The Anatomy of Homelessness
By Thomas Emmon Pisano
You would think that there was a lesson to be learned in all this, but for the life of me I cannot see one. I am now homeless and teetering on the edge of despair and destruction. I did not think that this would happen to me but it has. Let me tell you a little story of a well-educated man who was smart and full of health and how he fell to the streets through no fault of his own. I guess you could say that this started in 2003, when I lost my very good job working with a small electronics manufacturer over in Northridge, California. The company had an internal problem with the partners and they began to feud over the obvious things. I, as an employee, was caught in the middle of the crisis and sent packing when the doors closed. I received my usual Unemployment benefits and lived on that for about nine months. During that time I looked for employment in my occupation, which was electronics technician. Nothing transpired and I became nervous that I would not find work, so I took a job at what ever I could find, but it was too little, too late. When the U.I. money ran out, I was evicted and inducted into a veterans program with Los Angeles Family Housing, I lived in their homeless shelter for almost a year and got back on my feet, saving money and working daily at two jobs. One of the jobs I had was an electronics repair position so I quit the other job, which was not. The L.A.F.H. project had a program, which moved qualified people into single room occupancy buildings; they were small rooms with bathrooms down the hall on each floor. I then moved to the Klump Ave S.R.O. There I stayed working and being productive until April of 2006. I have been for over two years a resident of Klump Ave., without any problems. Then in April; 2006, I lost my electronics job due to illness and was fired because of 'misconduct' and was also denied my unemployment benefits in the process. After much fighting and a hearing to determine that I was in fact eligible for my benefits, I was paid a lump sum of money, which was back pay from unemployment benefits. I paid a large portion of my rent in advance when I received my lump sum and that lasted until December 2006. During this time the Klump Ave address where I live is still owned and operated by the non-profit corporation; Los Angeles Family Housing, remember until now I have had no problems with the landlords there. Now this is were it gets good; with three months rent paid in advance on my security deposit and a month and a half behind on the rent, the L.A. Family Housing project decided it would be best for them to evict me instead of finding a way to keep me from going back through the system as a homeless person, weird don't you think? Not only that, beings that I have no next of kin, and no way of preserving my belongings, I must forfeit all my things to… just what happens to my belongings in this situation? It all seems so stupid in the long run, why destroy me after all these years?Here is what I see; Los Angeles Family Housing is a "Bum Factory" crudely put they take the homeless and process their numbers and who cares about the end result, in other words, they would rather put me back in their system and get the revenue for a failed attempt at rehabilitation (of which I have no need of rehabilitation, because I have no addiction, medical or mental problems) I guess you could say that I am a victim of circumstance. Still I am another number in which the Fat Cats can claim to line their pockets. The process is a revolving door, I noticed that they have the same people over and over again being cared for there at their Lankershim St. facility for many years now, and have really done very little to eliminate the pain and suffering of some of the inmates they house there. Another thing I have noticed; the seeming out of sight, out of mind attitude of the 'social workers' at this facility, it strikes me like the care and feeling that is necessary to truly solve peoples problems is lacking by the staff who do the job of social and financial rehabilitation. The care and feeling is missing from this place, they go through the motions and nothing more. To prevent homelessness is far from the minds of the individuals who work there. It even seems that they encourage homelessness and want the clients who falter in the program to re-enter their facility, as I was encouraged to do, I guess; in order to get their grant numbers up and keep the funding flowing. Here are some of the things I have heard and observed while I was a resident at the "Compound" on Lankershim Ave during the time I was housed there and also during my visits over the years. Firstly, there are some individuals who take advantage of the daft and mentally disturbed woman with sexual overtures and contact, not only that, they use sexual innuendo to feel out potential sex partners, both straight and gay, who are in residence at the facility. This has gone unchecked for a while now. My guess is about three years to my actual observation. Second, there was a rumor going around, from a reliable source, while I was living at the Lankershim facility that major monies were diverted away from the program and sent to the bank accounts of the upper echelon employees, monies that would be hard to trace in a normal audit. Third, dangerous, and psychotic people are housed with those who would fall easy pray to these predators without regard to the safety of the surrounding gentler population. Many violent people are housed there unsupervised. Fourth, the staff regards all the 'inmates' scornfully and with crude and bitter distain; in snickered conversations such words are used as; monkey's, bums, stupid sh*** and an assortment of other derogatory remarks. You would think that a staff of caring individuals would understand the plights of these people because of the mission of the facility, their clients are basically sick and in need of, above all, mental rehabilitation. If they cannot give this kind of care they should close their doors and turn the job of dealing with the disturbed and traumatized homeless population of Los Angeles over to those who have the care and understanding. Los Angeles Family Housing does not have the qualifications within its ranks to deal with the delicate issues psychologically disturbing our homeless population. The homeless are a mentally diversified lot and need to be approached with that in mind and with trained individual who are keyed into those particular needs. With the homeless, it doesn't matter what their backgrounds are, what matters is the help provided, and if that help is tainted by prejudice and secret abuse, then it ceases to become help and becomes just another chore. Fifth, there is an issue of cleanliness and maintenance within the facility, of course they have their 'showcase' living apartments, which they use to divert the attention of those government officials who come a calling, but as a whole the living spaces should be scrutinized by the county health officials for things such as bed bugs and lice. Another thing about health, with as many people who are crammed into these rooms, tuberculosis should be a concern here, but it is not. I was diagnosed with tuberculosis, tested positive under the skin, and it was totally ignored. I know I came in contact with the disease at the L.A.F.H. facility. It is in this reporter's opinion that Los Angeles Family Housing cares only for the funding it attracts and the people that they are suppose to help are irrelevant as far as the results are concerned. There is another thing; the staff, leaders and program of this organization, L.A.F.H., should be scrutinized by their Board of Directors and maybe an outside committee as to their effectiveness and there should be a re-evaluation of this organizations mission statement.In summation, Los Angeles Family Housing is guised in a cloak of well being, but in reality, if you would take away the lavish funding that the organization receives most of the people who are employed and supervising there would disappear into the woodwork in search of greener pastures.
|A homeless man in Chicago|
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Mr. Thomas Emmon Pisano, an electronics-engineer-turned professional writer, serves as US correspondent for The Seoul Times. A New Jersey native he has lived in California. He has started his writing career in 2003 and has authored four books including “No Murder Too Small” and Big Crimes Small Miracles.”