Homeless Services are Supposed to Help.

I love Los Angeles and admire the DPSS programs and @SheilaKuehl the BOS member for my neighborhood. After 11 years of working with and around them I have a deep appreciation for them.
So imagine how horrified I am to find out that someone has been homeless for years and has been asking the system for help but not finding any relief.

I just spoke to a mother who “timed out” of the system years ago. When she went into the game program for assistance, her worker was the woman who replaced me at Maximus in Burbank. I know this worker. I trained this worker. This worker knows what to do. 

Nevertheless, this mother was never offered the opportunity to complete her high school diploma which is a major stepping stone chords finding permanent employment or earning enough money to end the poverty of her family. She was placed in a work training program which is a wonderful step but now she has to find her own permanent employment and she is greatly hindered by the lack of educational milestones. She was also not informed of the resources available to her children to pay to get them to school while she came to work. Her small subsidized paycheck has been used to pay for hotel rooms for her family and bus fare for her children. Theoretically the County of Los Angeles would be able to help her pay for the hotel room and get her into a shelter and I’d be paying for her children’s bus fare.
I know you think this may sound excessive and entitled. You are absolutely wrong. Parrots cannot go look for work if their children do not have a safe place to be. If they don’t have a safe home we can spend time in or childcare or somebody will watch them or a school where they can be supervised and learning, a mother or father is that tied to their children. You may have noticed an employer’s do not enjoy it when your bring your family to work with you. Addressing the child care issue and transportation for children is a major step and finding employment and ending poverty for their family. It is one of the reasons I really appreciate the DPSS program.
So this mother is staying in a hotel and connect it to the local shelter which is connected to DPSS and overseen by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. My suggestion is that she contact Sheila kuehl and ask for additional assistance and review of her case.

Just talking to this Mom, I could feel how helpless she was feeling and he’ll frustrated she was. I could see how the term and she’s been and also track all the positive step she’s been making to improve her life and the lives of her children. This mother is doing everything right and somehow everything is going wrong for her. I take it personally, because if I were still a gain worker, this would not be her situation. I hope.

Let’s Discuss Dignity

Twenty-two years ago I spent two days laying face down, crying into my living room carpet . Everything I had tried just failed.  Big things, a thousand small things, all of the things had slipped from my grasp and I was failing.

I had been psyched up to be a wife, and a young stay at home mother, and maybe someone who completed a BA down the road if I found time in my suburban dream. Instead, my relationship crumbled, Mervyn’s fired me (because I was obviously falsifying comment cards, it was impossible that I could be so good with people…but ask me about this another time), and I had 3/4ths of a degree in Physical Therapy with no way to get back into my life as I had known it.

When it “got real”, I pulled out the phone book, found the blue pages of government listing service and looked up the address to the Welfare Office. Bleakness.  I walked into to a dim green room where my shoes stuck to the floor and I will never be certain if the puddle in the chair next to me was apple juice, but I’ve decided to believe it was. In my hands I held a ten page, double sided application, and a pen. I could not fill it out. I must have made five trips to the Help Desk and I still wasn’t comfortable. I met with an eligibility worker who shamed me; pointed out that all the other white people on the building were employees, and send me home with a list of needed documents and a follow up appointment.  That was the day I walked back into my little apartment and folded onto the floor wondering if if I could ever get up again.

Twenty years later, or 2 years ago, I had my Bachelor’s Degree is Sociology, my own car, house, and no debt at all. I found my revenge on the County Welfare system by becoming an employee within it in a job that allowed me to do outreach work and volunteer in my community. My baby was off at  college, but a second child had arrived and I was still a single mother – only by this time I was doing okay. Education, house, career, and home life were all neatly checked off in the Success column.

   The floors of the Welfare office must never get washed.

I had this thought as I was lying face down in the lobby of the GAIN office in Burbank. Just seconds before I was walking a client to the door when the room spun and the floor ate my face. My doctors pulled me out of work and put me on medical leave.

Medical leave is nice and all, but waiting for Disability to come in so I could pay my bills and feed my youngest daughter was nerve-wracking. I had some concerns. I shared these thoughts with the front desk volunteer at MEND one Thursday morning in late January. I was in the San Fernando Road  office working on the silent auction for the Gala fundraiser my local non-profit throws to breathe life into their programs designed to help people survive in an impoverished neighborhood and find ways to leave that desperate economic strata. As we talked, Adela, the volunteer, walked me into the intake room and put me at a desk.  When a third person walked in, Adela said “This is Sonya and she needs to see if she qualifies for your program.” She smiled down at me and whispered “Come to my desk if you have problems with the forms” and disappeared down the hall. A week later an EBT card arrived in the mail.

This was the MEND effect.

Meet each need with dignity.

I was treated with dignity, and not because I volunteered for MEND, but because that is how MEND works. Some Saturdays I walk in through the floor to ceiling glass doors and stand by that reception desk just to watch the flow of faces. Little kids sit laughing at the tables, parents chat in the waiting room chairs, someone is always knitting in front of the clothing boutique, and bent senior citizens angle their grinning faces up to each other while they wait for food, or a medical appointment, or whatever special program is  offered that day.

Mend staff on Oscar night at universal stidios
MEND staff at their fundraising gala

The floor is not sticky. The room is not dim. The chairs are dry and clean. In my five years of volunteering for MEND, I must have had the opportunity to sit in every chair and even the one I broke in Lupe’s office was clean. I never intended to be a MEND client, even momentarily, and I never felt like one. I don’t think anyone does.

I’m used to volunteering at MEND

The MEND Effect is a design feature that started with the Rose family who just wanted to do a little something nice for their neighbors and then let others in on their idea until it grew into the community icon it is today.

MEND is not the heart of Pacoima. MEND is the limbic system that connects all of the other vital parts of the community ; politicians, doctors, dentists, tutors, teachers, schools, grocery stores, dance teachers, Health educators, financial institutions like Home Street Bank and Wells Fargo, ophthalmologist, dental and nursing students and their programs, the Welfare to Work program, courts, and more all touch and mingle in the bright beautiful building at Pierce and San Fernando Road and in the ETC nestled into the heart of Van Nuys Boulevard. MEND staff are likely to shake hands with a Board of Supervisors Member with the same warmth and enthusiasm they shared while clasping  hands with an elderly client.

Nene with “young volunteers “.

You will hear that MEND is volunteer run. Seasonal volunteers, like me, drop in for special programs like the Santa’s Workshop, Christmas in the Spring, and Head to Toes. Day to day volunteers answer the phones, pack food boxes, drive delivery trucks, teach English, send out mail, scheadule medical, vision, and dental appointments and perform the technical arts of Dentistry and Medicine. Volunteers are everywhere and they are hard to spot unless they come in the form of a Scout Troop. (It is safe to say that eleven-year-olds are not on the payroll.) MEND volunteers are trained, knowledgeable and efficient. This is not accident. Every volunteer is assigned to a department and each department has  staff members tasked with being an expert in their area and teaching their volunteers everything they know. Sharing their knowledge keeps the program alive and the volunteers take these skills back to the neighborhood where they are passed around again and the entire community is better educated, elevated and healthier.

The first time I used the EBT card (it is in my wallet as a reminder, ask and I will show you) was at Food 4 Less in Van Nuys and Glenoaks. The cashier leaned over and whispered “If you need more help than that, go to MEND”.

Volunteers at the 2017 Gala

 Poverty and food scarcity is only a paycheck in either direction. I donate money, time, and goods to MEND because I keep being reminded of this unfortunate truth. Through MEND, poverty can be survived with dignity.

Dignity will pull you up off the floor, not push you down in tears.

In the E.R. with NO health Insurance 

Yesterday I was admitted to the Emergency Room for neuropathy and dizziness .   I had called the advice nurse the night before and was told to come in immediately. As you know I am a single mother, so I had to wait until I had child care.

I walked into Urgent Care and they plopped me into a wheelchair and sent me to the E.R. where I was informed that I would need to agree to pay out of pocket for my visit.

Wait. What?

I sent the County of Los Angeles HR about $1600 a month to continue my benefits at the same level as when I was paid. this is a better rate the going Cobra for myself and my daughters. I have called several times to double check the amount and check for receipt of payment, so why does Kaiser think my coverage ended October 31st ?

I declined medical tests  yesterday out of fear that I could not pay for them. I refused a CT scan because I can’t pay for that. Who could?

Today I called and the HR accounting of my payments is 1 shy of what my bank says I paid, but HR insists that I have coverage but the “group plan” changed. Gee, I specifically asked them about the letter I received from Kaiser telling me to cut up my membership card because it is not  valid and was told by the County of Los Angeles to “disregard ” that letter and left with the impression that I didn’t need to follow up with KP.org.

Get it together people! 

This is me, in a hospital bed wondering how I am going to pay for my visit and wondering get if I can just learn to live with the numbness… it isn’t like I’ve ever hopped up and broken a leg because I couldn’t feel it…oh wait, I have and now I limp so I really want to find out what’s going on !

I and my in sabbatical from the county this year while I work on my MSW at USC. incase you and mrenfrew@ausd.net wondering if have earned all A’s and joined the Honor Society so I am making the most of my time. I do love working in the Calworks, Medi-Cal , and CalFresh programs and my home office is amazing, but I do wonder if they are sending me a message. Part of the reason I decided to take the sabbatical is because a supervisor told me I was too  fat and would squish my desk mate

Can I ask for the money back since I wasn’t able to use the services I paid for (medical and dental)?  I am borrowing out of my retirement to pay for insurance that I don’t have and have not had for 3 months! Isn’t it a crime to take money for a good or service and then casually refuse to provide the service or good ?  Should I protest? Do I call the union? 

What is going on?

Los Angeles County DPSS Mobile App.

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What a great idea!
I look forward to it being tuned and improved and a convenient point of service.

Until then, I will continue to follow cases on the Department of Public and Social Services Internet site.

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Who is really on the Board of Supervisors?

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Every day I walk under these framed photos and wonder how no one else in a County Office realizes the pictures are wrong. Sorry Don Knabe, you don’t really exist – which is sad because you’re awesome. As much as I dig Zev, it is time to let Sheila Kuehl stand alone.

Come on West Valley Department of Public and Social Services and contracted GAIN Services  provider … catch up!