Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Skidrow and Facebook Team UP

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Last week someone asked, “Walter, where do you believe the fight for the people of Skid Row- the homeless, HIV/AIDS patients, and otherwise forgotten, ignored and disenfranchised in Los Angeles- is being waged the strongest. Is it in the traditional media, print and broadcasting? Is it in City Hall?”. “No, none of the above!!!” I responded without hesitation. “The battle for the people of Skid Row, the homeless and other similar social causes is being waged fiercely on the internet!!”
From Facebook to the Huffington Post, the new electronic media is an effective megaphone, its advancing the causes that hunger for attention and assistance. An army of advocates, social workers, lawyers and individual citizens engage each other in conversation, debate and recruitment for their cause of choice. Community advocates dispatch mass emails to promote their causes as well as update their constituency with breaking news of ongoing issues. Benito Compito, founder of the Skid Row 3on3 Streetball League, and General Jeff, the DLANC (Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council have been very adroit at utilizing this vehicle.
A Skid Row fraternity is flourishing on the internet and Facebook. Former workers who have transferred out of the neighborhood and current workers, along with past and present denizens, use the most popular and far reaching social network on the internet to stay connected and dialogue about Skid Row issues. . Through this interaction, a viral process increasingly widens its audience as it engages the community and furthers its awareness of various social issues connected to homelessness and mental health. In addition to educating the network community, the phenomena also serves to increase active participation in the form of volunteers and donations.
A deputy city attorney associated with the initial phase of the Safe City Initiative believes the proliferation of the Skid Row community on the internet began out of frustration. “Many of us who worked in Skid Row wanted to make a difference…to get things done… to help people. At times it was frustrating. I used to go to meeting after meeting. It felt like people just wanted to have meetings just to have meetings. Nothing ever got done. Sometimes approved action plans of important matters like removing numerous homeless off the streets and placing them into housing were stalled until a county supervisor received top marquee billing for the plan. It was as if people wanted to sabotage progress. The internet takes ideas straight to the public. We receive immediate feedback and can mobilize support when we post messages.”
Several executive directors of nonprofit organizations active in the Skid Row Community are firm believes in the power of the internet. Andy Bales, CEO, Union Rescue Mission states “Yes, Walter, although Direct mail donations are down, internet giving and Facebook/Twitter/Social Media is gaining momentum for advancing the cause. It is gradually taking the place of Direct Mail for fundraising, and is far superior for connecting with volunteers and stirring up a cause. Grace Dyrness, former CEO, LACEH&H(Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness)adds “It is so important to communicate on the internet because that is becoming the best way of communication. Our electronic newsletter definitely gets a response (although not in money) and we are finding that as the most effective way to get information out to people. Email has definitely been the best way to work with others when you need a rapid response on issues. Joel John Roberts, CEO, PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) Partners, continues, “I think the partnership between social media and nonprofits is still young. Larger nonprofits are just getting into online media. The power in social media to mobilize communities, empower people who are disenfranchised and for soliciting donations is significant. I think in the next five years it will take off.”
The internet also serves well those journalists with a penchant toward advocacy as an alternative vehicle for their stories. If done well, Celeste Fremon, publisher of Witness LA.com and writer for the Huffington Post says, “When I want to do a story or focus reader attention on someone who would traditionally be voiceless, their problems ignored by the conventional media, I no longer have to persuade an editor to let me do the story. With the advent of blogs and Internet news sites, I can just write the story. And if I'm smart about it, I can get others to pick up my story, so that it migrates to an arena beyond my own readers. At times, this means it migrates to mainstream media, as well.”

If you want to know what is happening in the world of social entrepreneurship, stay on line. Pick a news site, or social network. It is where the action is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Was This Really Necessary?



This extremely mentally ill woman, who does not comprehend anything, was receiving a ticket for jay walking. Was this really necessary. She will not be able to pay the ticket. It is excess work for those who already are snowed under. Does it help the woman? The officers approached her from behind, tight to her so she was not aware of their presence. They could have approached her from a wider angle instead of making her jump ten feet in the air when she realized the huge horses were in her presence.

Did this event help her or the city?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

LA Times Is Not a Good Neighbor to Skid Row

This morning I read the article the LA Times published about the murders at the Lamp residential building in the Skid Row community. It is now twelve hours later and I am still wondering what the purpose of the article was. I found out about the article when a former counselor in one of the many Skid Row programs called me to inform me about it. Yes, the article created a stir but not much more. The only thing it did was continue to associate Skid Row with drugs and crime. And yet there is so much more to the community.

The Los Angeles Times and the Skid Row community are neighbors. Skid Row is known as the homeless capital of the United States. There is no other member of the press in the country which is in a better position than the Los Angeles Times to examine the complex forces which culminate in the ever increasing homeless population in a community two blocks away from its headquarters. It can serve as the lightning rod for the Los Angeles community, as well as others, to end this problem. I have said many times, "if you solve the problems of Skid Row, you solve the problems of this country." The LA Times is at ground zero of many of the issues which plague America. It neither examines the negative forces within it, nor reports on the various grassroots movements sprouting within its borders to bring about positive change. Instead, it lowers itself to tabloid journalism and sensationalizes a double murder in community about which it knows nothing.

When was the last time the LA Times talked about Skid Row? Oh yes, I believe it was during the premiere of 'The Soloist' when every mainstream media outlet joined the 'hoopla bandwagon' surrounding the movie. It was not going to be left out of course. But it fails to take the lead in doing an in debt series on a community which is a mirror of many threads which comprise the fabric of America. There is enough about Skid Row, positive and negative to earn its own section in the Los Angeles Times.

The writer singles out the Lamp organization for failing to protect its residents. Let me presume to educate this writer. Drugs are sold and done in practically every building in Skid Row. I am in a position to comment on it. I lived in three Skid Row buildings. In each of them there was a constant battle to keep drugs out. Drug dealers, as well as users are ingenious at devising ways to smuggle drugs into the residential buildings. Every night I hear security guards chatter on the walkie-talkies. They vigilantly report to their supervisors that doors and windows are secured. I currently work in a residential hotel in Skid Row. Among other things, it is my job to monitor the conduct of visitors which enter the facility. I never know if a guest is upset at a person residing in the building. I never know if a guest has a secret agenda of taking revenge for an insult, real or imagined. I never know if a tenant, lucid yesterday, forgot to take his meds today and believes that the world is out to kill him. When that happens, violent behavior can occur at any time. Every manager of a Skid Row building knows who is selling and/or using drugs in it. There is little anyone can do about it unless it is done openly. We cannot search people even when it is obvious they are bringing drugs into a building.

When was the last time a member of the Los Angeles Times staff talked to residents or workers other than during a high profile issue? I talked to General Jeff, Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council board member representing Skid Row, in the beginning of his second year in office. Few people know the various components of Skid Row and how they intersect like he does. I asked him if the writer of the Lamp article has talked to him. "I have never talked to anyone from the LA Times since I was elected as a DLANC board member." Why do they not talk about the many things that are happening in Skid Row? "Walter, they do not want to talk about anything good that goes on in Skid Row!!!" he added.

Skid Row is not a static environment. The nature of the neighborhood is in constant motion as are many of the residents which come and go on a daily basis. I have been a part of the community for a long time. I struggle to understand it and the many challenges it faces. I am here every day and must update myself on the minute changes. And yet, a writer who spends no time in the community-who has no investment in it- publishes a skewed snapshot of it(as if the snapshot of this Lamp facility is an aberration in the community), and, in its wake, Skid Row residents, unnerved, hustle for answers about their safety and the genuine dedication of social service providers to ensure it. When the dust settles, the writer knows no more about the community than he did before the murders took place.

If The Los Angeles Times spent any time gardening in its backyard, it would learn that many beautiful things are growing in Skid Row; the Skid Row Photography Club, Film Club, 3on3 Streetball League and the newly formed Skid Row Bureau of Journalism. These grassroots organizations serve to uplift the self esteem of the residents. Stories about those organizations may encourage people in the city, starving to find ways to help, to contribute their talent and or results to further progress. Instead, articles like the one published this morning, have the residents feeling bitter; their community is only featured when the stories can give an "Oh My God" reaction from the readership. Moreover, people are scared to become involved.

People who live in Skid Row have so little but give so much to each other. America needs to learn more about the quality of this community. The spirit of giving and caring blankets the environment. Thr, e LA Times, which has so much, gives so little attention and help to its neighbor. It reminds me of the 1960's character Mrs Kravitz in the sitcom Bewitched. Mrs. Kravitz would either visit the Stevens house only when she wanted to dig up some dirt or sneak across the street and peer through the Stevens' blinds until she saw something. Then she would run back across the street screaming and yelling until she could find anyone to whom she could gossip about her latest discovery. ,

The LA Times, not taking the lead in shedding light on the myriad of complex forces that plague Skid Row, and thus, America, should just run back across the street to its big building and draw down the blinds and hide in fear of its neighbor until it has the guts to come out and discover the people of Skid Row are like the bear, Gentle Ben. Until it does and begins to report about Skid Row in an active effort to bring change, it will only sound like the gossipy Mrs. Kravitz.


 

Monday, July 27, 2009

States Are Making Cuts While Banks Are Posting Profits

Arianna Huffington writes an interesting article about how 39 states are forced to cut surfaces while the banks which received the bail out funds are posting profits.

Many of those cuts are services for the elderly,children, mentally ill and low income families. The cuts are coming at a time when people need them the most. It is an analysis of the opportunity cost incurred in bailing out the banks at the expense of the well being of the United States citizen.

Please read it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Los Angeles Ranked As Meanest City In The Country for Homeless

The City of Los Angeles is accused of criminalizing its homeless population. In a report done by two Los Angeles Advocacy Groups, is labeled as the meanest city in the country for people who do not have shelter.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless perfomed a study of 273 cities and placed Los Angeles at the top of the list. In 2006, Los Angeles was number 18 on the 'mean cities' list.

Read the Yahoo article published yesterday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Echo Park

Echo Park is so beautiful. It was the first place I went fishing as my father took me there when I was 6 years old. I tried to catch a fish for a few hours and, then, when we were getting ready to leave,I felt something tug on the line. When I brought the fish up to the surface, it was very clear I had not skill. The fish did not take the bait. It swam by and the side of its body got snagged by the hook.The view of the park reminds me how beautiful old Los Angeles is. The cascading palm trees are so picturesque.
And of course, one must always have a shot of the skyline from different perspectives when it is at all possible.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Are You In The Drug Business

Finally I was on may way. The address to the cemetery, burried in a pile of emails was found. Flowers were purchased in the morning as well as a new pair of short pants to be worn for the visit, one that I had postponed, or better yet avoided for a little while---32 years.

On June 8, in the early morning overcast,I drove to the Lincoln Cemetery, in Carson. An historic cemetery Lincoln is filled with the names of people of color that contributed to the history of Los Angeles County. When one enters, in plane view is a monument in tribute to Private Anderson. Private Anderson was the black male in the United States Marine Corp to win a Congressional Medal of Honor when he threw himself on a grenade saving the lives of his fellow shoulders in Vietnam.

Estella Melton was not killed in Vietnam. She was killed in Los Angeles(a Vietnam of sorts at the time of her death), by young men who robbed her to get money for drugs. Estella Melton is my Grandmother. She had a few dollars on her but they 'came up' when they found her gold necklace. It was discovered when a 'fence',a street pawn shop entrenpreneur, doubling as a drug dealer, was arrested for selling cocaine. He accepted the necklace in exchange change in exchange for drugs. Of course, the drug dealer felt he had nothing to do with my Grandmother's death.Throughout Los Angeles, liquor store owners shun away drug addicts and dealers from standing in front of their stores. "Can't stand those dealers and addicts!!", bark the store owners, whether they are in Skid Row or in middle class neighborhoods elsewhere. "They steal." They do not believe they are in the drug business. Yet they sell Chore Boy and King lighters, the tools of choice by crack users. Chore Boy is the copper screen used to keep the melted rock cocaine from evaporating too quickly in order for the smoker to inhale the vapors created from heat applied. The heat is applied by the 'King' Lighters.

Chore Boy is marketed as a dish washing tool and King lighters as any other regular cigarette lighter. However, police regard both as drug paraphernalia when discovered on someone's person. Though marketed as a household necessity, I am hard pressed to remember seeing any Chore Boy in the kitchens of anyone, even the kitchens of drug users.

Is Chore Boy in the drug business or house cleaning business? Marketing executives ask themselves in what businesses or businesses are they wnen examining marketing campaigns and product positioning. Some business analysts argue that McDonald's, though known for its burgers and french fries, is not in the fast food business but in the real estate business as they are actually managing their retail real estate holdings in operating food outlets.

As marketing executives examine their products, communities should ask themselves the same questions about the companies that sell products in their neighborhoods. What business is this company in? Do they have the communities interest at heart? I venture to say that a dominate percentage of Chore Boy sales of its product is to facilitate the easy usage of drugs, not for pot scrubbing. If so, Chore Boy is profiting from the drug trade with impunity. The company that distributes the product does not sale drugs but if drug usage and drug sales were to decrease then so would its income.

Drug users rob people and burglarize homes. The property they seize is used as a medium of exchange to buy drugs. When drugs are purchased, supplies are needed to use them. Stores sell Chore Boy. Stores sell glass pipes which are used to smoke cocaine. Are these stores in the drug business? Should they be allowed to sell goods that are used to use drugs. Millions of dollars of pipes, Chore Boy and other supplies are sold each year. Alcoholism is major problem in communities of color as it is made easy to purchase it given the high amount of liquor stores per square mile that dominate these communities.

How many Estella Meltons are injured or killed because a person, suffering from alcohol or drug addiction knows a 'fence' is waiting to receive the goods. They are quick to take them, knowing they can convert those goods into hard cash. Gold chains, power tools etc can easily be pawned at local pawn shops in exchange for cash. It does not concern them who was in the way when a drug addict burglarizes a house. The liquor stores do not care from where the money comes to purchase pipes and Chore Boy. Easy access encourages the addict to commit crimes,ruin his life and the lives of others as he knows he will be rewarded for his efforts.

Family members of victims, traumatized by their loss, struggle to find closure to such events. Closure does not come easily.

Stores that sell paraphernalia are in the drug business. They encourage addicts to continue using drugs, making it easy for them to obtain the equipment necessary to further them down the road of self destruction. They will continue to sell tools to use drugs, tools which help the dismantling of a community as long as a community allows it to happen.

Is it possible to enact legislation barring such products from being sold within the city limits? Are communities able to protect themselves and their families from self destruction? Yes. Communities need to raise their voices about legal products sold within their communities for not only illegal purposes but harmful purposes as well. If we are to combat drugs in our communities, that battle must be on every front. We must get rid of every little virus that contributes to dysfunction.

In Skid Row, former addicts, with indignation, deny they are in the drug world. The same individuals purchase hot goods, offered by active drug users desperate to find money to purchase drugs. They purchase food stamp cards at discounted prices from addicts who will go hungry but will not go without drugs. People who purchase hot merchandise or food stamp cards are contributing to the drug trade and the destruction of others, their families and their communities.

If we are to eradicate drugs from our communities, every thing must be removed that is associated with drug equation. Along with the drugs and the dealers must go the drug supplies which accompany them and, if necessary, the establishments and/or individuals who sell products which harm our communities. If the removal of Chore Boy, King lighters, and glass pipes from store shelves in our neighborhoods discourages one person from purchasing drugs because supplies to smoke them are too difficult to obtain, or discourages one person from burglarizing a house or assaulting an elderly woman to obtain money for drugs or supplies because it is too difficult to access all of the variables necessary to satisfy the drug equation, that one person has a chance. He has a chance to end his drug use. He has a chance to stay out of jail. His family has a chance to avoid shedding tears when their hearts ache from missing him while he is in jail. The person has a chance of not hurting or killing someone. An elderly person has a chance of not being harmed or killed. A grandson will have a chance to enjoy his grandmother. That grandson will not struggle for 32 years to bring closure to such a painful event in his life.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Midnight Mission Hosts Clinic To Assist The Community with Traffic Tickets


The Midnight Mission has been a long standing advocate for the homeless and otherwise downtrodden. It has a a wide variety of programs to assist those who are resolute in facing the challenges that blanket their lives. It established itself as being in the vanguard, partnering with other Skid Row organizations while spearheading the negotiations with Hollywood power players to include Skid Row residents as background artists in the movie The Soloist, released earlier this year.

After the negotiations were complete with Hollywood, Orlando Ward, Director of Public Relations for the Midnight Mission, led the Mission staff in conducting a smooth streamlined processing orientation for prospective background artists for the movie, talking and joking with residents when, occasionally, patience by some was giving way to short sighted outbursts.

On Thursday May 21, The Midnight Mission, in partnership with the City Attorney's Office, hosted the Halo Clinic, a program to assist residents of Skid Row resolve their outstanding traffic tickets to avoid criminal prosecution. It took a year of negotiations and planning to make this clinic happen. The Mission staff was again courteous and efficient while handling the large crowd which gathered there to clear themselves of open traffic ticket cases. Residents from the various Skid Row programs as well as the homeless attended the clinic.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Physically challenged Struggle When The Cameras And Spotlights Are Off

Somewhere in my early blogging days, I went to Wells Fargo Bank on Spring St. Turning the corner from 4th Street onto Spring St. I came upon a huge protest by home care workers in front of the Reagan State Building. The demonstration was a vocal outcry against the feared budget cuts by Governor Schwarzenegger which would most likely cost them their jobs.

That was quite some time ago.

On Friday, May 22, I went to the same bank and came across another demonstration by the same workers for the same reason, to prevent the loss of jobs. The voting results on Tuesday motivated the unions to present a strong voice to the governor. Placards were everywhere: "Don't Risk Lives" was a prominent one held by protesters. The message was clear: If jobs are cut, people who need supportive services will be at risk.
video

Union Officials scuttled around to find those who were the most physically challenged to interview with the mainstream media, using the visual images of the physically challenged as a powerful weapon to grab the emotions of the viewers.

I watched all of this with a different eye from the previous demonstration. At that time, I had only lived on Skid Row for six months and was sequestered from most of the community until I started blogging. Skid Row had not had a chance to work its magic on me--to truly understand the plight of people who struggle every day.

This time I possessed the eye of a man who has experienced Skid Row in various capacities for over two years. I have seen many people who are wheelchair bound. I have lived with them and talked with them, and have grown to appreciate the various challenges they face every day and the courage it takes to face each and every one of those days. I no longer live on Skid Row but I still work there. However the lessons I learned from the people who need supportive services help me every day as I assist in taking care of my mother, a dementia victim.

One can not live on Skid Row and not be affected by the environment. It changes you. if you possess your total faculties and are physically able you begin to appreciate how fortunate you really are. You see people struggle so hard to make it from one block to the next, going to the store or to an office to handle their business. Day after day the fight to survive.

These people need allies more than once or twice a year when the TV channels hustle to get wheelchair bound people to compete against other channels who are doing the same. The union workers should launch a never ending campaign to assist those who are needy instead of only when they need them to bolster an argument to save their own jobs.

Every where I travel in this city, I see physically and mentally challenged people. They are forgotten by the masses and isolated to fight their own battles until the spotlights need them again.

Cindy, a spinal chord injury victim, is the woman in the picture. She speaks on the video about her concerns. Cindy should not have these concerns about which she speaks. Can TV take a time out from customary practices and provide coverage to a category of our population that needs their assistance and commitment. Can the media and unions fight for them longer than just the time it takes to create a sufficient sound bite? Can the population get behind the struggles of people who need 24 hour care and compel the government to care for them regardless of the budget situation. Can America find its moral compass and use it to maintain the course for a better humanity? Are we able to embrace these people and demonstrate by our actions they are not are not forgotten? Until we do, people who need help will continue to be isolated. As long as they are isolated from the mainstream population, the mainstream population will be isolated from themselves.




Saturday, May 9, 2009

Homeless Children

People are under the impression that the homeless are so because of their own decisions.

Approximately 40% of the homeless population are children. How can America turn its back on children? How can the State of California try to make cutbacks that increase the vulnerability of children and the elderly? I can not answer that question but the practice continues.

Here is an article about a homeless girl who became that way without making any decisions. All children become homeless because of factors over which they have no control.

They suffer though we can bail out banks and have the money go to the executives that created this catastrophy in which we find ourselves. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Death and Drugs

"Walter, did you hear about the shooting around the corner?", he asked me when I walked into the office for work over a week ago. He was referring to the two murders in the Lamp residential facility. The rumor is that it was a contract killing: competitors in the drug trade could not arrive at an agreement so two men died/

"Walter, just so you know, a woman overdosed in the shower on Saturday," were the first words uttered to me on Monday when I again reported for work.

"Walter, we just found another person dead". That was yesterday. One man loitered about asking questions, feigning concern and interest in the fate cast upon the deceased. However the strain draped upon his face made transparent what he believed was concealed: he was worrying if it was his heroin that killed the deceased. It was not easy to discern if he was worried to ease his conscious or if that anxiety was due to the fact that he may not be able to use his own supply. Four deaths are within a block of each other. All of which are related to drugs. Family and friends are weeping day and not for their love ones who are gone.

A man was looking for his son. He presented me with a flyer. His eyes waited anxiously while I studied the photo. Yes, I thought I had seen the man. No, I was not sure. I did not want to give him hope yet did not want him to be discouraged. Fortunately he shared with me that others had seen him. They called him but before he could arrive, they man had vanished. The man was his son. He walked out of a drug rehabiliation facility and landed on Skid Row. He had only a few weeks to before he completed the program. Once finished, he could have gone into court, had his probation cleared and case of possession dismissed. Now, he risks being returned to jail or prison. His probation officer explained to the father that he must report to him before May 5. Otherwise he will have violated his probation or parole. The father was not clear. It makes not difference what it is called. Incarceration is the same, no matter the label.

Yes, the coroner wagon is not an uncommon sight. Its presence does not dissipate. It has a waiting clientel standing on 6th and Gladys though they may not realize they are patrons of the morgue.

I did drugs for a long time. I was not surprised that I stopped, though it seems to fascinate others. Yes, the relapse rate is high. Sometimes I believe it is high because people are told that relapse is expected. Self fullfilling it becomes. I am not concerned about how to stop.

I am more surprised, as each day goes by, that I ever started. Exploring is one thing but remaining in that forrest is quite another. Once you go deeper and deepr into it, it does become difficult to find one's way out. It becomes easier to stay in it than fighting to get out of it.

There was a friend of mine. We were on a high school championship team together. We went to school together from the 7th to 12th grades. When I came home once I saw his name on commercial real estate signs along the Wilshire Blvd corridor. Eventually I worked with him. However there was a night when we had a long conversation and he shared with me that he did not like doing what he was doing. He was making well over $250,000 a year. Why did he keep doing it? "I do it because I am good at it". He did not mention that he did it because he made a lot of money. The psychological income was more valuable to him than the money.

Why did I continue to get loaded off drugs? I got loaded because I was good at it. It is ironic that being one of the best at something is the road to destruction. Never the less I was good at it. I was a good liar,when, after my money ran out, I could find inventive stories to borrow more. Of course, it tormented my soul. However that was offset by the warped sense of accomplishment I felt when I put it all together to make a deal.

When one sets out to get loaded, you have a goal. When the goal is accomplished, you feel up with confidence. Yes, you see the day when it all may catch up with you. but you continue because it takes so much to turn your mindset around long enough to make a dent in carving out a new path, an enduring path.

Last week, the Safe Cities Initiative almost fell prey to the budget ax. Yes, the mayor's office said that it was an oversight. I find it easier to believe that there is good swamp land in Florida to purchase. There are too many checkpoints that the budget to pass--too difficult for anything to be missed.

It is much more plausible to believe that the Mayor's office believed that it could not gain any more political capital helping Skid Row and that in a time when people are concerned about surviving, they could take away the little Skid Row had been given.

Yes it is the time to tighten belts. But does it have to come on the backs of the people who have nothing and need the most help. It costs the city a lot more to house and cloth people in jail than it would to teach them something, that when they learn how to do it, they feel good about themselves. Something that can help them earn a living.

It is not the time to cut back on Skid Row. It is time to increase aid. People will return to jail if, after freeing themselves from drugs, there is nothing upon which they can grab, that makes them proud of themselves.

If the city does not go that extra step. The coroner wagon will continue to be a regular guest in the Skid Row community.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lesley Taplin And Now 'The Soloist' Teach The Nation about the Power of Love

Lesley Taplin died recently in a car crash.was a tireless supporter of the Skid Row community. She was an early supporter of the Skid Row 3 0n 3 Street Basketabll League while a volunteer member of DLANC, The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. She championed the causes for children and adults, making resources available that would further the education of both while on DLANC's education board. Her picture will be displayed indefinitely as her spirit will never die in the hearts and souls of the people of Skid Row.

It is ironic that her death came on the eve of the premiere of the movie The Soloist, which is a story about the unlikely friendship between Steve Lopez, a staff columnist for the Los Angeles Times and Nathaniel Ayers, a former musical prodigy who studied at the famed Julliard School until he was stricken with schizophrenia and landed on the streets of Skid Row. As Lesley Taplin developed unlikely friendship with Skid Row, so did Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers.

Lesley Taplin understood that Skid Row is a very complexed environment. She knew that the problems of Skid Row were a consolidated, condensed microcosm of America. Indeed, she endeavored to bring attention to the various issues of homelessness, poverty, mental illness, education and human relations, while encouraging the people of the communit to empower themselves. Lesley knew that this place called Skid Row, that many scorn, is a place of hidden beauty and power where one could learn the profundity of life and relationships. It is a place that fascinates me. That is why I call it The University of Skid Row.

There is a Skid Row deep in all of us. The good, the bad and the ugly. However, there is a unique purity of kindness that evades all of us to some level. If you remain in Skid Row long enough, you begin to grasp it. it no longer runs through your fingers as easily as water. You can cup it essence and drink its refreshing and insightful purity. Lesley epitomized that purity. She was a professor at the University of Skid Row, the de facto human laboratory of the United States. It is all here for any to see. If you unravel the entangled threads of anomalies that form the fabric of this community, you will solve the issues of the country.

National Public Radiohas done a series of articles about the Skid Row environment. Please use the link to read those articles. It will provide a cross section of perspectives that will serve to generate thought and discussion of the many challenges that we face in ourselves, individually and as a national and world family.

Monday, April 13, 2009

LAPD Officer Deon Joseph



Today an article I wrote about LAPD Officer Deon Joseph was published in LABeez, the new online hub for hyper-local ethnic news in Los Angeles. I also write a column which is published weekly on the site.

Please enjoy the LABeez website as it publishes interesting news articles on a variety of issues that impact the various communities, and thus, all of us.

I would like to add that I have started a new blog, A New Era. I share with you my adventures and experiences as I embark on a new phase in my life. A cornerstone to my blog will be the challenges and joys I experience caring for my mother who has dementia.


I will continue to post on Scribeskidrow material pertaining to social issues in general as well as those traditionally associated with Skid Row.

Thank you

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It Is Over--A Free Man

4:00 AM. So silent. The energy is peaceful. No cars are driving by the window. I am sitting with the shutters open in the dark. A green traffic light never changes in the background of my peripheral vision. Every few minutes a jet quietly floats overhead as it begins its descent into LAX while the heater whispers in warm air behind me.
I am not sleepy. Just very reflective. At the same time I am planning. I can plan now. My life is once again my own.
On March 18, I walked into the Criminal Courts Building (CCB for those who are more familiar with it than they would like to be). The hearing had been postponed on three occasions but this time all parties were present.
My Attorney spoke and he recited the team effort of private attorneys, public officials and police officers that assisted me along the way. It was a verbal parade of un sung heroes for whom I owe a debt that can never be repaid. Two motions were on the table—reduce the felony to a misdemeanor and end probation early.
The DA spoke. I received accolades that I could not believe were used to describe me. A little less than three years ago, the same person wanted me behind bars, fighting vigorously to keep me away from my family. She recounted the complete timeline of my Skid Row experience and as she did so I felt each stage of time, and the texture of my emotions that corresponded to that time. Sometimes I felt the pain. At other moments I merely remembered it. The DA was asked by the judge whether or not she agreed that the motion by my attorney that the felony be reduced to a misdemeanor be granted. She agreed.
The judge looked at me. He had heard the various versions of the success stories that were shared and he added to it. We had gotten to know each other during each delay as the previous commissioner had been appointed to a judgeship in another courtroom. He told me to come back and visit him and let him know how my life was coming along. Both motions were granted. I was no longer a felon in the eyes of the legal system. Probation was lifted. My attorney will file for expungement shortly. When he finished there was an eruption of applause from the courtroom. I turned to face the roar and saw that every seat was filled with smiling faces. It was a very special moment. I was a free man.
I walked out of the building in a blissful, dreamy state. Suddenly it hit me that I did not have to go in there again. It also hit me that I was free for the first time in my life. Sure it was not until three years ago that I had any record but I lost my freedom when I made the decision to experiment with drugs and embarked on a lifestyle of recreational consumption, or so I thought. I was dependent on those drugs. I was not guilty of the crime charged but I was guilty of making bad decisions and exercising a behavior that was destructive and put me in the position for Murphy’s Law to happen.
Since January 1 I have been back in the family house taking care of my mother and enjoying every bit of it. I have thought of this phase of my life that has ended. The lessons learned from it will be nothing compared to what I will learn from it as each day comes and goes.
For years I missed out on much of life smoking the time away in one room or another , alone or with others who chose the same form of self destruction. Now, I try to live it like there is no tomorrow and attempt to do something different and new every day.
This weekend, after the burden was lifted, I relaxed for the first time in years. I drove to Venice Beach, had lunch,breathed the fresh air and felt the crisp wind beating against my face. It was wonderful. I was alive and living life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Did you fuck the bitch?"

“Did you fuck the bitch?” , the words were banging inside of my head as I was driving through Skid Row on my way home. “Did you fuck the bitch?” I was reliving the moment when I first heard that question, my eyebrows raising as I stared at the man who whose fingernails were scratching against the chalkboard of my soul. He had walked into my office earlier in the evening while I was filing something away in a back room. I heard someone walk through the door and immediately walked out to see who was coming in. One does not want to be surprised on Skid Row. It is safer that way. I met him between the door and the backroom, in the narrow corridor that served as an impromptu rendezvous, not of my choosing. “Don’t swing at me Walter; I know I owe you some money. I got you on that but I came to tell you something”. Like hell you do you lying SOB. You are not going to paying me a dime. And you really don’t want to tell me a thing. You are baiting me for some reason but I will find out what it is in a minute. You are too obvious. You always have been. It was Michael. He and I work at the same company and he was a resident where I work. For months he would borrow a few dollars from me and would pay me on payday. There was no need to pay his debt when he moved out as he did not have to see me every day. Payment to me was the cost of passage to his room. He made more money than I did,lived rent free, had endless overtime hours but it never seemed to be enough for him. He was not doing drugs, at least not those that are material for a rapid brush fire of gossip in the neighborhood. His kind of drug is the dominant, though not unanimous docrine in most circles of the male population in Skid Row His addiction is power. Sex is his tool to gain it. Women are his victims. Any woman. If the woman could breathe he wanted her. Had to have her.

It was rumored that he could not keep himself in his pants and his adventures were constant topics in the virtual employee coffee rooms throughout Skid Row. But embellishment is a key ingredient in the Skid Row storytelling culture. Or it seems to be. So I took what I heard with a grain of salt, filtering information into the categories of possibility and probability. Then I saw for myself when, every night, he would parade women in shifts for fifteen minute interludes inside of his room. “Oh, ok, I get it now. That is where his money goes”, I noted after having a front row seat to his escapades.

So I stood there and waited for him to continue with what was obviously a subterfuge of some sort. “You have to be honest with me, Walter. Seriously.” You got a lot of nerve demanding even a hello from me, let alone honesty. “Did you fuck Karlita? Did you fuck the bitch?”
While he was trying to figure out how to continue with this charade, a resident walked by my office and yelled,” You can come by in 10 minutes to get your chicken, I am a little late.” OK, so that is the reason. You spent your money on the hookers. You are hungry and the only reason you would come into this building is because you had no other way of feeding yourself. You had to walk by me and and figured the best way to distract me from telling you about your lying ass was to distract me by talking about something you figured would keep me from throwing you out of here, sex. You are not worth a rat’s ass.
“Ok man, I got some info for you. She did it. Karlita finally went out. She finally went out and she is on one. You can get that pussy for cheap now. 10 dollars. But Robert is fucking it up for everybody. He paid the hoe 400 dollars to eat her pussy. Stupid mother fucka. If he keeps doing that, the brothas might have to pay the bitch 20 dollars for some head and some pussy. Someone ought to kick his ass!!!!” , he barked.
I did not say a word. I just looked at Michael while he was basking in one of his hobbies—being the Paul Revere in Skid Row, announcing to any predator who could hear that a woman was ready for the taking. “Fuck her, abuse her, demean and humiliate her as you please. And while you are at it, make her suck your dick even harder to make up for the times she would not respond to the insulting and degrading overtures that you made. I mean why not, you were only doing the bitch a favor letting her service you!!” It is the dogma that is part and parcel to many on the Nickel. I just looked at him and thought about Karlita and many that I met like her from the moment I set foot on the Skid Row campus.
Karlita is one of many women that have a past. It is part of the Skid Row pedigree, not unique to it, but more visible on the women and men in the community here than in other places. Women struggle to carry the shame with them as they attempt to walk with dignity through the streets of Skid Row while men are offering drugs and money to them, baiting them to come back into the fold of self destruction. The burden of guilt is heavy on their shoulders but you would never know it. They are stoic in public. They shed tears when they are alone with themselves or with fellow women in private rooms where they can talk openly about their pain with those who can appreciate how deeply the ‘past’ cuts into them and the bleeding never ends. There are times when the bleeding is less than other times but it never ends, I was told. Never. Yet there is always the fear that the ‘past’ will come again in the future and the scabs that have developed will give way to a flood of new and more powerful bleeding.

I met Karlita while I was in a computer lab on Skid Row. At the time I did not have a laptop and was a regular visitor of this computer lab as it was the only place where I could upload pictures. I used to live in the shelter and was given the privilege to continue using the lab after I moved from the facility. Karlita was a student in one of the programs there and was making progress putting distant from her collective as well as her most recent ‘past’. She arrived at the shelter from prison which is standard in Skid Row. She struggled but was able to keep the dogs away from her. She maintained focus and a bit of hope. The dogs never stopped barking at her with lurid comments on what they wanted to do with her, not realizing or caring what those comments were doing to her.

Red flags came up when she told me she had a boyfriend. Boyfriends are synonymous with trouble on Skid Row. (Funny, I keep saying Skid Row as I always say that when you look at Skid Row you look at America). She had a job when I last saw her. She was widening the distance from the ‘past’. I knew she was still in the minefield but she had a chance. Men kept telling me about this woman that they saw all of the time, “Man this bitch will not give me any pussy. She thinks she is all that. I am going to wait. I will get it. She will fall. She will go out one day. She will start smoking. Then I will punish her and buy that pussy for little or nothing.”. Secretly I would cheer Karlita and the other women on rooting for her to keep walking through that minefield.

Then she stepped on one. She was laid off. I do not know if she was smoking at the time or not. The predators say she was. But that means nothing. I waited for word. I called her. Talked to her. She was concerned about getting kicked out of the residence where she lived. She needed to pay rent. She needed money. Those fears drive one to smoke at times.

She stepped on another. She was kicked out of the residence. She could not pay her rent and refused to give in to the offers that paid her money but stole her self- respect. I tried to call her. Her cell phone was not in service. At night I could not find her. I wanted to speak to her. Help her. It is interesting that those women, who bleed so much from the pain they feel, help others with the pain they feel. It is ironic that the men who hurt them are the men for whom the sit and listen patiently and attentively while the men tell them their problems and pain.
She could hold on no longer. The mine exploded beneath her, scattering her and at the same time catapulting her into a new ‘past’. The predators were happy and Michael, the Paul Revere of that clan, was happiest of all.
At night, after work, I drove my car through Skid Row hoping I could see her in the shadows of the night and get to her before another predatory dog could chew on another chunk of her spirit. But I had no luck. And then yesterday I heard that she was beaten up in a facility on Skid Row, one of the facilities where drugs are not supposed to be present but where Karlita hung out because it was easier and safer to get drugs there than on the street. Yes. It was easier and safer for her to get drugs in a facility that demands sobriety from its residents.
I heard the residents of this facility beat her up because she wanted more than her fair share of drugs which, of course, would leave them with less.

I wondered where she was. I hoped I could find her last night. I did not recognize her stride in the crowds of women on the streets. Perhaps her gait had changed with the weight and shame of her new ‘past’. I searched for an hour. I gave up.

I turned down Fifth St and headed to the freeway. My head was pounding and the echo was bouncing from one wall to the other. It did not fade as I put physical distance between me and the Skid Row campus. The echo gloated on the fact that it no longer had to compete for attention as there is so much that can grip one while on the Nickel. The echo reverberated louder and louder while ricocheting from left ear to right ear with each passing mile on the freeway on my way home……”Did you fuck the bitch?”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Paradise

Life is a paradise if only we give it a chance. For the past month I had been commuting to work, in Skid Row(funny how I view a five mile bus ride a commute), from Leimert Park and then driven to my mother’s house at night. This year has started out with a bang and it’s still spurting fireworks. Every day a piece of the beautiful cluster explodes and reveals more to behold. It took a long time to get to this point.
As my year began with new beginnings, so did the country experience the same. It said goodbye to many things that kept our collective growth and spirits handcuffed-an arrested development if you will.
President Obama said that we as a country must get up dust off ourselves and begin anew the process of rebuilding and building. Those words were poignant. They navigated their way into the archives of my Skid Row Soul. “Walter, you have to rebuild yourself. Get up, dust yourself off and start over.” Words that were simple in concept, yet the thought of executing the task were overwhelming.Two and half years ago I stood in the driveway of the family house, next to my mother’s car. She had given me the keys to get the car started. Within minutes, my hands were behind my back and handcuffed. “You were stealing your mother’s car but that is not what we are arresting you for” said the officer. I looked at him in disbelief.
Our nation has been evolving and transforming for years and finally, in November of last year, it was ready to take the next step-to make its transformation official. It elected Barack Obama. The official transition period started on the day of the election and it ended on January 20, when the ‘new’ became official. It was a long road and the country traveled it alone from the days of the slave ships to the inauguration ball. It was a long road and it had many challenges. Our problems were many and they were serious.
I know a little bit about dusting myself off and rebuilding and building. My development was arrested decades ago when I chose a life of self destructive partying-the high life, they call it. It almost ended my life in more ways that I care to let myself imagine at the moment. I experienced too much of it while rebuilding—the wonderment if life was over, that is.
It was a hard road which I started on February 7, 2007, when my ship landed in Skid Row. Of course, I had been on the slave ship Lady Cocaine for a couple of decades, sailing the seas of life in circles, experiencing much of nothing, loosing most of everything and did not see the sands of my soul leaking out of me. As much as I was sailing, I was so anchored. I landed on an island-“Island Los Angeles County Jail”. And there, I was stranded and isolated. People were stranded on the island as well, and many, were dead before they arrived. Many continue to die, in various ways, while I was there. The island made it possible to seal the death of a part of me by separating me from the tides of destruction. Sure, I had made it ashore but the will was a new stalk that had been born and was frail. The island allowed it to gain strength and grow in isolation. It was in that island where the rebuilding began.
In the fall of last year, I decided to purchase a car. It traveled many miles on that rebuilding road just to get to the point where I could think about a car. Fortunately, the preparation merged with opportunity and I was successful in making a deal. Each paycheck I made a payment toward the total price of the car and on Christmas day I made the last payment.
I was in transition. The evolution started years ago when the forces inside of me fought for something new that preserved life instead of, of the negative forces that was killing it. Many seeds of growth had been planted starting from the day of that arrest. Those seeds were watered with endless tears that I shed, day in and day out. Suddenly, in the pool of many years’ tears, I saw a glimpse of a rainbow. Tears of sadness and heartache became tears of joy. That joy grew every day as well as my view of and the size of the rainbow. The seeds of that sudden rainbow were planted when I landed on the County Jail Island but I did not know it.
Today, I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles. I had registered the car and insured it. However I had to get it smog checked. I had my appointment and I could see that things are different at the agency. I had visited it at each step of my rebuilding/building process—the first time was when I needed Identification after landing on Skid Row from the Island County Jail. I could not use my home address at the time. Could not use it when I went to get my driver license earlier this year. Ahh, but I could use it when I went this morning to turn in my smog proof form. It is the address on my new registration. While there I changed my driver license from my Skid Row address to my family house address. Interesting, is it not, how things can change.
I finished my business and had my tags in hand, walked out of the door and went to my car. Before I could enter it, an elderly man stopped and spoke to me in the best English that he could. I do not know his mother tongue. Yet we were able to figure out what he needed and I was able to communicate to him to follow me in my car to where he had to go. I was able to tell him a few words that carried him far like the words that carried me a long way, “Walter, dust off yourself and rebuild.”
Waiving him on, I went home –a place where I could not go for two years. I went home in the same car, where, the last time I stood next to it, before I purchased it I was ‘in the back of it’—behind it. Yes, I purchased my mother’s car, the same car that an LAPD officer told me that I was trying to steal.
I rebuilt myself and I am building myself.
I know a little bit about dusting myself off. I had many problems and they were serious. If I can do it, our nation can do it. We already have in some ways but that is just the beginning. The election was the license to do so. We must put one foot in front of the other. It will be tough. We will shed tears. But the tears will water our future and nourish the seeds of a new beginning. It will take times for the seeds that we plant to germinate. But they will. I am proof of that.
I missed the Bird of Paradise plant while I was back east in college. They do not grow in the snow of Philadelphia. I used to see them upon my arrival back to Los Angeles when my father or mother would pick me up at the Airport. I loved them.
I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is find a “paradise” plant. Sometimes you can build a paradise in a place where you think there is none. Yet I found Paradise in Skid Row. Found it in myself and waited the test of time for it to grow and spread.
Our nation is strong. We have overcome the insidious drug of hatred and divisiveness. Now we can water our “Birds of Paradise” plants together and nurture it to be greater than it has ever been to fly like the eagle our bird is.
We can do it. We will do it. I must go. Time to go to work In Skid Row. Time to get in the car and sail. Talk to you later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

sunset

video

I was at the beach on Saturday and feeling how beautiful life can be.

This sunset is beautiful. I wanted everyone to experience it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 Came in with a Big Surprise--Transition

It is 6:00 AM and dark outside. Very quiet. A dog bark disturbs, momentarily the peaceful blanket that covers the houses on these blocks. If I recall correctly, that is what happens in this neighborhood at this hour. One dog barks and then another until the family of dogs in the neighborhood sings a morning chorus of sorts. It is music to my ears.
This is my 407th blog. All of the previous blogs, all 406 of them were written in Skid Row or somewhere in the Downtown area. I started writing in the Los Angeles Central Library and Little Tokyo Computer Labs. I uploaded all of my pictures at the Strive program computer lab. No other public facility would allow uploading. I was lucky.
This is the first time I have blogged outside of the Skid Row/Downtown neighborhood. I am sitting in the living room of my mother’s house. Yes, you heard correctly--my mother’s house. It was totally unexpected. But I have been here since the 30th of December.
I had just visited my mother on Sunday prior to New Year’s Day. I had not found the time to write since I posted ‘Freedom/Merry Christmas ‘. That was a special blog for me, simultaneously marking an end to a phase and the beginning of a new life, with a new perspective-- one that fills me with promise. I had been thinking of what Celia had said about how the sacrifices I was making would provide for an opportunity to sit with a comfortable and pleasing view of life. However I did not expect it to come so soon.
I was wondering how long I would have to endure visiting my home only every two weeks and talking out loud for a miracle to happen. Praying for divine intervention, some would say. Two minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was my sister. Two men had broken into my mother’s house. They searched for something but nothing was taken from the house. It did not surprise me. It was the holiday season and my mother lives in corner house. An easy in and out for those who knew an elderly lady lived there alone.
I knew my mother had a care taker. Whether or not she was home alone at night was the question that tormented me for two years. There was no way for me to know. Even after I visited my mother I dared not ask, knowing that if I found out, for sure, that she was alone at night there would be potential for conflict with my sister. Cost was an issue and my sister had been besieged and overwhelmed with so many repsonsibilites once I was no longer present. Responsibilities and challenges I did not have, or to the same degree. My mother has become increasingly more incapacitated during the time I have been gone.
“Walter, you are doing real well, real well”, my sister said. She was struggling to ask me something.
“What do you need? Anything, I will do it. Just tell me.” She paused as if trying to summon whatever was needed to ask me for help. “I want you to stay here tonight”. It was the most natural thing to ask me but I never saw it coming. I never knew what my sister had been thinking. “You have been doing so well, I was thinking about this anyway with the court date coming up. It was not just because of this incident. I feel you could start helping me take care of mom.”.
I work at night but I had not taken a day off since I started. I quickly made some arrangements and was given a two day paid leave. I sat the rest of the day in my room at the Courtland Hotel talking to a friend of mine as I couldn’t believe I was being asked to stay at home. Couldn’t believe I was going to take care of my mother. Couldn’t believe my sister was reaching out to me. I was in a state of wonderful shock. My life had been changing at a steady pace. Jerry Sullivan, the Publisher and Editor of the Garment and Citizen had asked me to join a team of writers of weekly community newspapers in a new online project titled LABeez. It is a new website, a project of hyper local ethnic journalism, managed by New America Media and financed by the Ford Foundation. I have been writing for them since August though the website debuted in December. I had also finished my court ordered classes just before Christmas Day. Finally on Christmas Day, I wrote the last check to my sister for the purchase of my mother’s old Honda. It was a Christmas gift to myself. I was making payments on it for a few months and finally I made my last one. It will take some work to get it going but it is mine.
At 5:00PM, I boarded a bus and headed towards my mother’s house. I have slept in this house ever since December 30th. It is amazing where my life was when I started this blog compared to where it is now. For two years, I spent every waking moment in Skid Row. Suddenly, I am not there anymore except during my work hours. I still have my room but I am transitioning out.
The experience of being in Skid Row helps me every day while helping my mother. She is getting weaker and struggles in many ways. But I am back. She does not have to be alone anymore. I pay someone to bring me home. I do not want to wait for a bus. Every moment home is a precious one. even asleep when I arrive, something tells me that she knows I am home. I promised that she will never have to be alone again.
Taking care of her was an adjustment. It is different being here for long periods compared to a few hour visit. Now I experience her in a different light. The reality of her condition hits me square in the heart as I see how she can no longer do things. I see how it took a toll on my sister the last couple of years.
Yes, I clean up after her. Yes, I wash her linens, sometimes twice a day. She cannot control her bodily functions at times. She gets confused about the simplest of things. Those are the moments when I am glad I am here. Those are the moments when I am glad I experienced the University of Skid Row. The experience living in the shelter with mentally and physically challenged people and working in a building to serve them has served me and will serve me well. I will probably begin to learn more about how the experience has benefited me in more ways than I can imagine now that I have a different relationship with it. It has taught me a great deal. It walks with me every moment. Every person I met is in my heart.
It is interesting to get emails from New Downtown . I see the alerts when they come in. I can see the downtown skyline from my mother’s house and I smile inside. I know that within those mass of buildings people are communicating and making things happen. People are connecting and expressing themselves.
It will be interesting to write about downtown and my neighborhood, Leimert Park. How all of this will come together I do not know. I only know that I will attempt to use multimedia tools of sound slide shows, video, photos and text in a blend that brings stories to life.
How I do it, I do not know. When General Jeff told me I had graduated from the University of Skid Row I believe that that may have been the end of Scribeskidrow. But that may not be the case. Scribeskidrow is more than just what is going on in Skid Row. Indeed Scribeskidrow is about what is going on in America. As I have said for the thousandth time that Skid Row is a mirror of America. But Scribeskidrow is also journey about a man who found himself in a place where he did not want to be. It is about a man who is recovering from different mistakes made in life and is sharing his journey of freedom and clarity in his new life. I remember when Eric Richardson said to me, “Walter, people talk about recovery but nobody knows what the experience is like.” I sure didn’t. And I had no idea what the experience would be like. I know that the first 6 months of it was terrible. I did not plan on being in jail during the infant stage of my recovery. I planned on swimming and jogging on the USC campus. Of all places, I did not plan to embark on the sober journey languishing in jail dormitory. I never imagined the court ordering me to Skid Row. Each was challenging in different ways. Each put building blocks of strength in place.
So this is another step and I hope that the decision I made to talk about my recovery ,openly, will serve to help others realize that it can be done.
I am sure that I will share in this next phase experiences about what it is like to take care of my mother. There are many like me who will be faced with the challenge of taking care of one or both of their parents. All of this is interesting because I thought that I would leave LA once my court obligations were over--to get a fresh start. I thought I would just walk away from all of the past. But I realized that I do not have to leave to heal. Furthermore my mother and sister need me and I can now be the son and brother that I always wanted to be.
There will be challenges. It will be a process in learning how to deal with my mother and her needs will change and require adjustments every day. This is the first time I have talked to my sister this much in my adult life. Who would have figured? Two weeks ago I thought that she and I would never get beyond this schism. Last week I signed some life insurance papers naming her as the beneficiary in the event of my death. We will have challenges but we have a chance.
I think it is just as important for me to share my experiences now compared to when times were so uncertain. It is a new day with new perspectives. I would like some help of a new blog name. I will keep scribeskidrow as it will serve to talk about the issues of homelessness, drugs, mental illness etc. However, I would like a new blog to be about my life, after the storm, and what I see in Los Angele- videos about different parts of town.

It is funny because now I seek more balance in my life. I have the opportunity to reconnect and to connect. In the midst of this transition I had met some women and found that I had been out of the dating seen for so long. My social skills are rusty. But I can not obsess on it. I learned, during my stay on the Row, to let things go. I told you many times that on Skid Row people always say to stay focused. And I have been. But now with this new responsibility, I have gained a deeper level of understanding of what focus is and what that level requires. Basically priorities must be in place and the life's management system must be such that nothing impedes fluid progress in being, in thinking, in actualizing. So letting go was automatic. I will get better as I move forward in this new stage.

I did not think of the name Scribeskidrow. I never would have come up with it. It was the baby of a man who sat at the computer bank in the Transition House. It fit. I would like some help in coming up with a new name that embraces all of the changes in my life (2009-new life) (Adventure 2009) (life’s Rainbow).

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. The New Year has come in a big way for me and it has brought new challenges and opportunities. I do help that in this year I can maintain your interest with interesting stories. That is my aim. Be Safe.
Time to give my mother her medicine.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

LA Mission Christmas Meal



On Christmas Eve, the LA Mission gave their annual Christmas Meal. This year there has been a lot more need for their kind service as the economic downturns has hit people from all walks of life. Most missions have seen a surge in the demand for free meal services. "It is clearly economically based", said Herb Smith of the Midnight Mission. "Our greatest increase has not been in the form of hot meals but
in carry out box lunches. People are working,but in order to keep paying rent and the other bills, they must sacrifice the amount of money that can go for meals. The hot box lunches also go to women with children. We have seen a upsurge in single parent women requesting meals for their children."

At a time when demand for meal services are up, all of the Missions are experiencing a decrease in donations. They are off anywhere from 10 to 30 percent, from this time last year, depending with whom you speak.

So clearly the LA Mission had their work cut out for them. There were loads of gifts to give away as well as a show with gospel singing. Everyone was smiling at at a time when there is little to smile about. Later, in the street people were talking about how great the meal was at the mission. So it is clear that the LA Mission accomplished its mission of giving many people a Merry Christmas.