This is an overview of how I’ve been able to survive, the freaky coincidences, and the benefit of friendship mileage since I have lived in the land with the big fancy sign.
I’ve been stressing out A LOT over one crucial element this year and that has been money and the lack of it while trying to maintain a standard of living that at a minimum includes a place to sleep and shower. Everything else in my life is unbelievable and amazing but I damn sure wish I got paid for the 18 hours on average I put in a day. I get paid for doing work study but more on that later.
For, I want to take you on a trip from November 2010 to today and how I’ve managed to survive.
Now the main reason I moved here was to get away from that damn winter in the cheese wiz utopia. I figured if all else fails at least I’ve got that winter problem solved so at the end of April 2010 I inherited five thousand dollars from my Grandfather when he passed away. At the time I was 35 years old, living with my mother and her boyfriend, and my alchie bro and life was about to get a lot worse when a week before they had to move due to foreclosure and I was out on my luck yet again, but this time I had spent all my good credit with everyone that I was able to crash with for the 3 years where I couldn’t land a job to support myself. There is nothing quite like losing that mop job to the mentally challenged kid at Mcdonalds, or the library job to the teenager to re-stack books (which eventually turned into a volunteer unpaid job).
Anywayz, that life was fucking* horrible!
It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t believe the situation I had ended up in. I mean I really tried to make a go of the ‘normal’ life there and for the first three years out of the military things were going along sort of nicely and was able to support myself but those last four years there ????
*I used to curse a lot on my facebook but my super fabulous Interpersonal Communications instructor said in class one day to not do that so I haven’t cursed on my FB for almost a year (posts with curse words in them don’t count, or cursed comments by others, where was I, oh yeah), but for this blog the occasional F bomb will be dropped when I deem it to be necessary cause that life was
TRIPLE FUCKING HORRIBLE!!!
So May 1st, 2010 I get my five thousand dollars in cash and I was on a bus to La La land six hours later. And then by November I was broke. But at least I had that winter problem solved.
So what to do now? The only real option for me since I didn’t know anybody was to find shelter so I found myself in downtown skid row la la land. Now, this is when you appreciate the nine years you spent in the cheese wiz utopia post military, because sleeping outside on the sidewalk so you can be first in line at the Union Mission just to try and score a cot for the night was about a thousand times better than sleeping on a couch at my mothers, dealing with an alchie bro, and her significant other telling me how much of a loser and how worthless I was. Even at 3 a.m. with a dude trying to score his crack was better than that bullshit. It was like dealing with my alchie bro times a thousand without the emotional attachment. But sleeping outside only lasted 2 nights before I got myself into the tea house (apparently it used to be shelter for transvestite/transexuals but I’m still not sure what that has to do with tea???).
Also known as the Rotary House which is basically homeless men and women (mostly men) in a military style barracks with freakin manadatory AA meetings every night (which drove me bonkers) and curfew of 7 p.m. but even given these restrictions it really was a glorious three months in my life because everything was so new and fresh and it was way better than living with ‘those people’ back in the cheese wiz.
So, a couple of months go by, I’m on general relief, I’m taking their back to work/self improvement program, which was really interesting because it was taught by Roland Gilbert who had written a couple of books and was basically Morpheus in the Matrix and is amazing at breaking you down to your core being and how our early life programming from our parents had took us on a particular path. It was pretty incredible to get that knowledge for free as compared to his paying clients who were paying big money for the same knowledge.
I was also able to use the benefit of being a military veteran which is a benefit I had attempted to use when I lived in the cheese wiz but it never manifested due to the distance and my lack of a car to be able to proceed in the benefit process. But it turns out that Los Angeles has incredible benefits for veterans so for the first time in my life I was actually able to capitalize on being one and was able to score Veterans Housing at the Ballington Plaza for the next two years.
Now this was a major step up from Rotary, it’s basically you have a room and bathroom with a roommate in a 3 story building. Curfew is at 11:30 p.m., 3 meals a day, plus they had a stipend where you get the ungodly amount of a hundred and twenty dollars a month.
The downside was you had to give up your general relief and get on board and care, go to four meetings a week wheter it be AA or Self-Esteem building or whatever??? No alcholol (although that last year there I was really good at keeping that under the radar) and you had to take a piss test every single month. So for those of you who are for drug tests in order to be on welfare there ya go.
The cool thing about living there was that thee freakin’ soloist lived in B building (you know the guy who Jaime Fox played in that movie) yeah, that guy. And every once in awhile he would be out in the courtyard doing his thang. A very surreal experience because I had seen the original 60 minutes piece back in the cheese wiz so it was always an amazing experience to see him from time to time. Also one saturday morning I saw thee Scott Bakula doing landscaping work as a volunteer and that blew my freakin’ mind cause my favorite T.V. show growing up was Quantum Leap. My only regret with that is that living here I believe there is a time you can ask for a picture and most times where it feels very intrusive and disrespectful and most of the time I really don’t want to bother people that I really admire. In the two years I lived there I did not once ever say Hi to thee soloist.
So I moved into the Ballington of February of 2011 and tried to get a ‘normal’ job but that didn’t happen and then one day I was in the heart of Hollywood going to Amoeba and across the street there it was ‘The Los Angeles Film School’ and I said to myself I must go there. Called them up, did the tour, signed up for the Film program and then got denied to be in the Film program.
I couldnt secure all the tuition, couldn’t get a cosigner for the additional loans i needed and basically figured the dream was over and then ‘they’ said I could do the Los Angeles Recording School and I went YES!!! SCORE!!!! So I started there in August of 2011 and had the absolute best 18 months of my life there.
Now unfortunately, by the time I started I had exactly one month left on my G.I. Bill due to the fact that I had gotten out of the service 2 weeks before 9/11 so on that note that has always been a major regret that I didn’t do this a lot sooner cause it was basically my fear of failure and ending up homeless which did happen but I was mentally prepared for it when it happened. Had I gone to La La land right out of the military I would not have had the proper head space or life experience to be able to handle it.
And then in July of 2012, a miracle happened in the form of the VASH program which is at the moment an educational benefit for veterans aged 35 to 60 in an associates degree program to collect a monthly check which is roughly the equivalant of the G.I. Bill for 12 months. Also in July I was offered to do work study in the Veterans Administration Office at school so I basically had 3 checks coming in the last six months at the Recording School, so I was doing really well, and feeling really blessed and that there were some amazing angelic people guiding me along and the freaky coincidence of the VASH program going into effect and being accepted for that program just amazed how far along I had come since that first night on skid row.
Little did I know or bother to really look into how VASH and general relief while being on board and care through volunters of america would screw me over when it was time to move out in February of 2013 because I was on general relief getting a stipend and basically I couldn’t get back on general relief when I moved out because it was too much money, plus VASH doesnt cover a Bachelors program and I would have had five months left. Which I tend to laugh about from time to time cause had I sat on my butt at the Balington and started school five months later than I did I could have collected five more months of VASH benefits and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten into the predicament that I had gotten myself into this last month.
So in February of 2013, a week after I graduated my time at the Ballington was over and I moved closer to school in the heart of the land with the big fancy sign. I can actually see the Griffith Observatory from that humble abode. Thing was I only had maybe six months where I was going to be able to pay rent, and then it only lasted four. So that made June 24th, 2013 D-day as far as having shelter, and then I get a call last night at 12 a.m. saying I would have to move out by Sunday, taking a week off my time there.
Now I’ve been stressing about this moment for awhile, since like last year. I knew it was coming and I had no idea how I was going to make it past the 24th without any shelter but about a month ago I was looking on craigslist for places that might have a work/rent free option and then one of my classmates that I went to the Recording School with and now doing the Bachelors Program with had offered me a room that was slightly cheaper than what I was paying. And so today I asked if that was still an option and what my current financial situation is and we were able to make a deal. And now I am feeling really relieved.
I don’t know what the future holds as far my next residence but again it’s just one of those things where it feels like you’ve got angels on your shoulders and when all seems lost and hopeless and your foundation to your future success seems to be coming undone and yet somehow you continue to survive and move along in what seems like a pre-determined destiny.
Trailer for the most excellent Documentary ‘Lost Angels’ about skid row Los Angeles shot during the making of ‘The Soloist’. I’ve actually met that old little short shopping cart lady who still lives there.
Most likely because ‘they’ hosed me on the camera when ‘they’ promised me a 5D
and I edited it on IMovie.
Of the two years I lived there this was one of the great highlights. And gives an interesting perspective of the life I lived there.