Hope became homeless when she lost her job after uncovering fraud at her place of work. Within nine months, she says, everything she owned “disappeared.” Always having had a stable lifestyle she did not know how to cope with life on the streets. She moved to California to stay at her daughter’s, but the landlord would only let her stay for 30 days. After that, she lived in her car.
She hit a particularly low point when she hadn’t been able to shower for two weeks – she smelled, and she knew it. So much so, she felt embarrassed to be near a kind stranger who started talking to her.
Fortunately Hope got over her embarrassment and listened, because the kind stranger was telling her about Friends In Deed. Hope googled us, and made her way to The Women’s Room. When she got there she said her “eyes popped open.” There were washers and dryers! A shower! And Jane, our Women’s Room Associate, who Hope says is “the sweetest lady she ever met.”
Hope was introduced to the Street Outreach team, who started helping her look for a place to live. It was not easy – there were a lot of challenges to overcome. But Hope is now housed, and highly confident of soon finding a job in accounting, in which she has a degree and 25 years of experience.
In 2012 Rhonda’s mom passed away. Rhonda was an only child and had lived with her mom all her life. She says that after that she never managed to earn enough income to stay anywhere and “everything went downhill from there.” She was living wherever she could, sometimes couch surfing, sometimes living on the streets. The stress of homelessness led to addiction – as she says, “You’re already homeless, what else can you do? Might as well join the crowds.”
A friend told Rhoda about Union Station Homeless Services, and Union Station referred Rhonda to us. Najwa got Rhonda into the system and was able to find her a place in bridge housing in Hollywood.
Rhonda hopes this will be the first step back toward a stable lifestyle. She has a grandson, currently in care, and her ambition is to be able to get custody of him and provide him with a good home. And, as far as having a home again is concerned, Rhonda is looking forward most to the privacy of having her own room, privacy being something that is in short supply when you are living on the streets!
Jill’s story challenges the norm in so many ways. First of all, while we’ve gotten used to the kind of collaborative work that sees clients being referred from one FID program to another, according to need, this is the first time we’ve seen a referral to the Street Outreach Team by the security guard! Anyone who has visited us at FID House has probably met Doug, who combines the duties of security guard, gardener, and parking attendant (and is also the person you ask first if you can’t find anything) to a unique degree. It was Doug who suggested to the Street Outreach team that Jill might be a good candidate for housing.
Second, Jill does not fit the stereotype of homeless people being irresponsible, or drug addicted, or any of the other unpleasant labels that get used. Jill had a good job, before health problems forced her to stop working, and a year’s worth of savings that she lived on before she finally became homeless. She has the discipline to manage her blood pressure and diabetes through diet alone – an astonishing achievement for someone living on the streets.
Jill is joining the little FID offshoot community that is developing at the bridge housing facility in Whittier. She brings with her the blessing of a car, which will enable her to continue to come to see us at The Women’s Room, and bring her housemates with her! It is one of our big fears, with TWR guests who get housed, that they will stop coming and lose the important support we can offer. “TWR is awesome,” says Jill. “I can’t say enough about it. They’ve been so accepting and so healing.”
The biggest thing Jill is looking forward to in her new home? “Being able to use the bathroom at night,” she says. Sleeping in her car, Jill had no way of safely and easily accessing bathroom facilities if she needed them in the middle of the night. We are so glad to have helped her achieve this important improvement in her quality of life!
Wendi said she “didn’t have words” to describe all her feelings about the help FID was able to give her, but actually she was amazingly articulate about her story and the reasons she wants it to be told. She feels there are many misconceptions about the situation she found herself in – homeless, with a disability and a substance abuse problem – and she wants those misconceptions to be addressed.
Coming from an affluent, educated, middle-class background, homelessness was never a situation Wendi expected to have to deal with. But her father passed away, there were legal issues she had to deal with, and she was wrestling with an eating disorder. It happened, she said, in “the blink of an eye.”
She had no idea, beforehand, of the sheer terror involved in being homeless – the fact that it makes you so terribly vulnerable and people sense that, and can take advantage of it so easily. Wendi spoke about how hard it is, when you are homeless, to be “displaced all the time.” She never had a space of her own – she constantly had to be on guard, reacting to a dangerous and fluctuating environment, without ever having a safe place to go to from which she could shut it all out. Her mental health worsened to include PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Wendi described herself travelling all over the US (including Hawaii) trying to find a place of safety. In the end she came to Los Angeles, where she was able to find a place in a sober living facility. At the time of writing she is celebrating six months of sobriety. It was her doctor who made the referral to Friends In Deed, but when he encouraged Wendi to call (having paved the way by contacting the Street Outreach Team himself, first), Wendi was emboldened to do so by the fact that she had already got to know us via the Food Pantry. In fact, for a while, Tim (Pantry Director) and Najwa (Street Outreach) were liaising with each other to make sure Wendi got all the help she needed.
Najwa was able to get Wendi a temporary place to stay during the COVID-19 crisis via Pasadena’s Emergency Motel Program. To get permanent housing is a lot more difficult, but Najwa says that Wendi is the first client she’s worked with who managed to get all the necessary paperwork together straight away. Najwa is confident that she will be able to get Wendi into permanent housing very, very soon.
When you’re homeless, Wendi says, it’s very hard to stay focused and on-track enough to get yourself out of the situation. But Friends In Deed is sticking with her to see the whole process through. Wendi told us, “I can wake up and feel there’s hope.”
Deon had been homeless for 10 years after having been injured and unable to work. He’d been sleeping on the streets and in shelters, living mostly in Pasadena or Compton and places in between.
Deon was one of Najwa’s first clients after the COVID-19 lockdown began, and she was able to get him under a motel under the city’s Project Roomkey program. Even after this program ended she was able to find funding to keep him in a motel room, and she began working on finding him more permanent accommodation. Eventually, after four months in a motel, she was able to get him into permanent supportive housing.