Homelessness – Story Time #2
Homelessness. Not a word I EVER thought would be relevant in my life. Other than giving food or money to the occasional homeless person I would come across. Its hard to comprehend the full affects of it until it happens to you.
I grew up in the Midwest without a care in the world. Wonderful childhood aside from a few things here and there but over all, good! Never wanted for anything. Never did drugs, only drank socially in my early 20’s (but who didn’t?), received a college education, etc. Life was good.
In 2002, I had the bright idea to move to LA. I lived there for 18 years total. Let me tell you, all that glitters is not gold. Yes, it definitely has its perks but unless you are making major money, the taxes alone are ridiculous.
I was doing just fine at first. Then my roommate wanted to move back home and I could not pull off the rent by myself. By this time, my mother had moved out to LA with my younger brother. So I went and stayed with them. My mother and I are best friends, so it did not faze me at all to be living back at home with her.
Mom and I both had jobs. My brother was in school. All was pretty normal.
Then within the same week, my mom and I were both laid off from our jobs. The exact same time, the rent went up. WTF? We hung in there as long as we could. In the end, we ate through both of our savings and put our belongings into storage.
The first night, I remember we stayed in a shady AF hotel in Hollywood. OMG. Needless to say we left the next day and stayed at a Travelodge closer to Culver City. Much better. We were also thankful for those free breakfasts that came with our stay from the diner that was attached to the hotel.
My brother would be taken to school while Mom and I were trying to find new jobs. My brother saw it all as a big slumber party in the hotel room, kinda like camping. We tried our best to keep things as normal as we could for him.
Attack of the 50 Foot Fake Christians!
This is where the story gets even more depressing…Before all this even happened, we were part of a church in Santa Monica for over a year when our homeless situation began. So its not like these people did not know us. And for a bunch of “Christians” they sure as hell didn’t act like it.
The ONLY person from that church who helped us at all was a woman named Carol. She was brand new to the church and did not know us from Adam, yet she tried her best to take us out of our situation for a while.
Carol had a roommate, so we could not stay with her. But during the day time, we would go over to her place for what she called “Spa Day at Carol’s”. She would make us lunches, let us use her internet to check email and look for work, and feel some type of normal. She introduced me to Good Earth Tea. I still think of her when I drink it.
Mom, my brother, and I kept our chins up even as hard as it was. We all have a great sense of humor, thankfully.
One day when we could not afford our hotel room anymore, the leaders of the church said due to “insurance purposes” they could not let us stay inside the church but that we could sleep in our car in the parking lot so the police would not bother us. That was the day…The day I knew that church was not what it seemed. That Christians can be completely fake. Turning us away like that! No one would let us stay with them and Carol couldn’t let us because of her roommate. We had even asked a few people from the church if just my brother could stay with someone just so he had a bed to sleep in for school. No one offered or said yes. So we slept in the car.
I would like to interject here that my faith in God, The Universe, etc, never wavered. I was and still am strong in my spirituality. But organized religion and churches? Yeah…won’t be going back anytime soon. I know that not all Christians are fake but our situation made me realize how fake people can be. Here is my favorite quote concerning the matter:
Out of the car…
The pastor of the church was the one who spoke with a friend of his from Rotary. This man owned a motel that we could stay in for exchange of working in the front office. Sold! This was our ticket to some type of normalcy. At least we would be out of the car.
The first day we were able to stay at the motel also happened to be Easter Sunday. We went to a sunrise service at the beach in Malibu. We also happened to get baptized in the Pacific Ocean that morning. Can you say freezing? Thankfully, we had the motel for showering and getting warm.
Not long after that, we found ourselves on food stamps. The whole concept was new to us. We had never been in any type of program like that in our lives! The first round of food stamps we received, we went to the grocery store and bought anything and everything we wanted. It felt like a feast to not have to worry about coming up with actual cash to pay for it.
Over time, my mom and brother were accepted into a program that specializes in helping families get back on their feet. Only catch is that I was over 18 so I could not stay there with them. So I stayed at the motel and kept working in the office in exchange for my room. The owner was so kind and helpful. I appreciate him to this day.
Thankful yet uneasy…
I had some pretty horrifying experiences at that motel though. Even though it was located in Santa Monica, some shady stuff was going on. I can now say I have spoken with FBI agents, SMPD, and more during my stay there.
Apparently, the owner had a deal with the chief of police to let some shady characters stay there so the police department could keep an eye on the comings and goings. Basically it was a long, drawn out sting. I didn’t even know anything. I just checked people in and out of their rooms and was thankful for mine.
Soon after, Mom was blessed with a job at a preschool. She was getting back on track with her finances and soon would be moving into her own place in Santa Monica. Life was looking up.
Meanwhile at the motel, I was working in the front office one day and a man approached needing a room. He looked like a friendly, normal guy. He had bags with him and didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I booked him into his room.
The next morning when I was on my way to the office, I saw a Coroner van. This gentleman had overdosed on drugs (I don’t know what kind) and died. That was my final straw. Even though I was so appreciative to have a place, it was getting to be too much.
Thankfully, Mom had just gotten a new place and I moved in with her, yet again. And it was all uphill from there. I had gotten a job at a costume house where I was a manager for 11 years and all was well. I am blessed that it was only for a few years of my life that this took place and we got back on our feet. LA did not win.
I moved out of LA just last year to be closer to aging relatives. I may go back…someday. Who knows what crazy things life has planned?
Many years later, I was at the Third St. Promenade in Santa Monica. A homeless woman asked for help. I gave her some money and told her a shortened version of my story. She could not believe her eyes that I was ever homeless. I told her to “Keep the faith” and that things will change for her if she keeps on moving forward. I often think of her and hope she is well.
I am sure there are more stories I could add to this but this is just the rough outline of what took place. I know that quite a bit of it I have probably blocked out. But let me tell ya, being homeless in Los Angeles as expensive as it is was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to endure. I will say that I never lost hope regardless of how complicated the situation became.
To this day, I am still grateful to everyone who gave us any help or advice along the way.