Another day has passed and I can honestly say “I belong here.” It’s been over month since I moved to Hollywood, California [and since I last posted a blog]. Life has been crazy.
I write you from the discomfort of my hot, dusty room and I apologize that it has taken me so long to get you any sign of life from me. I have been extremely exhausted lately and a couple of times I have felt myself on the verge of getting sick. I am emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically stressed but I am slowly getting the hang of it and I know that soon enough it will become… well… “normal.”
I work with an organization called PATH [People Assisting the Homeless] for the Hollywood Navigation Team. As an Outreach Case Manager Intern my job involves 1) Going out through the cities of Hollywood and West Hollywood doing Outreach (handing out lunches, hygiene kits, and building relationships with those experiencing homelessness, etc.), 2) finding shelter for clients who follow the right procedures, 3) manage their case and ultimately navigate them to permanent housing- whether subsidized or unsubsidized.
Early Wednesday morning, my housemate, Jenn and I got picked up by our boss, Rudy Salina, on what we like to call “the PATHmobile!” Our task for the day was to assist the LAPD on their 'Clean-up Task Force' in partnership with the Department of Sanitation. The police officers thought it would be appropriate to bring PATH Outreach into this effort so that we could offer services to any homeless people that were encountered. Some of the people I encountered were reluctant to cooperate and were then taken into custody of the LAPD through a warrant. Some were able to avoid us and/or the police officers and remained off the radar. Others were willing to go into shelter and did not refuse services. One of the clients, “Hopeful” I will call him, caught my attention while conversing. He seemed desperate and wanted as much help as he could get. Hopeful is in his late 50’s and he has recently been struggling with depression and alcoholism. “I love you guys,” he said in a soft voice with tears in his eyes “I love you guys for doing this.” “We love you too,” said one of my colleagues, “but you don’t love yourself.” He closed his wrinkly eyes and shook his head no. Hopeful expressed that he was willing to take small steps towards getting his life back on track and that even though he didn’t have much hope, he trusted all of those who were willing to help him. Hopeful stole my heart today so I decided to volunteer to work on his case. When I first saw him he was pushing a stroller around with all of his possessions, and now he is in our shelter at PATH Hollywood.
I felt very encouraged by all of my co-workers that day. When I got to the office later in the afternoon some of them told me they were hearing stories about me. They said I had been on the field working “some magic” on clients. Everyone was impressed- even my director and I was just amused by people’s reactions to something so small. Here is why:
Earlier in the day we encountered a client who has always refused services. The 21 year-old has been approached multiple times by different people within PATH and in different agencies in many different occasions. The client was wearing torn clothing and carried himself in a way that made it seem like he had just come out of a building that collapsed. It was obvious that he had mental issues by the way he acted when we approached him and by the things we noticed he did as we watched him from afar. He had crossed the street many times without watching for traffic (which in LA especially is NOT a very god idea.), and he would spit out food and put it back on his mouth from the floor continually. In my mind, he looked like the face of poverty. The only people who were usually able to talk to him was some Officers with the LAPD. Then today… he talked to me. I don’t know what I did… probably nothing. The client might have felt a bit more comfortable to talk to me because I was younger than all the others and maybe I didn’t seem like much of a threat. I was able to communicate a bit with him. He was very polite, but he talked in a whisper and I could tell that my voice was not the only one he wa hearing at the moment. I offered him a lunch and he took it. I sat next to him as he ate the half he wasn’t planning on saving for later. I then noticed that he had no socks on and I happened to be carrying a hygiene kit with socks in it. I offered him the hygiene kit and told him that it had socks in it but that he could also keep the bag (a gym bag) so that he could put all of his belongings in it. He didn’t have much but what he did have he put it in his pants pockets and since those were torn, it kind of looked like a hot air balloon’s sand packs around his waist. I can’t quite explain it. The moment that made me realize I was actually doing something to move his case forward was when he put the bag on his back. Although his eyes remained distant, he exposed his teeth in a huge smile that lasted about 4 seconds. I almost missed it. It was that smile that reminded me that I was at the right place at the right time.
I know that there are many more smiles to come and I am eager to work with more clients and to help them reach their goals. It was very encouraging to me because the past few weeks I have been dreading going to work. I was initially going to be part of the Outreach Team which only involved the outreach part of the navigation process but then it all started changing and that’s when I arrived. I came in as everything was shifting around and nobody was sure on how to train the new interns because they hadn’t quite figured out how to do the job themselves. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was getting sick of going to work just to sit at a desk or to follow people around. I had started questioning my purpose in this place in time. Things are slowly falling in to place and hopefully in a few weeks I will feel like part of the team as an equal, and not as the kid who is standing in the way of their daily duties.
Thursday even looked even more like one of my co-worker’s normal days. I did an intake and got a new client and I replied to emails, scheduled appointments, and met with clients. I think it’s going to be ok. ____________________________________________________________
This part I will explain mostly in pictures.
We run a community house called "La Casa de la Communidad" which is directly attached to the front of the house we live in. For the first hour the kids from the community can come and do their homework and study and we help them as best we can. We tutor the kids with whatever they need tutoring and if they do not need anything they can usually come and small games, read a book, or use one of the coloring books. La Casa is open on Tuesdays (6-8pm), Thursdays (5-7pm), and on Sundays (3-6pm). The second hour we try to have a planned activity for the children/community such as sports, dance, crafts, arts, cooking, music, etc.
|Looking spiffy before the Young Life Gala|
Life has been pretty stressful. I think most of us have had a moment where we either break down crying, when we want to quit, or when we just want to run away. It can very very stressful. We all have different personalities, habits, ideas, quirks, etc. and when you put them all in a box it can be pretty crazy.
We have had to deal with a lot of conflict resolution but it's normal.
At the end of the day we all love each other (I think/hope). I personally have been struggling a lot to open up to them about my feelings and what is going on through my mind because it can be very intimidating to open up to such a large/diverse group of people especially when there is so much going on during the week.
|Joanie takes a picture of me because supposedly|
I look like Taylor Lautner. haha!
As City Dwellers in the city of Hollywood we are all required to have a prayer partner.
Prayer partners, or mentors, relate to Dwellers as individuals as a spiritual companion in their lives (work, spiritual life, personal relationships, community living, etc.). A mentor in the Dwell program is someone who is willing to:
- commit to being a part of a Dweller’s life for their year of service
- commit to meeting together or connecting at least every two to three weeks
- listen, encourage and support the Dweller
- share some of your walk with God and life experiences
- pray for the Dweller and their communities, ask them to pray for you
- communicate with the City Director on the relationship from time to time
- make an effort to attend a welcome for the new Dwellers
- have met one-on-one with your Dweller by October 10th
- hold them accountable to their learning agreement.
- report, to the City Director, any information that may have implications to the larger program (major depression, intentions of harm, etc.)
My prayer partner's name is Joanie Miller and she is an amazing human being. Her and her family have been very warm and welcoming since I got here and they have adopted me into their family. They seriously treat me like one of their own and I am so thankful to God that he has given me another small family that can care for me and love me aside from the one I already live with.
My prayer partner is engaged to Jeremy Miller whom some of you might recognize as Ben Seaver from Growing Pains. Jeremy is going to be my co-prayer partner and will step in whenever he has time or when Joanie is too busy. They are amazing people and they have are probably the best prayer partners I could ask for. Not to mention that Jeremy is a chef and when I stay at his house the food is amazing!
I have gotten to do a bunch of fun stuff since I've been here. I have visited the set of one of my all time favorite shows- Community. And I actually got to meet one of my favorite actresses ever, Yvette Nicole Brown. We can pretty much visit whenever they are all filming- we just have to text Joel McHale which is pretty cool!
I have learned how professional I really do see the film industry and how passionate I am about pursuing it. I can't wait till I have the chance to show the world what I can do but I acknowledge that there are necessary steps I need to take in order to get there. I have applied to a couple of art schools but I am really hoping to get into AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) next year for a BFA in acting. Those are just future goals and totally unrelated to this year- but I just thought I'd let everyone known what's on my mind for the future. I have an auditioned scheduled and it is coming up soon so if you can all please pray for me I would greatly appreciate that. AMDA is not an easy school to get into.
Now that I have mentioned the future, I cannot help but to mention the past. I am eternally thankful for all of your donations and all of your support to me while I have been up here. Although I am only half way through with my fundraising, a lot of you have shown me your love through letters, love packages, and through encouragement and prayer. I am working on getting some thank you notes out there so that I can talk to you guys in a more personal level. Thank you so much. Please keep in touch. Give me a call whenever we both have time (notice the time difference of three hours and the busy work schedule) or you can Facebook me!
It has been really hard keeping in touch with all of my loved ones back at home. I have lost complete contact with a few people and some relationships have even fallen apart which breaks my heart. It's been really hard for me to continue this walk while picking up the pieces as I go along.
I conclude by saying- honestly, that I have grown a lot as person in general. I have matured in so many different ways in my spiritual walk and in my general walk in life. I have been broken down and pieced back together so many times that I do not feel like I am the same person I was a month ago. I can see the face of God in the people here and I can see his mighty hand working in so many different ways. I have seen a whole other side to humanity through the homeless population and it is truly changing my life.
I am almost settled on a church but I will talk about it in a later blog.
I belong here.