I translate Homeless services into Soccer Mom speech.
Andy Bales of @URM can tell you about housing homeless folks and running a shelter agency. I am currently running two homeless shelters but his view is more salient than mine.
Through him I have discovered officer Joseph, a man who wears a badge and walks the beat of Skid Row.
Mark Horvath, @hardlynormal, of Invisible People will tell you all about the lives of the people he meets on the street.
Don Garza still lives in downtown Los Angeles and interacts on the daily what folks who live on skid row.
Paul Dumont run sober living houses and is politically active. He probably runs into Don Garza often at City Hall.
And I follow what they have to say very closely. I learn about policy and impact from them before I ever find it in the newspaper. Steve Lopez is awesome but he’s no Don Garza.
I’m not like these activists and activists and actors in the movement. I’m a mommy who was born and raised in the suburbs of the San Gabriel Valley. I was adopted while I was in grade school by a teacher at Holly Avenue elementary and her husband who was a rocket scientist at JPL. Both of them were dedicated to educating people about the world around them. I don’t think any of us expected me to go into homeless services.
Before I was adopted I was homeless. While I was in college I became pregnant and dropped out. I became a welfare mom and lived on food stamps and cash assistance until I decided to complete my bachelor’s degree. It was that secondary. Of poverty in my life that really made me aware of who people in the poor economic class were. They were people like me. Normal, boring people with no more character flaws than anyone else who just happened to have a lot fewer resources where the people receiving assistance and living in poverty in the broad daylight.
I think about my Uncle Tom daily. I really had an uncle and his name was really Tom. He was a beautiful young man with an ugly addiction. I loved him but I could not make myself be around him. There are a lot of theories about why I refused to be at family functions with him, mostly I think it’s because I was sad and felt helpless.
I think about my biological mother and her mental health and substance use, but not every day. I am very aware of how her life choices affect me. I am aware that I am always afraid that I will be left and I expect every relationship to end, and end poorly because I did not have a consistent mother figure who left me unconditionally at any point in my life. My adopted mother told me I was unlovable, and it was years before I learned that that was more about her expectations of who she wanted me to be and less about who I am. Nevertheless, the damage is done. Between these two ladies I learned that when somebody has a mental health issue or an addiction issue it actually affects the whole family including children.
When I was receiving public assistance I noticed that I was treated differently. Public assistance workers came in a variety of flavors and capabilities. Somewhere cheerleaders and enthusiastic and explain the process to me. other public aid workers talk to me like I was trash. They were demoralizing and demeaning and when they made mistakes in their job they blamed it on me.
As an experiment, after I received my bachelor’s degree in had done some work at a city agency and that I know homeless shelter and homeless service agency on Skid Row, I worked as a county contractor in the GAIN program. I did that for almost 10 years. While there I worked with homeless moms and dads to improve their lives and help them find employment and jobs. It was through helping them but I was able to help their children.
I left that job to work directly for the county as the intake worker when somebody applied for CalFresh food stamps or medical assistance programs. I learned that the job is hard and there are a lot of rules and that these are some of the very best and very worst people imaginable.
I also learned that my experience on the front and back ends of poverty and poverty related social services gives me a unique perspective that maybe you don’t have.
What I also had was a boyfriend in 2006 who worked for Microsoft and had his own blog. Michael encouraged me to start my own blog and put all of my rantings and opinions about homelessness on the page. So I did.
I keep up with all the homeless news but I don’t always post it here. I figure you’re finding it somewhere else and they are more informed. If I shared that same information it would just be gossip.
What I really want to do is humanize the experience.
I was telling my team and my boss today that I once approached the learning channel TLC with an idea of ” the real housewives of social services” because we know all the stories.
I can’t tell you all the stories I know because I don’t want to expose where I work currently and I definitely don’t want to expose the people I have worked alongside of and with both as coworkers and as their caseworker. As always, my opinions are my own and don’t reflect any of my employer’s past, current or future, but I do have opinions and a lot of them.
You can look for me to start refocusing on my unique voice in this hurricane. I want you to care. I believe that it’s hard to care about something you don’t understand or can’t identify with.
Allow me to be your tour guide