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The Ugly Truth of Obama Care Users

The woman was on her knees, holding my hands and openly weeping. Her son sat at the desk looking a pale shade of green, his deep eye hollows shading the tears forming there. They were thankful, grateful, relieved and so overwhelmed by the Cancer diagnosis that they could not formulate a reasonable reaction to being approved for health insurance.

A young girl of 16 came spoke in whispers while huddling in the corner. Her high schoocryl guidance counselor sat in the other corner, quietly, patiently, and letting the young woman answer the questions. She had been raped ( I did not ask nor need to know ) and now she was pregnant. She could not tell her parents yet which meant she could not use their insurance. She did not yet know what her choices would be but she knew she needed the health insurance to be able to make them, and pay for therapy for herself either way.

Liver spotted, hunched over, deaf and living on Social Security, the $104.90 deducted from her Social Security payment was the difference between having electricity and heating or going without. Medicaid picked up that small bill and the elderly man seemed to grow inches taller as he sat straighter without that burden.

Young families working multiple part time jobs but drugsnothing full time that offered health insurance came in to apply for Medicaid for their children and were delighted and shocked to find that they could have health coverage as well.dr

Hate Obama Care and the Affordable Care Act and Medi-Cal and Medicaid all you want, then sit in the lobby of the DPSS office where people shuffle in, feeling ashamed, hopeless and rejected by all other means of assistance and survival, and tell me again why this program is evil.

Home, Homelessness and Kindergarten

My little one started Kindergarten yesterday. I posted her photo in Facebook and enjoyed the comments updating the ad I waited out the hours before I would see her again and hear about her new adventure.

One of the comments.was from the mother of a childhood friend, she said she remembered my first day of Kindergarten.

My first day was very different from the slow morning of juice and giggles and snack packing the two of us enjoy as a mommy daughter morning. Her whole life has been wildly different than mine was at her age – and that is wonderful.

I started Kindergarten at Holly Avenue in Arcadia California three days after the year had started . There had to be enough space for me since I had no paperwork on February and was being enrolled by someone not related to me and with no legal rights to care for me. I had never been to day care or preschool and could not name a letter. However, I could roll a joint, pinch a roach clip, and tell you what a gun shot sounds like. I could tell you how to sleep in the metal rocketship in the park undetected over night and how to charm a grown up out of hitting you. By my first day of Kindergarten I had said goodbye to my mother for the last time and still believed my baby brother and older sister would magically reappear in my life for naps under Mrs. Websters table.

I walked into a class where Jennifer Balmot, Kelsey Hertwig, Kathy Little, and Kristi Powell were the "it" group and had known each other from Preschool and growing up on the same street. Me? I was sleeping in some old lady’s library (not a bad gig, by the way). I met Molly Johnson who inexplicably became my very first friend and taught me to write the word "love". At recess I could see my brother Shane on the big Kids playground while I jumped off the top of the baby jungle gym elevated in the Kindergarten yard. I still have the scars from falling down.

Basically, I still have scars.

I know Darla misses her Dad and her sisters and sometimes is sad that I am the only family in her world right now; but she is safe and secure in her own bedroom. She had homework tonight and asked me of she spelled.’watermelon’ correctly. She had.

Homelessness doesn’t just touch Moms and Dad’s- it creates anxiety and uncertainty for the children that can’t ever be completely erased because it is part of the fundamental years and development.

End Homelessness as soon as you can, for a single child, a family, or all together.

New beginnings start every day, but foundations are only laid once.


Child Care, All That Stands Between Us and Poverty.

Dear LAUSD and all public schools,

Please make more room in your after school care program. I can’t be the only parent facing this challenge.

 I could not work if I did not have child care and I could not afford child care if I did not work.

Right now I am a single mother working 40 hours a week while paying over $720 a month for the Preschool and childcare that allows me to do that. Everything will change in 16 days and the perfect routine my life is in will implode. See, in two weeks my baby goes to Kindergarten.shakeyswithallsaints

On September 16th I will gladly celebrate not driving an extra hour each day to take Darla to Preschool. She and I will make the short walk to Kindergarten at an LAUSD Charter school which sits directly behind our home. She will be able to see her bedroom window from her classroom. I was thrilled to have her at this school because it has a good reputation, is close, and best of all I could stop spending $700 a month on child care. Fenton Primary has an after-school program through 21st Century Kids and I expected to be able to enroll Darla so she would be in safe and licensed care until I could pick her up after work each day.

One morning in May Darla and I walked over to Fenton and enrolled her for Kindergarten. I took utility bills, her immunization record, birth certificate and completed a hefty sheaf of forms and Emergency Slips. The portion asking for Emergency Contacts and “Who can pick up your child” was awkwardly blank. We are a 2 person show over here. It is just me and a five-year-old. She and I have an understanding that if she is not bleeding or dying I won’t be able to leave work to come and get her. sickdaysChildhood illnesses are a luxury we can’t afford. I pay all of our bills and keep us afloat with one income. There is no support; financial, physical or emotional, from Darla’s Dad or the rest of our family. Three years ago I made the choice between Darla having a 2 parent home or a home where she and I would not be beaten and abused. I chose to give Darla a safe home. Don’t feel bad though, even when Darla’s Dad lived here I worked to pay all the bills and childcare.( I won’t worry about libel and slander for mentioning this because he and his friends had Facebook discussions of when it was okay to hit me – because obviously I deserved it.)  Becoming a single mother saved me money and I was able to stop taking her to the Emergency Room after she was left in his care.

On that May Morning when I enrolled Darla in Fenton, I asked about After School Care. This was a topic not covered in the stack of preprinted forms and required enrollment reading. The wonderful office lady explained that after school care is done by a separate entity and would be sending me enrollment forms over the summer, and she asked me to write my contact information in a red binder on the desk.

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My Sweet Baby  Cares About Others, We need Someone to Care for Her.

Last week the classroom assignment letter came, but there was nothing on after school care. I called the school and found out that Darla is number 27 on the Waiting List. Wait, what? Waiting list? Considering that the school has fewer than 600 students, I did not expect there would be a waiting list. Had I known, I would have spent the summer finding a solution.  I was told that many children drop out the first week of care and to cross my fingers that there would be a space for her, possibly as soon as the second week of school.

I am now in full blown – write open letters at midnight – panic mode.

I am the only income this family has. I am the only adult. I can’t work if I don’t have child care. Without work I can’t pay for housing or food. Quality, affordable childcare for my school age child is all that is keeping us from being a Homeless Welfare Family. I am in a scramble. Who is around and trustworthy to watch my sweet girl for three hours a day, every day, five days a week? No one. My boss told me she used to pay a high school kid to walk her daughter to the Boys and Girls Club. There is no equivalent within walking distance from the school. Although she can see home from her classroom, she can’t get there alone and certainly can’t stay in the house alone waiting for me. My job is 30 minutes away, I don’t have time to drive out and pick her up from school and drop her off at a Child care center.

What should I do? Do I move her into my bedroom and find a stranger to rent her room to, a stranger who is willing to watch her while I work?ourhouse Do I take a week of vacation and pray to God that 27 children turn away from the afterschool care? I have already explained to 21st Century Kids that I need them to take my daughter because it is just me and her. I am risking life and limb and starting the Child Support Process, but her Dad already told me that just like he doesn’t pay his income taxes, he has no intention of ever paying child support. Once, when he was using an aluminum water bottle to beat my head, he did mention that if I died he could find many ways to live of off my life insurance, and did I have insurance for the baby? If he paid child support, I might be able to take that week off of work and hope a day care space opens up…but that is not a realistic option.

The irony of all of this: I am a social worker who specialized in helping homeless families in the Welfare Department and now I am a month away from becoming one of them. I am open to any and all suggestions, but also really hoping that @LAUSD will hear my plea and find room for us.



Darla’s Mom

God Blessed us with Mollie

When I decided to focus in social work, I chose to specialize in Homelessness.
I searched and researched all of the programs, services, and outlets serving the most marginalized of America’s citizens.

I found LAMP and stalked them for months until they finally agreed to interview me. My first interview was with Mollie Lowery.

"So you know you’re white, right? Why would a white girl from a rich neighborhood like Arcadia want to work on Skid Row?".

I started this blog while working at LAMP. I have written about her before.

Mollie was not a warm person, the sharp edges of her protruding bones echoed the angles of her personality, and these were great traits. She used her edges to cut through the crap of politics, budgets, mental health and the roadblocks thrown at anyone helping people living with AIDS, and severe mental illness.

When Jim was diagnosed with Cancer she called me back into her office and demanded to know what my care plan was. Why? Because, she said, if I fancied myself a "case manager", I had to manage the lives of others.

Mollie and Arianna changed the way I see the world and expanded my horizons.

You will probably never have met her, but you will miss her when you see the way that Skid Row is about to go into to a deeper decline.

God Blessed us all with Mollie, and to show our gratitude.we each should take up some.part of her work and passion and help someone else.

Dreams on fire

When I was 10 years old I had a recurring nightmare. I dreamt that my family and I for it power station wagon driving through the desert. And the world was on fire.

We were stopping at gas stations to get gasoline so that then we could race from one gas station to the next trying to stay ahead of leaving fire.

In my dream the world was orange and the air was orange and thick and Dusty with smoke. The ground was orange with the glow a fire from all around us.

35 years later I am driving through that exact scenery.

I am happy that my entire family is safe and I do not live near this fire, other than near enough that my car looks like it snowed on with that.

But I worry for all the people who have just become homeless because their world has gone up in flames and I worry for all the homeless in the area who suddenly don’t have even the Clean Air to breathe which was their one and only luxury from before.


I was a Republican Conservative

sonyakeothcomservativeI was a proud Republican Conservative until it became my job to help people live in dignity.

You can be proud to be an American
And love your neighbors who are not.
You can disagree with the leadership
And express that in words requiring thought.
You can wade into poverty
To pull out people who just might drown
And teach them new life skills
Without once putting them down.

You can believe in the Constitution
While understanding the amendments
Are designed to allow changes in ideologue.
You can respect 3 branches of government
and that sometimes the police
“Are the boss of me”
While knowing that blue is a uniform
Worn by a human who is not always right.
You know there is a time for poise
A time for noise
and a time to fight for your right.

You can be an American
And swim in the melting pot,
And appreciate all the subcultures
Have values, even those you’re not
A member of.
You can be an American
Who loves Jesus, God and the saints above,
While respecting a call to Mecca, Temple, meditationand the vagueness
Of love.

America is wide and vast and colorful.
It is a reality and a dream
You can be an American who doesn’t
Condense the experience into a meme.
I used to be a conservative
Until I lived a life of service .
I applied “What would Jesus Do”
To my work, and now
Conservatives make me nervous

To Serve and Protect

I think we have discussed my experiences with excellent policing … from the police who came everytime we had to call 911 toward the end of my Great grandmother’s and mother’s lives as their health consistently failed, the police who arrived when I accidentally had a baby in the bathroom, 3 years later when that baby almost drowned, when my old Chevy ran out of gas on Santa Anita, when my Dad had an illegal yard sale, when the police called to tell me not to be afraid but they were in the back yard following a suspect and my dogs were safe but would probably start barking, when my car was stolen. And broken I to, when my door blew open and my neighbors thought the place was ransacked (true story) while I was out of town, and the officer who ticketed me then hugged me after my first car accident.

I believe in the police. When policing is done well, it is amazing and such a blessing to a community. As my five year old will tell you Karma the police force I like the Knights of the Round Table in an old fashioned Kingdom. She hears sirens and says "Help is on the way".

However, I have seen police kick my friends, scare homeless people, harass my friends for turning down offers for dates, arrest a homeless man for loitering at starbucks within seconds of him drinking the last of his coffee, and refuse to come out of the air conditioned police station into the 100 degree summer heat when I found the dead body of a client.

Clearly my list of positive encounters is longer than the negative, and I believe that there are more great people serving as officers than there are misfits. I know everyone can have an "off day", and even the nicest person can lose patience.

Policing is a hard job with unappealing views of society as a whole and individual nastiness on a micro level. The police see the child abuse, spousal abuse, theft, murder, assault, suicide, over dosing and human trafficking that we all ignore and then enjoy in night time television dramas.

I could not do it. The last time I broke up a fight in public , I bit a man, asked him of he kissed his mother with that foul mouth and told him to get off the bus and sit in a time.out (my oldest was 4 years old at the time, time outs were a thing ).

It is important to know that you can be pro-police and #blacklivesmatter at the same time. It is easy to know history, study trends and attitudes toward minorities and recognize racism and the unspoken caste system in America, all while being extremely thankful for the professionals sworn to keep the peace, enforce the laws and protect and serve everyone.

It is possible, and I think preferable, to love everyone and want to see all people and professions respected.

#blacklivesmatter black lives matter #bluelivesmatter #LAPD #ArcadiaPoliceDept , police, protect and serve