I am enclosing both links (some) as well as “transcripts” of the articles I’ve written. I’ve long made it a practice of sending stuff to myself and have some to share.
|News and PR: Sept, 2005/ The Voice of America|
Organization Helps US Homeless Find Jobs
By Mike O’Sullivan
Officials say Los Angeles has 90,000 people who are homeless, and local government is working with charities and businesses to address the problem. Some organizations offer food. Others offer shelter or psychological counseling. One organization, called Chrysalis, that helps the homeless find jobs.
Los Angeles and New York have larger homeless populations than any other U.S. cities. But Adlai Wertman of the charity Chrysalis says the problem is more hidden in Los Angeles. “Despite the fact that we have the same number, in New York they are very concentrated in an area where everyone lives. So if you live in Manhattan, even if you’re on Park Avenue, you’re going to step over a few homeless people on the way into your limousine. Here in Los Angeles, 25,000 [homeless] people are downtown in Skid Row in an area where most people in LA will never drive through,” he said.
That 30-square block area has the biggest concentration of homeless in the region, but there are pockets of homeless elsewhere. There are thousands without homes in beach communities, including Santa Monica and nearby Venice Beach, a neighborhood represented by Los Angeles city councilman Bill Rosendahl.
A former social worker and television host, he came to a shopping mall whose owners, the Macerich Company, have given a cleaning contract to a company operated by the charity Chrysalis. The official says homelessness has many causes, from mental illness to alcohol and drug abuse. “There’s all kinds of homelessness, but chronic homelessness is a person that has lots of issues that we need to attack from a multitude of directions. What you’re seeing here today is one strategy that does work,” he said.
The strategy involves finding jobs for the homeless, to give them a sense of worth and provide the money they need for food and an apartment.
Heidi Olinger found herself homeless in Los Angeles after her marriage broke up. She says many on the streets turn to drugs or alcohol, but she says that is a symptom, not the cause of their problem.
“I find that a lot of them are just disenfranchised. They’re completely desensitized. They’re overlooked by so many people that could actually help them. And the way people look at them, it’s like they’re dirt or trash, and so they begin to pick up that mindset. Even if they had good self-esteem at the beginning, by the time that society and life is done with them, they’re just shriveled up people of who they used to be, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said.
With help, Ms. Olinger turned her life around. She now has a job as a janitor, and says she deals with things one day at a time.
In Santa Monica, Chrysalis worker Clarence Mitchell Jr. demonstrates a large pressurized machine that is used to clean the mall. Mr. Mitchell was once homeless himself, but now supervises a cleaning crew. “We’ve got different mall contracts, for different parking lots and everything now,” he said.
Public funds are limited — too limited, say those who work with the homeless. Los Angeles city councilman Bill Rosendahl says more public funds are coming. A one percent tax on California millionaires, brought about by a citizen-sponsored initiative, is funding additional mental health services, including those for the homeless.
Adlai Wertman of Chrysalis says the problem of homelessness is daunting, given the large number of people on the streets. But he says his organization does what it can. “It’s just like anything else,” he said. “People are helped one person at a time. And you grab a guy or a woman or a family and say, “How can we help you?” And the great thing is that Chrysalis is working with people who are saying, “I want to become self-sufficient. I want my way back into the world, but I don’t know how.”
Mr. Wertman’s charity claims a 93 percent success rate, which he attributes to the people who come for assistance. He says they are ready to get back on their feet, and just need some help to do it.
This is an article I wrote in support of Mr. Edelman, the best choice for the new position of “homeless Czar” that had arisen as a result of the growing homeless crisis:
I am writing in response to the article entitled “Shake hands, make friends the first order of business” (SMDP, Jan. 23, page 1).
First, I’d like to say “thank you” to Ed Edelman for taking on the task he has taken on. It won’t be easy or nice for him, even if the money’s good. It’s good that he has hit the ground running, so to speak, and is working toward whatever goal he has set up.
Secondly, as a citizen of Los Angeles County, I would urge him to get out there and meet the people he is trying to help. It’s the only way he will see for himself what he really working toward. Skid Row is an abomination; drug dealing going on everywhere at any and every hour, mentally ill people running or crouching around, etc. In addition to those people aforementioned, are the people that are desperately trying to get off the ground, that are working full-time or at least looking for work. Those who are married who can’t get into a RSO because they are married, but can’t stay at the hotels for more than 28 days either, so they move back and forth until they run out of places to stay.
We need Ed Edelman. The people of Los Angeles County need him. The homeless and the hopeless need him. The veterans who are downtrodden in our society need him and those who don’t even realize they need him, need him.
Thank you for taking on this job, Mr. Edelman. I hope you can help us; we’re running out of options. May God bless you with wisdom, empathy and courage for the challenge that lies ahead.
I have been in the midst of the homeless issue for almost two years now, since I came here to Los Angeles County. I have stayed in shelters, been part of programs and only by the grace of God, can I say that I am almost at the end of this latest phase of my life. By his grace, my husband and I acquired jobs and have struggled to find permanent dwelling.
The fact is that the system is set against the homeless. They are persecuted, looked down upon, and treated and looked at as the scum of society. Some rise above the looks, the wrinkled noses and fight to keep their heads above water and, again by the grace of God, they make a go of life.
Others, who deal with demons of their own, are not able to do so and so they simply give up. This leads to addictions in addition to the mental illnesses that plague this city. Drugs, alcohol and sex can be just as easily the end result of the homeless as the catalyst to why they are now homeless. Jobs, or lack thereof, are also factors. The shelters work hard to see that the homeless get off the streets for a while and they have them save their money and that’s super. The problem is that money management takes time and patience and wisdom and sometimes it takes years to learn money management under ideal circumstances. Taking people off the streets who have no concept of money management whatsoever and trying to imprint it into them in six months or less most likely isn’t going to happen, and so they leave the program and spend all the money they’ve saved. They go to the next shelter and the situation only repeats itself. This can go on for years. Sure, sometimes things work out, but from what I’ve seen, it’s not often.
The homeless situation (I hate the word “problem”) needs to be dealt with in a more aggressive manner. Maybe Mr. Edelman (City Hall’s new homelessness czar) has such a program planned; I have no idea, but from what I’ve seen, that is the only way it’s going to happen. When I say aggressive, I’m not talking about cruelty, I’m talking about getting involved and getting one’s hands dirty. Getting to know the actual people involved is a good way to start — especially those who are lucid enough to understand exactly what’s going on and may even feel passionately about the people involved (all of them, homeless or not) who might want to get involved in being part of the solution, having been part of the problem long enough.
I find that the majority of the criticism geared toward the homeless is from people who “appear” to not know them at all. They see one or two who are dirty and smelly and decide that we are all like that. We aren’t. The showers that the homeless can use are open only at certain times, and in certain locations and if they can’t sleep within range of where those showers are, obviously they can’t get to them in time. Those who could use them and don’t are primarily mentally ill and spend the majority of their time just trying to survive and cleanliness isn’t high on the priority list. They feel hated (rightfully so) and they lose the will to live.
There is such a lack of empathy and sympathy in our world. We wonder why our children are killing each other and their parents. We wonder why there is such a lack of “natural” feelings towards other people. Why do we expect them to act like we perceive that they should when they carefully watch the reaction of people towards those who are less fortunate then themselves? I believe that if we truly stepped back, in our own minds, and tried for one or two seconds to put ourselves in the homeless people’s shoes, and truly understand how hard it is for the majority of them, having to live like rats and spend their lives collecting cans for the money to do whatever. Many do it for drinking and drugs, but many others do it for the sole purpose of eating and having a little dignity so they don’ t have to live in food lines.
Another valid point as far as drinking and drugs is this: They aren’t the only ones who drink and do drugs and it’s evidenced by the fact that not all in AA and NA are homeless people. Drugs and drinking involve all racial, social and economic boundaries. Those who are not homeless and poor ought not to be too hasty to judge those in society who are so broken down that for them, drinking and drugs are an escape from the realities of life.
I’ve striven to be as gentle as possible in this little expose. I want to see people of all races, economic situations and even religions come together. I believe in God and in his son as my savior, but ultimately we are all family and although we may not agree with each other, we ought to try to get along better. We are all children of Abraham.
Heidi J. Hameed