Chuck has waxy islands of skin floating in his lank hair, a mild case of acne and a food encrusted shirt that fits like he is Gus Gus from Disney’s Cinderella movie.
Like Gus, our hero is popular and generally jovial. He is also what my Grandma would call “simple”. Chuck is a product of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Chuck is a product of active alcoholics raising their own children without help. The tell tale scars are there, the flat back of his head from never been picked up as a baby, the dent from being hit so hard his skull never reshaped, the cigarette burn scars on his belly and his problem maintaining meaningful attachments.
Chuck’s best friend is Ronald, a charming grifter who is living off Social Security checks in a converted efficiency motel because it is cheap and gives him easy access to downtown and the local drug dealers. If “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”, as Desiderius Erasmus says then Ronald is a freaking emperor. Ronald is on the books as Chuck’s IHSS (In home supportive service) worker but the claim is under a false identity. He doesn’t do the caring, laundry or cleaning the checks are indended to reward him for. He gives Chuck $40 each month as a bribe and then pockets the rest of the money. Ronald is pulling this scam with 4 other residents of the “Lodge”.
There is no point in looking for a new worker for Chuck, his 1 bedroom efficiency is so disgusting that nobody without a Hazmat suit could wander in. Once I stood in the doorway talking to him as he rested on his bed. A fat cockroach crawled across his hand and he did not even flinch. This was his normal and he was thankful for it.
I could never get Chuck to shower so in the summer I horrified the residents of Echo Park and took him and his friends to the public pool. You could see the rings of grease and dirt spreading off of them on the surface of the water.
Chuck’s goal was to marry a red haired girl (nobody in particular, he just liked redheads) and live in a house with a car in the garage. There is noway this could happen for him. He could barely read, didn’t have basic hygiene skills, was easily manipulated, and money was something that left his hand twice as fast as he gathered it.
Chuck is lucky to have a room in the building – but he could lose it if the building is sold or the company that owns it decides they want more money or better functioning residents because Chuck is a public health hazard.
My question to you is : Where should he live?
Board and Care facilities don’t take Social Security alone, they cost thousands of dollars a month. Homeless shelters are temporary and are designed for people who are bouncing to something more permanent.
We have a Care Gap. We need a place for folks who will always be dependent but can’t recognize that. A place where they feel dignity and are safe.
As of this writing “Chuck” is still living in the Skid Row area, he was evicted after threatening a staff member who did not know how to talk to him. Ronald is currently in the Federal penitentiary for murder.