I don't know how the police officers and the paramedics from the fire department do it. I really don't. On Skid row where so much is going on, the response time of both departments has always been extraordinary. In the interest of fairness, I felt that had to be said. No one ever talks about that part of the LAPD or LAFD on Skid Row. It is amazing that they always show up quickly when they are called, no matter

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fathers DAy., patience, Enjoying the process

The silent, steady pace of the fan is humming in the background like a brand new whisperjet. The room is peaceful. I have been working on it for several weeks now. The advances in achieving comfortability in the room seem to come when I have progressed, to some degree, in climbing to another internal plateau.

Almost two weeks ago, I stood at the foot of my mother's bed. She looked at me and asked me if I had grown some. It was not the question of a person who was suffering of dementia. On the surface it would appear that way. It was a statement of perception, of her perspective of me. Immediately I knew that to be the case.

I looked into the mirror and, of course, I had not grown, physically, but at the same time I felt an increase in my overall stature and presence. Yes, I had grown a great deal. I took a second to absorb the distance that I had come and quitely envisioned where I was going and the path that would enable me to achieve even more growth.

While standing there, I saw a picture of my father stuck in the mirror. My father and mother were divorced two decades ago and just the mention of my father would induce a sudden anger in my mother. For years, I would fight with my mother when she would try and say negative things about him. It was difficult. I may have seemed callous to her. I knew she needed to get her anger out but he was my father and I could not stand to let her vent about him with me.

Seeing my father's picture in the mirror was symbolic of the peace that she had attained before this adventure started. After years of struggling, we both conquered some demons. We both conquered our respected demons in our own separate efforts. It was not until late in the process that we began to see what eachother was doing and made our adjustments to facilitate the successful completion of the process for eachother. We became less selfish. We learned about eachother while we learning about ourselves.

I do not know if the picture was put on the mirror by my sister as I did not ask anyone. The clear fact that it remained was indicative of so many things. When I started discarding things in the house, just like I have been doing here, my goal was to make the house a home. My sister took up where I left off and has done an amazing job of refurbishing the house and redecorating it. it is a warm and refreshing environment. My sister's accomplishment indeed was the completion of what I started. She was able to turn an unhealthy house, into a very pleasant healthy home. What she had done far exceeded anything I could have come close in doing.

The picture of my father was the final touch as it may me feel that the family was back together again and in many ways it was. In the most abstract of ways, we were close, healing and growing as a unit.

I think of my father every day but that picture stayed in my heart and walked with me every day for the past 10 days. I am in a development mode and my father made sure that I experienced a balanced development process. I grew to be well rounded and was exposed to many, different aspects of life. They were as diverse and varied as they were plentiful. He and my mother encouraged me to see and do as much as I could.

My growth in many ways has not been balanced over the last few months. There were certain realities that did not facilitate balanced growth. I had to concentrate every waking moment on securing employment. Once that was done I had to begin the process of climbing to the next plateau and, for me, that meant doing everything I could do to search for another job. That meant I had to develop an information management system as well as an effective communication system, given my constraints.

I was growing but I was not managing my growth very well. I recognized the need for adjustment but was not ready to adjust quickly upon recognizing the need to do so. I had to clear away more baggage; whatever was instilled at whatever level that was preventing sustained mangagement at each incremental level of growth.

Each time I would make an adjustment to operate efficiently, I would revert back to a certain level of clutter and inefficiency. I did not lose all of my progress. However, whatever internal system failures that were in me had to be fixed in order for me to progress. Mental clutter had to be eradicated in order to clear out the debris physically. Increased level of discipline in work habits had to be achieved in order to manifest a sustained fluidity in operations in order to develop a pleasant and smooth environment for consistent development and continued, balanced growth.

I made the appropriate acquisitions. I bought push up bars for fitness. I bought the blender for healthy consumption of fruit drinks. I boughgt a fan for comfort in the increasing heat. I could not use them consistently because my self management skills were not solidified enough.

I kept working on it, focusing in at every level but I kept pushing. Two steps forward, one step back. Three steps forward and one step back.

I obtained the computer. It enabled me to access more information, explore and access more people. I could communicate with people from my past with whom I lost touch. I could investigate new interests. All of this was in the growth process but I felt something was wrong. I was not capable of responding immediately to opportunities. I thought something was wrong.

I realized that I could not progress in pursuit of opportunities until progressed across the board. Subconsciously there was a need for that. And my behavior was gravitating to it slowly in my own way. It was natural to experience an information overload when I obtained this new tool. however my interests were scattered and it was reflected in the diversity of my bookmarked pages. No partitioning. No folders. No management.

I joined a couple of networking groups. That took time to see what worked and what different, especially with the constant inflow of information.

There was some concern that my blogging was not as consistent as it had been but I could not force it. I spoke to a literary agent and he told me. "Work slowly and carefully. Good writing can not be rushed."

And that is the key to everything. Work methodically and carefully on every front.

I went to MacArthur Park and it was a natural progression of my unconsious pursuit of balance. The first time I did something different as I remember was going to Echo Park when I was six years old. I sent off for some fishing equipment after seeing a coupon in a box of cereal. We went fishing there. It was my first time at the lake and it was a whole new world. I even caught a fish. Actually the fish caught me. The hook was not in the mouth of the fish. It was in the side of its body. Apparently the fish swam by and the hook somehow was got embedded in its body.
Better to have luck than skill.

I remembered that trip when I saw my father's picture on the wall at the house.
I also remembered all of my friends, or and new and what they have taught me over the years. They all had one thing in common. They all had great management systems.
They were methodical, consistent and steady in their approach to life. Their work habits were exemplary and their work ethic to perfect their work habits was an example of sustained focus and were on a standard of their own.

At some point I realized that it was not only ok to take my time. It was paramount.
I had to gain equilibrium and balance in all areas. Otherwise I would be in a state of anomie and in that state one area of phenomenal development is not complimented by an equal level of development in other areas. When that occurs a recipe for disaster is born.

There is no need to rush out like a jack rabbit and obtain information for opportunities if I can not store it, retrieve it and respond to it with dispatch. It just presents chaoes and feelings of inadequacy.

Developming slowly and carefully is the trick. I have found that I have developed certain traits slowly and thoroughly and only now am I able to integrate them to maximum potential in a product system. In developing each skill, talent or behavior it to the best of my ability it lends itself to a greater chance to discover creative, innovative ways to improve and improvise--creating greater economics of scale.

Researching out to friends, resolving issues--stopping the jack rabbit rush to success was vital. I am started out slowly and I am developing my stride naturally, concentrating on the basics. In time the stride lengthens naturally and greater productivity and the rate of increase in productivity occur without effort.

An athlete performs best when his actions are effortless and he is relaxed.

That is what I have learned to concentrate on and the process is fun in and of itself. There are times when I learn. There are times when I experience growth. There are times when I experience a perception and self perception shift. However it comes from concentrating on the process and not trying to jack rabbit towards success.

As a father told me earlier today, "When you get there Walter, your arrival will be on a strong foundation on each and every layer. You will have balance and will not sink in your own quicksand in your haste to get somewhere."

I have endeavored to concentrate on the things that I have heard throughout the years.

"just imagine or envision yourself being there and you will gravitate to that goal naturally." Tha is what is occuring. Where there is no balance, my internal system directs me to concentrate on the areas where there is a deficit in development, vis a vis other relevant categories.

Too much job searching, not enough filing. Too much pushing forward not enough timely efficient follow through. 70% overall approval, not 95%. You want to get out of the area explore out of the area. Do something different.
You miss your friends, contact them. Everything can be accomplished. How bad do you want it. I ask myself these questions everyday.

I am a senior in the Skid Row curriculum. The more I concentrate on my all around development, the faster I will integrate and create an opportunity. Being a senior, I tell others now the things that I learned that have carried me through. Some of these things I learned and accepted grudgingly but they are now a part of my character--Focus and patience.Without those, one will not achieve. While in Skid Row, the highest degrees of both are required. I tell sharp young women not to sell drugs for men hiding in the dark. "You are smarter than you think. You have no idea how smart you are. Don't risk your life to please others." I like my role. I relish it. I learn more from it as I discover more in this process of achievement.

I think all of the fathers for teaching me: every father that I have known. I have not lost sight of the contribution of mothers. But this was FAther's Day weekend
and the words of many fathers have echoed daily in my soul for a long time. Their efforts are now yielding fruit.

That boat trip I took marked another end

Saturday, June 14, 2008

MacArthur Park-Wilshire Blvd, , Pedal Boating

On Saturday, I went pedal boating in MacArthur Park on Wilshire Blvd at Alvarado. It was the first time in my life I had ever gone pedal boating. I used to see them in the movies, most of the time the setting was in europe. IT looked like fun so I decided to check it out.

In addition to the boat ride and much more pleasant scenary, I was able to go shopping at the 99Cents Only Store, purchasing several bottles of juice at one third the price of comparable bottles in Skid Row.

The outing was a new step for me. It was the first time I went out on my own. People had to drag me, practically,to events out of the area a few months ago. AT that time I was stuck in feeling that life was hopeless. I did not want to reach for anything because I feared I would not be able to grab onto it. Or once I tasted something that was fun, I would never be able to taste it again. It was that fear that I told you about in a previous post. One has to work out of things like that. I enjoyed time by myself. It was another step in learning how to enjoy life and believing that there was so much to enjoy if I just believed that it could happen.

Some people do not want to do things alone. That is an excuse to remaining in a rut. The excuses are subtle but power in that the end result is that you do not move forward and one lets life pass them by.

So it was a victory for living and for pursuing new experiences. I will be back again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DLANC Election Day


Today was election day for DLANC (Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. Voting for the next term of board members was to begin at 2:00PM today.

I arrived at the Los Angeles Theater, the voting location at 1:45PM, figuring that I would be one of the few who would be there early so I could vote quickly and leave.
I was wrong. There was a long line of voters waiting patiently for the doors to open so they could cast their ballots.

Voters from all sections of Downtown were there: from Chinatown to South Park, from Little Tokyo to Skid Row. Skid Row residents and workers of the community turned out in large numbers to participate in the elections. It was good to see members of the Skid Row community getting involved in the process and having a voice in how their community will be run.

At the top is General Jeff who ran for Resident Director-Central City East.
Below him is Mr Gilbert. Mr Gilbert is the Life Skills Instructor for the STRIVE program that is operating in Skid Row. Many graduates of that program are grateful to Mr Gilbert for helping them identify negative behavior patterns and decision making processes so that they can avoid pitfalls to progressing in life in the future.

It was good to see the downtown community come out in large numbers in the elections.
I hope that the community will continue to become more involved in the development of a community spirit.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Friendship--Cost of Using Cocaine

This morning I was struggling to discover a way to make progress in my life. Now that I have managed to stack up a few victories, I want more.

I started out the morning vascillating and frustrated because there were no interesting postings in Craigslist, the online advertizing website where one can seek employment. Afterwards I turned to

I decided to call my friend Jose. I had not spoken with him and someone wanted to know if he was going to be able to speak with Jose about Skid Row topics. Jose handles Safer City Initiative for the City Attorney's office.

Friendship in general has been on my mind ever since I read a quote about it in Stephen Carter's book, The Emperor of Ocean Park. In Particular, as each day goes by, I marvel at the show of frienship and TRUST that was displayed by such an unbelievable gift as my computer that was given to me by Jose and his wife.

Truly amazing. I remember telling Jose for weeks, when I met him, that friendship was most important to me. He thought my drive to get to know him was because of his job and the things that he could do to help me. It wasn't until months later that Jose called me one day and said. "I finally have figured it out."

I sat there waiting to hear what this discoveryh was with baited breath.
"The most important thing to you is our friendhship." My mouth dropped.
"You mean you are finally getting it". I said.
Friendship was the one thing I missed while I was doing drugs. Friendship was the one thing that I consciously was aware that I was destroying when I did drugs. My friendships and my reputation with my school mates from Harvard School.

I always said that this blog was going to be honest. Without it there was no benefit to me or to others. I also recall stating that I would continue to share, with painful honesty, certain realities of my drug experiences, and or consequences as I become more aware of them and their costs as well as more comfortable in bearing myself naked in front of the world. It is indeed a growing process.

While I was talking to Jose, I received an email from Doug. Doug went to high school with me. He graduated a couple of classes ahead of me. In fact, he was in Mark Harmon's class. I had emailed Doug, on Friday, and told him that I wanted to speak to him substantively. He replied to me this morning.

While sitting on my bed, staring at the computer screen, while talking to my friend Jose, about the beauty of friendship, I received an email alert that Doug had just emailed me. I read it while I talked with Jose.

"Walter, while I would love to speak with you substantively, I can not in good conscious until you pay John. I believe the sum is $200. Let me know...."

I trust that Doug would not object that I am sharing this with people.

Here is where the honesthy begins. First of all, I do not owe John. I owe Loyd. Loyd was my doubles partner on the Championship tennnis team. I owe Loyd $2,000, not $200.

I found out from Doug that John does not want me to have his email addresss. John is asking Loyd to see if Loyd will allow John to give me his email address.
I have tried to email Loyd but I do not know if I had the right address.

It hurt that John does not want to hear from me. As I said earlier, John had a tremendous influence on my life.

However, I violated a trust. I did not violate a trust with John, but one of our teammates. One thing I am learning is that it may not matter to someone if I was under the influence of drugs. It may not matter that I love them very much.
They have their own reasons for disassociating themselves with me.

I emailed another friend as a result of today's events. It was
Andy. I owed him 300 dollars from decades ago. Andy was in the same class with John and Loyd. I realized over the years that I violated a trust but I kept getting high to run away from the guilt.

Facing this, all of this is something that I have wanted to do for years. It is similar to throwing away debris. It is just as debilitating as old clothes that remind one of the past. Certain things hinder your forward movement because they are logged in your soul. Indeed, I was wearing this situation of past guilt and now I do not have to look at it as things to be done and have it continue to eat at me, knowing that I have to put it behind me in order to move forward. I hope my friends can move forward in a different way as well, though I realize that I may not have their friendship in the future.

I feel a special loss as well. These friendships were made and explored at a time when social upheavel was all over America. We were the first generation of kids who were able to explore our friendships even thought we were from different backgrounds. They were pioneer relationships, relationships that were not based on people sitting next to each other.

We did not just interface with eachother. We integrated our lives with eachother. We explored our dreams and as others did we questioned many things.
I feel that we had an opportunityh to explore the very uniqueness of those relationships and how special they were because we were indeed pioneers on a mass scale. However, I may have lost the opportunity to dialogue with them about it because of the breach of trust that created from my behavior. Indeed, I breached a trust with myself as well.

Our relationships were complexed. We dealt with complex issues. We dealt with issues with which our parents could not help us, for they were not given the opportunity to explore what we could because of the times in which they grew up. They knew that but they let us have the latitude to do what social pressures would not allow them to do.

Many people fall to the way side when faced with trying to make amends to friends.
The bad news is that some friends do not want to hear from me. The good news is that I am facing it now, not later. However, just because they may not want my friendship, the fact is, our relationship continues. I know that. My relationship with Loyd lives on because we were joined at the hip as doubles partners. Each relationship has its own life ingredients.

Just like we had to go on when Robert Kennedy and others died, I must go on. Perhaps I will not be able to regain what I had. Perhaps they were always limitied because of the complexity of class as it relates to relationships in society. Those questions,unfortunately, we do not have the luxury to explore.

I will tell you why I mentioned class. When I was at Harvard School, white guys would never say anything negative to me about blacks. However, there were times when they would come up to me and say something negative about other whites who were not from their social ilk but were at the school. I thought about it and it told me something. At that point in time, I was view in some cases more as an equal than some of their fellow white students. So at one point, however they perceived my class statused trumped my racial category. I noticed it immediately. I always wanted to discuss that type of thing with my classmates and team mates because one of the people that I mentioned looked down his nose at a white student one because his father earned money in such a way that dirt was under his fingernails every day.

I felt when we got older we could be honest about things because we would have known eachother for so long. No one would react because they probably have had the same questions of me for decades. We were a small family and over years members of families, learn how to be honest with themselves and eachother.

I believe that I not only cost us an opportunity to learn but, as a result, society has lost an opportunity to gain insight from pioneers who were at a special place, at a special time, a time when people were beginning to experience a new frontier of social interaction.

That is the cost of using cocaine. Their is a tremendous opportunity cost that extends far beyond the obvious. For instance, people can stiff arm you from being in their lives. Is it because of the breach of trust or is it also that they realize that they must face things in themselves that can be avoided if they do not have to do with you? So we all lose by a breach of trust. Many things become easily deflected.

Instead of sinking deeper in despair. I must continue to take the high road. I and others had to continue when Kennedy was shot and yet it was his principles and lessons that lived on and helped me save my life.

Some of my classmates may not want my friendship. However, the lessons I learned from them in school and the courage they displayed in many ways are the very leadership by example that helped me save my life. I will continue to live a life of integrity and am grateful that they helped me save my life.

The use of cocaine cost me so much. It cost them so much. It cost us so much. It cost us more than we all will ever know.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering Robert Kennedy

June 5 will always be a day that I remember. It started out the same way as all of the other days that week. I put on my military uniform and we headed for Harvard School. Before we left, I organized some campaign material as my mother needed packets made. She was on the Kennedy Campaign committee.

Robert Kennedy wrote my mother a personal letter 5 days before his death. I found that letter in 2006 and cried.

We came home and my mother was already at the Ambassador Hotel. That was her daily stop after work. She loved going there and every election my father and she worked feverishly to aid their chosen candidate. I can remember handing out pamphlets all over the neighborhood as early as John Kennedy's campaign and playing at the Los Angeles Sports Arena during the Democratic National convention in 59 I think it was.

My mother came home in tears and I, of course found out what happened. I was angry. Martin KIng had just been shot and John Kennedy had been shot years before. Let us not forget Medgar Evers and others.

That was my last campaign. It was awkward for me to see others feversishly campaigning for Nixon later that year. He won the election and HR Haldeman was in the white has as his Chief of STaff. HR Haldeman was an alumnus of my school and his son was in the class ahead of me. He withdrew from the school and moved to Washington DC. I was confused on what to feel.

When I stop consuming substances, I wrote alot of Bobby Kennedy. I studied him greatly. Something inside me started to live again. I wanted to campaign again. I remembered meeting his son Robert Junior at Harvard. A week later , after I remembered meeting his son, a friend called me and told me that my picture was in a new University of Pennsylvania publication. It was a Photo history of the school.
I was on page 110. He sent me a copy. Robert Kennedy was on page 109. The picture of me was taken in 1972 when I was visiting Penn. Penn was recruiting me to play tennis. I went to Harvard afterwards and I met RFK jr. on that trip. I came back down to Penn , after leaving him and the picture was taken. I had on the same clothes that I was wearing when I met him. And there I was standing there, on the page after the picture of his father. I was very proud. Amazing that that could happen. The picture of his father had been taken in 66 on a trip to the campus.

It was a fluke that my friend found that photo book at the Penn book store and found my picture. But maybe it was not a fluke. They say God works in mysterious ways.

He sent me that book in 2006. I found the letter Robert Kennedy sent to my mother in 2006 around this time of the year. It was a month later when my world would collapse.But I kept thinking about how Albert Camus changed Robert Kennedy's philopsophy on the death penalty. He was against the death penalty even though his brother had been murdered. That issue was never something about which I wondered until my grandmother was murdered. It is funny how every thing changes. Views change or are challenged when tragic events touch ho

The Kennedy philosophy was to maintain the high road, no matter what. and that is exactly what I did when I landed on Skid Row. I kept remembering what I read about RFK jr and how he gave his word that he would never do heroin again when his wife confronted him about the matter. He kept that promise.

RFK Jr was a role model for me. If he could do it. I could do it. When I stopped I never touched it again. I wanted to enjoy my sobriety. I looked forward to it.
I was arrested, not once, but twice and languished in a jail dormitory the second time for some time until my case, a misdeamenor was settled.

I noticed that my voice and my hands had healed. those were the two ways I could enjoy my sobriety. I could not train in the swimming pool, or ride my bike or run on a track. For months I wondered what it would feel like to do those activities.
After all, triathlon training is the vehicle I used to retire from substance abuse.

I have yet to find out what it is like to train and not use substances afterwards. I will find out soon.

It was not difficult to keep my promise about never using drugs again. I did have some difficulty in finding the beauty of being clean and sober while living in a court ordered shelter on Skid Row. Much difficulty.

I had to just be thankful that I was no longer doing it. I had to maintain integrity even when things were bad. I could not look for an excuse because being sober was not convenient. I maintain my self integrity and that feeling of integrity grew and I practiced the lifestyle of self integrity every day. I thought of the things my parents taught me and the values they instilled in me. I thought of men like Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, and Robert.

I thought of how important it was to stay on the high road when the low road had its gates open for one to explore and lead oneself into oblivion. Fortunately the teachings of my parents and the examples of the above mentioned men kept me on the high road no matter how painful life was and how limited my enjoyment.

I have seen two or three men this week who were with me at the Transition House last year. They have not progressed and are back on the streets homeless. It hurts to see that but I was told once by a friend of mine, Mark Harmon, while we were discussing the suicide of one of our mutual friends. Mark, forever the leader, said to me," Walter, it is our responisibility and obligation to go on and keep going".

Poignant words at a time when I still grieve the deaths of those men and others. I may not be with them physically but I am enjoying, finally in my life, living by the principles and standards that they set for a person to challenge themselves and practice, every day, love for self and love for your fellow man.

These are the principles that eluded me when I was doing drugs.

So I write about Robert Kennedy again. This time I am not beginning my journey of purity. I am not fighting to maintain the course. I am walking the walk with warmth inside of my soul with the excitement that I will learn more about self improvement and the enjoyment of it.

Robert Kennedy meant alot to my mother. He meant and means a lot to me. It took me a whole week to write this. I needed time to think and understand many things.

It is Sunday morning and, again, I am on my way to see my mother. I am proud of myself.

My mother told me in the darkness of the living room, "Walter, you have matured right in front of my eyes."

Even though I had to face some challenges, I stayed on the high road and fortunately I earned the right to taste a little of what it feels like to perservere and maintain the course through times of big storms. They did it. I learned from the expamples of these men and my mother and father who as Mark Harmon said, kept going when there was no other choice.

From the work, I am now celebrating his life and showing it every day. I am coming back alive and search for ways to be of service to my fellow man and to this country.
Something that died in me, that prevented me doing any more campaigning is alive again. That was a big part of my family purpose, to make sure people voted.

I can not vote now. However, principles should not be exercised only when it is convenient and comfortable. I must do what I can until the time comes when I can vote again. My father, rest in peace, would expect that and I trust that he is smiling down upon me, knowing that his son is back.

I did not do it by myself. As Robert Kennedy said, and I have said many times,
it was because of "the awful grace of God."

It is time for me to get ready to see my mother. I have more to say when I come back as I am changing and this Skid Row experience is the reason for the change. But for now. It is time for me to enjoy my mother. God bless everyone.

Good morning , world, I love you.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fear in Skid Row

It is almost two in the morning. It is quiet, so quiet. I love it when it is like this. I can hear myself think much better. The noise in Skid Row is so loud it deafens one's ability to hear one self, to feel oneself. Sometimes I think it is a mass conspiracy by everyone as most people in Skid Row runaway from themselves and everything else in this world.

"A lot of people do not want to be found", is a statement that you hear quite often when there is a discussion about the homeless and assisting the police or family members in the successful end to a long search for a loved one.

It is only tonight that I realized that that comment about not wanting to be found could mean more than one thing. Perhaps, indeed, people do not want to find themselves. The process would include too much pain.

Each night I check to see how many people read my blog. Tonight is one of those nights when I pray that my blog is read. Why? Because it will provide some insight into the pain that people go through in the Skid Row world.

You see, everyone in Skid Row views this place as a prison. There is the Skid Row world and the outside world. Things are done differently in the Skid Row world.

I asked Maria about the people that she has met on Skid Row. She has worked on Skid Row for nine months. She tells me that the people on
Skid Row are afraid to leave it. They are afraid that they will not be able to adjust to the outside world. That is why they refuse help from social workers.

For instance, I was talking to Andrew Conner. He runs the SOS program for PATH, People Assisting The Homeless program at the Central Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. When a homeless person gets arrested for drug use, he offers them a choice. They can opt for treatment and get shelter or they can go to jail, maybe even prison and then eventually return to the streets and continue in their homeless plight. Most decline the assistance and resist vigorously.

The popular belief is that They are afraid to begin hoping again. They have resigned themselves to the fact that their lives will not change. Their world is what it is. To begin to want again, to dream again, to hope again would not be too much in and of itself. However, it would be too much if they were made to hope and had no one to hold their hand to assist them through the process.

I know how they feel. I was not worried about relapsing. I was worried about giving up hope. If I gave up hope, then I would let the fear of reaching out overtake me like it has taken over and controls most of the people of Skid Row.

They do not want to reach out. They know that they will not survive it if they were let down and go over the edge. I see it every day. You see most of these people become Skid Row institutionalized. It is a special type of institutionalization because it is so hard to identify. There are so many layers of interwining complexities that impact on the psyche of an individual down here. So much is taken away from a man and woman in terms of them believing that they have a say in how they take care of themselves. It is now different from prison. Indeed, it is a prison. Most people have resigned themselves to believe that they will stay in prison and not know what the outside world is like any longer. They do not want to grab for it. If the dont reach it they fill they will lose their sanity and not even be able to exist in this prison. They will implode mentally. That is the fear that takes place and thrives on Skid Row.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sleeping on Success and Skid Row Organizations must raise the Bar of What They consider to be Success

I was compelled to take this picture of this pillow and blanket. When I moved into the Marshall House, this pillow and blanket were there. They were left by the previous resident. I did not have a pillow or a blanket so I had to use them. I was grateful at the time.

At one point I had the money to purchase a new pillow but I did not. I held on to them for several reasons I believe. I was probably playing not to win but to not lose and in doing so was subconsciously preparing myself to lose. "Walter, you can not get rid of this pillow because if you do and if you get fired, you will not be able to get another one." That is not a healthy way to live, planning for success and developing behaviors that are embedded into the psyche that are ingredients to a loosing attitude. It is another way of staying in prison.

I have been thinking about that pillow and blanket for a couple of weeks. Finally, today I came home from grocery shopping, looked at them and decided today I was going to let go of more of the past.

Immediately, I walked to Los Angeles Street and found a place that sold pillows. Two pillows for five dollars was the price. One dollar each for the covers.

I grabbed my two white firm pillows and covers and headed east to my room. I had to get rid of the old pillow and blanket. I had to get rid of the past.

Every time I looked at it it reminded me of when I moved in this building and my mental and emotional state. In one way I had to laugh because every morning I lay on that pillow and talked to Jose Egurbide. At one point every morning, I started ranting and raving while I was on that pillow. I am sure Jose would prefer that I not remember the past and concentrate more on enjoying the present and planning for the future. How he tolerated my ranting, I will never know

It felt good to toss this pillow and blanket out. I know longer have to keep imagery of the past in my subconscious each time I see it. I also get more comfortable in letting go of the past and reaching toward the future. Also, the purchase of the new pillows are symbolic of success building on success. These are mine. No one gave them to me. I bought them after a successful completion of many processes. Each time I come into the door in the future I will no longer have a brief flash back of the depressing outlook I had of the future when I moved in here.
Now, I am creating my own future. I am sleeping on success.

Let me explain something to people about pillows and pillow cases in Skid Row.
Many people take them very much for granted in most sectors of society. However, on Skid Row, pillows are very symbolic. Unfortunately they are symbolic of things that I feel destroy the spirit of many men.

First of all, in jail every week, you must strip down your bed and turn in the sheets, your white clothing(socks, underwear and teeshirts) and pillow cases.
They are tossed on a pile in the middle of the floor. Then every one must line up and parade, when ordered, in a circle, in their underwear, to receive their week's issue of laundry. Each week you can see how it eats away at the spirit of the men.

however, that is jail. It is worse in Skid Row. You must do the same thing with respect to exchanging linen every week. On the evening after you turn in the linen, you line up to receive your issue for the week.

I refused to do it. I was able to get away with it. After a while no one monitored me and I knew the person in charge of the linen so I was able to store a supply of linen in my locker. I did not have to stand there and wait for some one to pass linen out to me. I was not going to let that feeling penetrate my system. No way.

Each week I would see grown men, stand there in line, waiting for their linen or their food. Each week it seemed as though they slouched more and more. It ate at them. That process ripped away at their self esteem and how they perceived themselves as men. I was not going to let that happen to me. I never had to wait in line for food because I volunteered to work at the guard shack every day. All day. Therefore, I ate before everyone.

Some men accept that they will live like that, being told what they can eat, when they can eat, and how they can eat. Others do not care. They do not want to do anything for themselves. They have no self integrity and they are happy to be able to behave and act like a little kid. For those men, the system acts as enabler. They are not required to change their ways because they can always return to the same place and register again and be welcomed in. They incur no cost in their decision to use drugs. No cost that they can see that is. It is sad. "Walter, I do what I want to do", they tell me as they go into a dormitory of 200 men as if that is a badge of courage.

All over Skid Row men stand outside places and wait for food and linen. It is very much like being in prison or jail and in many ways they are. Some are being conditioned to accept this as normal. It is pathetic.

I can not fault the organizations for doing this procedure. It is just that it rips away at one's self dignity to stand outside of a building and wait until they are told they can come in and eat.

When I walked into one of the missions one day. I noticed a picture on the wall. It was taken around the mid 50's. It showed men standing in line outside of the building waiting for their food. That was over 40 years ago.

It is too bad that things have not changed. It is too bad that things have not improved. Is it enough to shelter men and give them food? Is that doing good?
I submit that that alone is killing them in more ways than drugs. If you feed a man fish you must feed him every day. If you teach him how to fish, he can feed himself for life. Which one is better? I believe the standard of Skid Row must change.
They must not be satified in feeding men. They must become satisfied in teaching men the importance of feeding themselves. They must show men that it is important for them to develop themselves so that they do not have to stand in lines for food and linen. They receive the linen but lose their dignity.

Perhaps you can see why I went out and purchased my own pillows and pillow cases.