Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Skid Row Housing Trust Piece

It has been an interesting week. Monday we started off with the Garden Club. I planted some more sunflower seeds in the hope of growing some nice big sunflowers, as the ones I had planted previously refused to sprout. Come on mighty sunflowers, grow and prosper!
Our tomato plants are thriving, getting bigger on a daily basis, but alas no tomatoes as of yet. Come on mighty tomatoes, grow and prosper!
We have four pepper plants that look quite sick, but one has produced a viable pepper. A big green one. We are going to have to figure out how to divide it between Erin, Paul, Hardy, and myself.
Our dwarf orange tree has sprouted little green buds, but nothing that looks like an orange yet. Erin says, "Hurry up and grow little oranges. I want some juice."
Paul continued his pogrom against the hated earwigs. They have been avoiding his traps as of late, disappointing him greatly, so he was forced to hunt them individually. "Die earwigs, die I say!"
His enthusiasm seems to be infectious as at one point I heard Erin exclaim, "Die you bad Earwigs, die, die, die!"
How appalling. I'm certainly glad I'm not an earwig.
We had a very strenuous yoga class on Tuesday. Beth asked us to visualize holding a brick between our hands, arms outstretched, and moving our arms up over our heads and then down again, among other exercises. After the class I asked her if I could have a lighter brick next time.
"It's all in your head," she replied. Well, my head is giving me a heavy brick!
Afterwards, Erin and I visited the Skid Row Housing Trust office to see Molly, the Director of Special Projects. A lovely brunette lady in her thirties. A few weeks ago she had asked me to write a piece for the SRHT newsletter that they publish four times a year. I was only too happy to do it, and Erin and I were there to pick up a copy of it that Molly had edited. She had made some minor changes and wanted me to sign off on it before it was sent to the printer. She was very nice, and flattered me much too much, as I have a little trouble accepting compliments. I had no problem with her changes and told her to go ahead and use it. She told me that she would come to the Cooking Club, at the Olympia Hotel today to take some pictures to accompany the piece. And she did.
Enchiladas today, beef and cheese. I was in charge of the meat (hamburger), and cooked it throughly. Erin threw in some chopped onions, and I started grating cheese. Earl was in charge of enchilada assembly, and soon the oven was full with four pans of bubbly Mexican exquisiteness. The lovely Molly arrived right on time to share in our efforts, and those were really good enchiladas. The best I've ever had. Really! There was enough left over for me to take some back to my box, and I am looking forward to consuming them later tonight.
Molly took pictures of everybody there, serving enchiladas, eating enchiladas, and stuffing ourselves silly with enchiladas. She took a nice group picture of the eight, or so, of us who showed up, outside, and a few of me standing at the hotel's entrance, smiling like an idiot.
Cameras are not my friend.
We ended our Cooking Club session today with the traditional cheese and pie desert, pictured above.
Below is my original version of the SRHT piece, which to my horror is quite revealing:

I've been asked to make a short statement about my relationship with Skid Row Housing Trust. It's a long story, but I will attempt to be succinct.
In 2001 I came to Skid Row having absolutely nowhere else to go. I was, and am to this day an alcoholic, or addict if you prefer, addicted to anything that would get me out of myself. Over the years it became a big problem, because ultimately alcoholism is an exceptionally selfish disease, and it took all of my time to maintain my addiction, which left little else for employers, family, friends, or wives. They soon would have no more of my nonsense, and I found myself alone.
And without resources. I had no money, no job, or hope of things turning around anytime soon, so I needed some help. After I came to that realization my path was relatively clear.
I'd lived in Los Angeles since I was three years old, but I rarely came to the "Downtown" area. None of my friends did either. It was a place to avoid. It was dirty, unkempt, with homeless people ruling the streets... not a nice place to be.
But I became a homeless person. In late December I exited a showing of "The Lord of the Rings" half sloshed on vodka, and discovered I had nowhere to go. I'd been kicked out of the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center program many times, but I knew that the downtown Harbor Light facility would probably accept me, as they were an independent entity. By the time I made it there it was near midnight. Still, they took me in.
I graduated from their alcohol and drug program, stayed there a year, spent another year at the Weingart Center, but still had no place I could call a home.
I'm a veteran of the United States Navy, and one day at the ASAP clinic (a drug and alcohol program) at the Veteran's Administration, I met my old friend Ron, who I've written about many times on my blog ( He had a nice apartment, was independent, and living quite well here downtown. It was he who got me set up with Skid Row Housing Trust, and after a short time being on a waiting list, I received permission to move in to my box, just on the outskirts of skid row. That was January of 2003, and I've lived there very happily ever since
I was eligible for the Shelter Plus Care program due to my close relationship with depression and addiction. The program requires that I participate in activities that are beneficial to me. I don't mind. I like things that are beneficial to me. I go to 12 Step meetings, depression groups at the V.A., and interact with my case managers from Skid Row Housing Trust, regularly attending their various support groups.
After the 2004 general election I finally found an interest that I became obsessed with ever since. You might say I found my life's mission, and now I devote most of my time to writing political and social commentary and satire, rather than being on the streets and wandering through life aimlessly. This was made possible in a large part by SRHT.
Skid Row Housing Trust has given me the opportunity to have my life back. I pay my rent, and now have a place I can call home. It's just a small room, but it's mine, and it's all I need. With the depression and all, what can I say, I take the medication, and some days are better than others, but I always know that I have a great place to stay, nice neighbors, and a truly wonderful and motivated support staff that I can come to whenever I feel the need.
My current case managers, Erin and Paul, (two young kids, compared to my fifty-threeish nature) are just the nicest people you'd ever hope to meet or work with. They are truly invested in their jobs, enjoy interacting with their clients, and keep inventing interesting things for us to do. We have a weekly Garden Club (where magic tomatoes, peppers, and oranges appear somewhat, well magically), a Cooking Club (enchiladas this week), Yoga Class, "Drama Free" support groups, and field trips (I once almost killed myself trying to ice skate in Pasadena). They are not only a reliant source of support and consistency, they have also become my true friends. And one can't have too many of those. (I have to say these nice things as Erin is editing this piece for me).
I've been told that the newsletter this testimonial is appearing in goes out to many possible donors to the Skid Row Housing Trust organization. In this day and age a viable answer to the problem of homelessness in the country couldn't be a better investment.
As usual I've gone over my allotted amount of words. So Thank you, and have peace in your life.
Richard Joyce

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