Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Skid Row "Operation Facelift" Mural Update

A few months ago, on this blog, the Skid Row Community Wall was seen. OG and his crew were cleaning the street and covering the once dreary wall with a fresh coat of paint that was cheery and uplifting. However the work was in the beginning stages.

Theses photos were taken last week and, as you can see, the mural is now in full bloom, becoming a complete mosaic quilt showing all facets and contributors to the community. One wall part of the wall is particularly interesting. It is the top picture where notes and messages are written much like one would see on a cast to repair a broken leg. That comparison is apropos in that the people who created the wall are the same group of people who are continually working to repair the spirits of the Skid Row community. Much thanks go out to OG, Lesley Taplin and General Jeff for their tireless efforts in improving the Skid Row community.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Final Move(Part 2)

Murder Crime scene taped off by the LAPD. This Murder took place at the "Drug Swap Meet" outside of the Union Rescue Mission on San Julian St. There have been two murders on that street within the last two months. Needless to say I am glad I am no longer living on that street. I also do not have to ride my bike past crack smokers and people injecting themselves with heroin every night coming home from work.
The Drug Swap Meet on San Julian Street outside of the Union Rescue Mission.


When I walked out of Karl's office there was inside of me a sense of calm--a belief that my life was going to change. I knew it. I worked hard for it to change. I had been putting together to get out of Skid Row. Now I needed to get to the Courtland. There I could hear myself think and bring together the management and communication systems that I created and begin to plan my next move, to leave skid row. There was no doubt that this was going to be my last and final move. I knew I was close to experiencing freedom like I had never before experienced in my life. No matter where in the world I traveled, or what VIP lounges I was sitting in high profile, exclusive nightclubs where the paparazzi frequented, there was always one truth--I was a prisoner to cocaine.

When that part of my life was over I was certain that I was going to begin enjoying a healthy life. I don't mean a life without problems. I just mean a clean, wholesome life, a life of which I could be proud. I could exercise, study and pursue employment again. I had decided not to work until I released myself from that cocaine prison.

However fate stepped in and gave me another set of challenges--first jail for four and a half months, and, after that, 8 months in a one hundred male bed shelter in Skid Row, ordered by the court. Most people do not realize that I did not come to Skid Row to get loaded or get laid. I did not come here for rehab. I came here because the court told me I had to come here. It was as if I was in the Twilight Zone. After all of those years fighting to rid myself of a drug dependent lifestyle, I was ordered, by the court, to go to an area where there are more drugs per square foot than probably anywhere else in Los Angeles. I just shook my head. I saw more drugs and more people using drugs than I ever saw when I was consuming drugs. It was absurd.

After the Transition House came the Marshall House, the filthiest and dirtiest of all Skid Row Streets. Men look like zombies sitting and standing against the wall smoking crack at the southern end of San Julian Street near 6th. Around that corner, on 6th and San Julian, turning east, you would immediately walk into the heroin shooting gallery. Men and women sit on the sidewalk or in cars shooting heroin in their veins. Syringes liter the street. I lived in the heart of a cesspool. Every day I had to walk through every kind of sickness known to man.
Drugs. Prostitution. Violence. Ever morning I had to navigate my way through a crowded side walk and dodge the drug dealers. "Cavi, cavi. Mota, mota" were the morning shouts letting everyone know that the drug mart was open.

I was consumed with the Skid Row atmosphere. I was determined not to let any part of the negative Skid Row state of mind permeate my being. I survived it and now I was getting ready to say good-bye. I was only going to be a block away yet it was a completely different world with a different value system. And I could only see it on the surface. I would not realize many things until I was finally in the building and experiencing it but for now I was at peace. I knew it was going to happen.

I left Karl's office with the confidence that I would be moving soon. My only concern was that I not have to wait two or three weeks to see the unit. Certainly things can get put aside as management of buildings deal with contingency matters. On-going contengencies are a matter of course for Skid Row. But I learned to be patient and I was going to exercise patience for the amount of time that it would be necessary. I needed to reflect on the past. Say good bye to it and plan for the future.

With that in mind, I walked through Skid Row,visiting every place where I had been. I usually avoided the "drug swap meets" throughout skid row but now I walked through them. I wanted to remember all of the things and people that I had seen on the sidewalks. I needed to understand how being thrust in that environment gave me a sense of hopelessness. I used to walk westbound on 5th or 6th streets and look up at the skyscrapers that seemed to form a perimeter from north to south, creating a moat that separated me from sanity. I wanted to be on the other side of that skyline where things were "normal".

There was a deep need to understand, in all of the various ways, how far I had come and, in the most important of way, understanding that I had no barriers between me and anything I want to do. I had defeated the illusions of defeat that engulfed me when I first arrived on Skid Row. Battles were fought every day, sometimes every second, to maintain hope and faith.

I did not fight those battles alone. I was provided ammunition from the gestures of men and women who took the time to encourage me to fight myself and continue to have faith. I remembered each and every face and every tear I shed when they talked to me as I walked the streets of Skid Row. It was necessary for me to walk by every physical landmark that had some significance to me. One of them was the guard shack at the Transition House. I walked by that little shack that guards the parking lot many times and thought about the times I sat in there and wrote. It is hard to believe I volunteered to sit in that shack for 12 hours a day, from 8:00AM to 8:00PM writing longhand on blank pieces of stapled paper. I still have everything I wrote starting from the first day I arrived there.

This time I stopped and stared at that little guard shack. I was saying good bye to it. I may see it again but my state of mind will be different.

I stared at the Aon building that was stuck out among the office towers when I turned westward in the Transition House parking lot. On my very first night in Skid Row, when I was released from jail, I saw it. It became emblematic of many things to me.

I kept walking and remembering all of the men that injected strength into my system, vitamins that kept my faith alive. Then I began to notice something. As I walked down the streets, some men started waving to me. Never before has so many people waved to me on the Skid Row streets. They were the men that gave me strength. They had left the Transition House before I did. Each time one left, I felt more alone. In jail it was the same way. The dormitory in which I was placed had 100 beds. 99 were filled when I walked through the electrically locked doors to a maddening noise of men yelling while playing cards or watching a television show. Ironically, they all wanted to watch the television show "Cops". I could never understand that. When I left there was only one other person who had been there longer than I. He left shortly after I did.

The Transition House was the same way only this time I was used to being left behind.
It was different. I shed tears for different reasons but I shed many tears each time someone left. And now, I saw that they were all back. I talke to one man and was told he was staying at the LA Mission. I talked to another man and he was at the Union Rescue Mission. They had lost their jobs and apartments. They had relapsed. I kept encountering men from those nine months at the Transition House. So many of them were living in tents on the streets.

They were all proud of me. They wanted to know how my writing was coming along. They had all encouraged me to write just like in jail they always encouraged me to write. "Keep writing, Walter. Keep doing what you are doing. It is going to work out for you. Keep writing." And I kept writing.

I was baffled to see ninety percent of the men who were in the Transition House back in the streets or in shelters. It was hard to see that many of them could not follow the advice that they had given me. I kept focused. I kept doing what I was doing. Many times I did not know what I was doing but I kept doing it. I asked so many questions and I tried at many times to understand the answers. It is strange that as I walked the streets of Skid Row looking at my soon to be past life in the neighborhood, I came to light that I was beginning to understand all that those men and women had tried to explain to me. Finally I am beginning to clear away the fog and see their message, understand their words and feel their dreams and hopes for me, dreams and hopes that they could not reach for themselves.

It was as if I was saying good bye to many of those men. I may see them again but it would be different. I was no longer in a limited stated of mind. I was no longer fignting to survive. I was no longer grasping for anything that would let me hang on for another day. I had made it and I knew it. I was leaving the stormiest seas of my life and heading for calmer waters. Where I was going, I did not know I only knew I was going to enjoy the trip. I will carry the words of each of those men and women as I walk each step, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Their words will live in me and I will be a shining light for them to follow, a guide to where they have not been before. They took care of me, hounded me, cajoled me into stength and I won't let myself down or them. I let them know that. But they already knew. It was good to see them and say thank you again.

On Tuesday, July 8, I had my interview. Everything went fine. I could not see the apartment as Danny the manager was busy but I called him and he told me to be there the next day at 11 in the morning. I spent the remaining of the day. getting ready. I purchased a money order for the deposit as no checks are accepted in Skid Row for any form of business that I know of. In many cases money is not accepted.

Next, I walked to Chrysalisto take a look at that office. Many hours were spent in that place as I used their computers to write my blogs. Many mornings I would come back and see that comments were left for me to read. I remembered all of them. "You are no longer alone as you walk with dignity and face the challenges ahead." "This is an interesting blog. Keep writing." Each time I saw a comment I was excited. For most bloggers those comments are only opinions and feedback on topics. Those comments kept my spirits alive. They kept me going and each time I saw one from people that I never before met, tears ran down my face. It is difficult to explain how such kindness kept me alive. Simple acts of kindness from one human being to another can do so much. I know because acts of kindness did so much for me. Whenever I read those words on my blog, I never felt alone. I felt like I had friends, new friends that believed in me. It was so important for me.

"Dont stop writing." "keep writing". "Your posts are improving each time." I sang those words in my head each time I saw them.

Finally, on Wednesday, July 9, at 11:00AM, I saw the unit and was in love with it. I couldnt wait to move in. It was bright and cheery. It had two large windows that allowed me to look west and view the downtown skyline. The skyline no longer looked threatening to me as it did when I first arrived on Skid Row. I remember one comment on my blog where a woman mentioned how those huge buildings with all of that money were looking down on the little people of Skid Row. She was correct in many ways and i was intimidated by those buildings when I first landed on Skid Row. But now I was within reach, I thought, figuratively and literally, as I stood looking out of the window. The street below was so quiet. It was like any other street in New York lined with brownstone buildings.

I was planning my future as I stood in the window. I knew I needed a workstation to be organized, efficient and productive in my next phase and I made a note to see if Office Depot had any in stock.

When I was at the Transition House, I was hesitant to leave. That is not true. Let me be honest. I was terrified to leave that place and move into the Marshall House. Not now. I was eager and ready to mow down anything in my way. I could not wait to get in because I knew that I was going to have fun building my life while living in this unit.

I told Danny I wanted it. I knew it long before I saw it. I dreamed about it. At first he said for me to come back on Friday. He took a look in my eyes and he changed his mind. "Come back tomorrow at 11." he said. That is the power of desire. He knew I did not want to waste one minute shedding the past pain and beginning anew.

On Thurday, July 10, at 11 in the morning, I walked into Danny's office. We talked about many things while I filled out the necessary forms and finally signed the lease. It was a great beginning as Danny is a consumate professional and as a colleague I hope to learn much from him. He appreciated my commercial real estate background so there was much we could share with eachother. He showed me how to operate the front door while at the same time checking the keys. My heart was beating in great anticipation like an athlete preparing for a big race, waiting for the gun to go off and the race to begin.

We went upstairs and I patiently heard his presentation about the trash, rules and other pertinent matters. Finally he handed me the keys. It was mine. The past was over in so many ways. 99% of Skid Row, mentally and physically was behind me, to the east. My windows looked to the west. Everyplace I needed to go to was to the west. I no longer had to hear "cavi, cavi. weed. weed."

Finally, after retiring from drug usage for almost two years, I no longer had to see them or hear about them. Finally I could move on. The Final Move had started. The gun went off. I prepared for this race. I endured. I persevered. I was finally in my last term of a rigorous independent study curriculum and could see graduation ahead from the University of Skid Row.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

100 million dollar New Generation fund Unveiled at the Yankee

DLANC Resident Director,Central City East General Jeff and Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa stand outside of the Yankee in Skid Row where the conference on Affordable Housing took place. The conference was sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners.
Jim Buie, Security Supervisor for SRO Housing Corp.
,while patrolling the perimeter outside of the Yankee. Making sure that everything is smooth running for the mayor's visit.

On Monday, July 21, an Affordable Housing conference was held at SRO Housing's Yankee Hotel. Anita Nelson was asked to host the conference with only a couple of hours to prepare for it. There was no problem as the maintenance department keeps the buildings in top condition and can respond to any contingency.

Mayor Villaraigosa and Enterprise Community Partners CEO Doris Koo were present to unveil the newly created New Genersation Fund. The fund is a 100 million dollar
pool of funds, made possible by a banking consortium, for the development and preservation of affordable housing.

Former senator John Edwards, the chairman of the Half in Ten campaign, was also in attendance.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Final Move (Part 1)

520 Wall Street.
The Courtland. My new residence. The building with the huge glass front. This street is no different than one you would see in New York - a quiet, brownstone lined street.
I put this iconic inspirational saying on the back of the door when I moved in to keep me fighting. The last thing I did when I walked out of that room forever was to rip it from the back of the door.
Room 378, Marshall House. This is where I lived for 9 months. Moved out on July 10, 2008. I made sure that room was perfectly clean when I left. I remembered my father telling our YMCA group that statement when we left our first overnight camp experience in Soledad Canyon as a kid. "Always leave it spotless, like you have never been there." Yes, dad, I am listening.
The Marshall House on San Julian St, the loudest, filthiest and most drug infested street on Skid Row. A battle for its soul is raging on an on going basis. I was told to make the Marshall House work for me. I listened. It did for me what was necessary. I did what was necessary to do while I was there.
The gate to my very first stop on Skid Row, the Transition House.
The aisle in which I slept for 71/2 months at the Transition House. They give you a bed and a locker. Two people who lived on that aisle have died from overdoses after they left the facility.


About three months ago, I visited the residence of Wesley, a co worker and friend. Wesley grew up in my neighborhood, around the corner from me. I wrote about him in previous postings. In those postings it is clear that Wesley has been sort of a guiding light for me in many respects.

Before he moved to his place Wesley lived across the hall from me at the Marshall House. I was glad he was there, not only in the building but across the hall from me as I was unsteady in my self confidence and pessimistic about my future. Wesley was a link to home and a pillar of strength.

A few months after I moved in, Wesley moved out of the Marshall House into The Courtland, around the corner from where I lived. The Courtland is on the most quiet street in Skid Row. The Central Division Police Station is on that street. Therefore people avoid it. To me, that was one of the benefits of being on that street. The police station kept anyone who was engaged in illegal activity off of it.

When I visited his place, I knew I had to go to that building. It was so quiet and it had air conditioning which is a rarity on Skid Row. I believe it is the only one of twenty six buildings that is managed by the company that has air conditioning. Wesley had a street view. He said he would not trade his unit for any place else in the neighbhorhood. There were larger and newer units but they either cost more or were on the eastern edge of Skid Row. Wesley, like myself, was not interested in moving east. We had the desire to move west. My first westerly move was from Crocker Street to San Julian St. I was on the waiting list to move into a vacant unit in the inventory of units that my employer had but I had no idea how long it would take. I had been on the list since I moved into the Marshall House.

I was notified that my rent was going up from 141 dollars to 429 dollars on June 1.
It is customary in Skid Row for the rent to be increased once you secured a job and have worked for some time. That is the way it works on Skid Row. With that notification I needed to expedite,if at all possible, my move out of the Marshall House, which is considered transitional housing, into permanent housing.

My origional goal was to be out of the Marshall House by the beginning of the summer of 2008 and I wanted to keep that time schedule. I was ready to move. I had been preparing for it in many ways. I opened a new checking account that did not charge me a monthly fee as did the previous account. I bought new plastic storage containers as well as household items for my future place. Per Wesley's direction, I authorized my employer to deduct my rent from my paycheck so I would not have to be bothered with paying the rent and it wouldk provide the management company with a solid comfort level to motivate them in letting me rent a unit from them.

I began to ask Karl, every day, about the availability of a unit in the Courtland.
Someone had just moved in there and he told me that other units were coming available. He worked for the owner/management company also. Unfortunately I was told that there was an unusually low vacancy rate of 2% in the buildings the company managed. In Skid Row, most buildings are full in the cold months as people want to get out of the cold weather. Shelters are filled up and people behave themselves so they are not evicted from housing or discharged from shelter facilities. In the warm months, the vacancy rate increases because people want to be outside. The consensus among Skid Row veterans is that the vacancy rate increases in the summer because people would prefer to spend money on drugs and be outside rather than use that money for housing.

Finally,one day, as I was walking across fifth street, I heard someone yell my name. It was Karl. "Walter, don't leave", were his words as he was trying to end a conversation with someone so he could inform me of the latest events. I knew there was a breakthough.

First he told me about the Rivers but the rent was too high. He also mentioned he had several rooms that were coming available at the Courtland. I wanted the Courtland, I told him. It suited my needs perfectly. Every person on Skid Row raves about the loft apartments in the Rivers and how large they are. It was a little bit over my budget and it was on the eastern end of Skid Row. As I said earlier, I wanted to go west. One block west would make so much difference in my life.
It would take me off of the dirtiest, filthiest and loudest street on Skid Row and put me on the most quiet street where I could hear myself think. I would be closer to Metropolis Books
where I am a frequent customer as well as the bank. And one thing I liked to see were the new art galleries on Main Street.

I found that most people who are thrilled to be at the Rivers and the New Terminal are those that plan on being on Skid Row for the duration. If they are happy then I am happy for them. But I am looking at my tenure on Skid Row to end. I do not want to lose focus. When I was in college, my father told me to not get distracted by things that were not important. My stay there was transitory, he said.
Well, I did not follow his direction. I got distracted and did not accomplish my goal. My stay on Skid Row is transitory and I must make sure that each day I do not lose sight of what it takes to keep moving forward and out of here. It is so easy to get stuck.

I thought I was going to be stuck here forever. Now my perspective is changing. I do not have to be stuck here. It all comes out to how badly I want to do anything.
If I elect to stay here that is fine. The point is having a choice. Now I am in a position to make a choice and my position to make an objective choice increases in strength every day as I learn more about myself, what I want to do and begin to search for ways to accomplish my goals.

Karl told me to have some paper work completed and returned to him. As I sat in his little office I had the feeling that I was about to make a major change in my life, a significant, substantive change that will catapult me into a whole new level in ways that I did not yet know.

I completed the paperwork but after a couple of days, Karl told me there was a delay in the units being cleared for rent. However he did tell me which ones were available. I went to see it without him knowing about it and discovered that it was on the 4th floor of the Courtland and it had a view that overlooked the downtown skyline. The view itself beat the caged in and depressing feeling I received whenever I looked outside of my Marshall House window into the side of the building next door at the Russ Hotel.

I learned while going through this experience on Skid Row that I had to be patient. Don't obsess on things. Don't worry myself to death. It only made things worse. I have become pretty good at letting things go. My only concern was that somebody would get it as a result of politics or a pre-existing agreement with a government agency that gave them the right of first refusal of any units that became available. Three were available in the Courtland. Only one was facing the skyline. I wanted that room. It was a writer's dream.

I had been preparing for my move out of the Marshall House from the very first day I had arrived there. In the Transition House I was just trying to survive, waiting out the time I had to be there and to deal with the trauma of past events; low self esteem and a crushed ego that were a consequence of the events I experienced. It was not easy but I made it.

At the Marshall House I had to gain a footing. For the first three weeks I had to go to County of Los Angeles classes for job development-Money management classes that were mandated by the management of the Marshall House as well as Men's group discussions once a week. I wondered if there was ever going to be time to work on moving forward. I remember getting my driver license renewed. That was a big step. The whole time I was worried that I could not make anything happen but they did happen-one piece at a time. Slowly but surely.

So I went back to preparing for my move. I bought plastic containers. I bought towels etc. I wanted to replace everything that reminded me of pain and hardship.
I bought new things--not additional things but new things. I replaced shirts.
Threw out the ones given to me or donated them. etc etc. I kept refining my operations. Progress is measured in many ways. Discipline and habits is one that is overlooked but vital to sustain growth and progress. I focused on those while waiting.

Finally Karl called me on my phone and told me that I could begin the final paper work to obtain the unit. Yes, it was mine--unit 428, the one that I wanted so badly but did not count on getting it. I knew Karl would do the best he could to get it for I developed my relationship with him over time and he appreciated my patience. He respected me. It is another example of how goodwill that is developed can yield great things when you need it.

As soon as I filled out the necessary paper work, I darted out of his office to get him some documentation that was required for my application; bank and earnings statements. Upon obtaining them I sprinted back to his office and put the documents in his hand. On Skid Row, it is best to do things as quickly as possible. Everyone is accustomed to people dropping the ball. I was not going to leave anything left to chance.

"Ok Walter, you are set. All we have to do is have you interview with Ernest and have Danny show you the unit". Ernest had come over to me and saw me on my laptop while I was waiting for Karl earlier. He had to deal with a contingency as a woman ran into his office shouting obscenities, ending with "You no good honky." Yes, racist attitudes do spring up on Skid Row. More on that later.
I was surprised at this woman because I had seen her on and off on San Julian. It was clear she had relapsed and was coming down from a binge of drug usage. Fortunately I was able to develop a rapport with Ernest. Danny already knew me from a previous job interview so I was a known quantity with him. That is important on Skid Row.

My part was done. With a quick handshake, I walked out of Karl's office, strolled through the Grecian column lobby of the Russ Hotel and out of the front doors.
All I had to do now was wait. Shortly, I knew I was moving out of the Marshall House. I knew I was leaving a lot of the pain behind me. A new life was going to start for me. I was excited. In a very short period of time, I knew I was going to begin my last term at the Universtiy of Skid Row.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Transition House Gets its Party On

On Saturday night, The Transition House held a dance. The Transition House was the very first place I lived when I arrived on Skid Row, staying there for eight months before I moved into the Marshall House.

I moved out of the Marshall House Saturday and into the Courtland. I felt I had to go to the Transition House, where my Skid Row experience started and give them my support and take a walk down memory lane as well as dream about the future. After all, the staff and residents gave me much support while I was there.
And they still do.

That Saturday dance was another source of healing for me. It was the first dance party that I had attended in years. They were dances while I was a resident at the T
House at other locations in Skid Row while I was there. Either I did not have the five dollar door fee or I was just not in the mood. Most likely it was both.

My move to the Courtland marked another new beginning and took a tremendous weight off of my shoulders. I felt lighter and wanted to have a bit of recreation and recreation has indeed been missing in my life.

It was good to see people there that were there when I was there. They returned to give their support to the organization as well as to offer encouragement to the current residents.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two Deaths on Skid Row Last Week

Two drug related deaths occurred on Skid Row last week.

On Friday, July 11, a man was smoking crack on San Julian, near the location of the man in the yellow shirt in the above picture, when a man ran up to him, and hit him from behind. The man fell and his attacker immediately started to kick him in his body. There were reports that the victim was kicked in the neck and it was broken.

According to witnesses, he died on the way to the hospital. ]

This is the second murder that has happened on San Julian, between 5th and 6th streets within the last two months. That stretch of San Julian St is regarded as the worst street on Skid Row. Crack is bought and sold openly as well as smoked.

People harrass every person that walks by in an attempt to make crack sells.


Earlier in the week, there was an over dose at the Golden West. The person was discovered dead in his/her room. According to people that know, the management immediately tested everyone and those who registered dirty from drug usage were evicted from the building.

That is what I mean by taking charge of the building and ensuring that the epidemic drug usage does not spread and infect even more people who are attempting to get their lives together.

In some buildings, tests can not be allowed but other measures can be used to make sure that illegal activities are not a part of the environment.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Skid Row Basketball League Begins Second Season

The Skid Row 3 on 3 Street Basketball League opened up its Second Season on Saturday at Gladys Park. This season the league will field 10 teams in the men's division. Along with the men's division the league will have its first season for women. They began play with two teams.

According two General Jeff, the Director of Marketing, opening day was an outstanding success. The games were excellent and there was a great turn out of spectators to watch the athletes perform. He was particularly pleased with the assistance of the Skid Row Photography Club for helping out with "Media Day" events by taking photographs of the players and conducting interviews as well.

This was a special day for me as it was last year that Eric Richardson gave me the opportunity to write about the Skid Row 3 on 3 Streetball League in his blog, Blogdowntown. That opportunity started my blogging career. I do not get a chance to cover as many events as I would like because of my work schedule. I was glad that I could cover this one. It afforded me the opportunity to see how far Skid Row has come in its community groups and empowerment efforts by dedicated citizens.

Please come out and support the Skid Row Street Basketball League. The quality of basketball is high and the atmosphere uplifting. The league will be playing every Saturday for the balance of the summer months.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Betrayal on Skid Row #2

last week I wrote a post titled Scandal in Skid Row. In that post I wrote about people relapsing and the policies of a program in the Skid Row neighborhood.

Apparently would I said caused a bit of an uproar. I did not mention any person's name. I did not mention a name of any program. Every program has "packaged deals" and every program has a person who has relapsed who has the name John. I purposely wrote the post like that because I wanted to see what would come of it. I must admit I was surprised as to the events that unfolded.

The very next day, after I published that post, I walked into a program, a program where I had been a frequent visitor. I was told I could no longer use their facilities. I asked why but the director chose not to provide me with an answer. The director does not owe me an explanation.

Later that day I was told by someone that she had received numerous phone calls about the post. The phone calls came from individuals who worked for different programs in the area. They all felt that the post was talking about their program.
Hmmm. I was told that these programs were on an alert to watch out for me.
Why I would be of concern to anyone is a mystery to me.

No one has to leak information in Skid Row. There is a great deal of gossip on Skid Row. People love to talk about other people. It distracts them away from their own problems. The probability that the general gossip is accurate is low. If a person gossips about why an employee no longer works at an organization, chances are the information is false. People are very defensive when it comes to the veracity of their stories-almost obssesive. .

However, there is one area of the Skid Row grapevine where,invariably, there is 100%accuracy. That area of gossip involves the subject matter of who has relapsed.
That information spreads like a fire in dry brush. Instantaneously, the whole neighborhood knows who is the latest statistic. It is fascinating how someone can relapse in one corner of the neighborhood and on opposite end of the neighborhood, everyone knows about it. They also know where the person was living and if the person was working. Everyone knows. Having an inside spy to leak information is not necessary.

My point is that everyone knows the truth. Everyone in Skid Row sees what is going on. Sure you have some people who are angry at the world and can not wait to say something negative about any organization or program. It is easy to figure out who they are once they open their mouths. More than likely, they have been to every program and were kicked out for one reason or another. It is very easy to discount what they have to say.

It makes no sense to chastise me for echoing what the community observes and knows to be true. Some things are opinion and other things are facts. It is fact that a program sends their clients to certain buildings. It is fact that the umbrella company owns the buildings. It is fact that they relapse.

That scenario is not the exclusive model of any particular organization in Skid Row. It could apply to anyone. Perhaps that is why a program worker called to tell me that more than a few individuals, from other programs, believed I was referring to them. It was suggested to me that if people think I was talking about their program, then there is something about their program they feel is wrong.

Some people would say that they can not control what happens in their buildings if it is not a sober living facility. That is a 100 percent cop out.

I live in a building which is one of many that are by an affordable housing developer/property manager. It owns both sober living and non sober living facilities. It was discovered that people were using drugs in one of their sober living facilities. The users were immediately evicted and management called a meeting of all tenants in all buildings. They made it perfectly clear that if a a tenant was discovered using or selling drugs in any of the buildings that they own and/or manage, the police would be called. They gave everyone clear warning. They made a commitment to keep their buildings drug free and protect the tenants who want to live a drug free life and leave the drug world behind them. Two days later, the LAPD conducted a search of their buildings and anyone who was engaged in illegal activity was arrested.

The executive management made a commitment to their tenants and they also held They did not turn a blind eye. Other organizations can do the same thing.

Last week, Mark Groubert wrote an article in LAweekly,about a high end drug rehab facility in Malibu. Two more articles were promoted in the same issue. Among other things discussed in that article is the fact that many drug rehab facilities or drug rehab related programs started when licensing was lenient, and the industry was unregulated or lightly regulated.

I have talked with some City Officials and they, across the board, have this one question. "To whom are these non profit organizations and drug rehab facilities accountable?" Certainly, most do not have to be held accountable to their clients. Some are not held accountable to their own conscience. It appears that the domiminant controlling force are the investors and people who donate money. Corruption is rampid, not only in high end racilities but in low end ones as well.

Nobody wants to change anything and, for the most part, no pressure is put on the organizations that have terrible success rates to change. If anyone speaks out within any of these organizations, they are subject to be fired or otherwise disciplined.

That is why I commend the organizations that I know make a 150 percent commitment to recovery. They do their best to eradicate their facilities and any environment to which they are connected of any illegal behavior or behavior which is against their mission of a sober and clean recovery for those who are fighting to maintain that process.

Mark Goubert's article I hope will be the start of open dialogue about different attitudes concerning policies and cooperation within the Skid Row community.
Mr Goubert stated in his article that one when person is directly helped to escape drug addiction, approximately 20 more people are indirectly helped. It is fair to say that 20 people are indirectly hurt if policies are followed that direct clients, who have a propensity to do drugs, to environments where the have one foot in the relapse statistic category as soon as they enter it.

I must also say this. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of an individual to abstain from substance abuse. No rehab center or organization can make a person stay off drugs. One has to make that commitment to oneself. It is easier for some to stay on that path of recovery with unwavering focus than it is for others.

I believe that unwavering ethical conduct on the part of organizations is very important when it comes to helping those that have a propensity to falter when temptation rears its ugly head. An organization may do 80 percent of its activities flawlessly. Unfortunately the 20percent that falls in the cracks, is ignored or a function or short sighted planning or misguided priorities can washout the work of that productive 80 percent.

Lets do something to reduce the chances of that happening. When I speak, I speak to myself as well. I no longer will give someone money for cigarettes because to me that is only financing a habit that keeps someone chained to a life that is without independence.

Independence Day for America is tomorrow. America fought its independence every step of the way. It took one hundred percent commitment, sacrifice and team work so that independence could be experienced by all. Please, let us all give some thought to a renewed commitment to discuss and hopefully discover insights that will formulate creative methods so that those, who are saddled with active alcohol and drug addiction, will be able to experience the independence in lifestyle--the concept upon which this country is based.

Have a happy 4th of July.