Chronicling Journeys to Safety and Self Sufficiency
In an office buzzing with activity, Elizabeth is a source of calm and quiet.
That is until she starts talking about her 16-year-old son. Her speech picks up and she brandishes a smile that forces everyone else in the office to follow suit.
It was Elizabeth's desire to reunite with her son that led her to seek services at The People Concern after becoming homeless last year. And it's that love that continues to propel her toward her goal of securing permanent housing.
As her life's circumstances became more than she could bear, Elizabeth first sought help from a local church before eventually seeking services at The People Concern.
Initially, Access Center staff assisted her with mail retrieval and meals. After learning the scope of support available to her, she began working with Case Manager, Lisa Brehove. Elizabeth also began seeing a clinical therapist for mental health care. She later accepted an interim housing placement at SAMOSHEL, and is now actively working with staff to chart a path toward permanent housing.
Currently, Elizabeth maintains weekend custody of her son, which limits the time they're able to spend together. She is eagerly working to move into permanent housing so she'll be able to increase the frequency of those visits.
"I miss him a lot," she said. "It's hard because I don't get to see him very much. If I had a home, he could come and visit."
Elizabeth views her relationship with the agency as an essential component of her path to stability.
"Thank God for the agency and all the people," she said. "They're really welcoming and if you really need help, they will help."
As a business major and an employee at a bank, Tiffany never thought she would become homeless.
Living with lupus, much of Tiffany’s life was focused on overcoming her illness. So after a successful kidney transplant, with her improved health, Tiffany was overjoyed to now focus on earning her business degree.
Then her life took an unpredictable turn. Her hours were cut at the bank while struggling with depression. Unable to afford rent with half the income, she was evicted.
“I started going through my savings to stay in hotels. And I would stay with friends. But you can only sleep on your friends couches for so long. Then I began sleeping in my car.”
But recently, something changed. Tiffany connected with The People Concern.
At first she was fearful of shelters. “I was afraid people would steal and bully me. But coming here wasn’t like that. They welcomed me.”
Because of committed donors like you, Tiffany was able to seek comprehensive services, and ultimately build a plan that led to her being housed.
“I have my own apartment!” She exclaimed with excitement, “Now I really want to give back.”
Now that she’s secured stable housing, Tiffany can focus her energy on pursuing her goal of going to pharmacy school to help others living with an illness.
YOUR commitment to helping those we serve with compassion, professionalism and respect helped Tiffany get back on her feet! Make a gift today and together we will continue to meet the need in our community and help individuals living with mental illness, survivors of domestic violence and thousands of others like Tiffany.
Simon Dsouza isn't afraid to speak his mind - especially on issues of homelessness. In fact, he's quick to offer an alternative descriptor for individuals that find themselves living on the streets of LA.
"They say home is where the heart is," Dsouza said. "I have a heart so how can I be homeless? I prefer the term unhoused."
Dsouza is well on his way to dropping both descriptors. He successfully secured a housing voucher with help from OPCC and Lamp Community. And now, he and Care Coordinator, Jessie Ramos, are actively searching for available units.
Dsouza has been unhoused for the past five years - resulting from medical issues that left him unable to maintain employment. Dsouza has been unhoused for the past five years - resulting from medical issues that left him unable to maintain employment. He connected with the agency and began receiving services at the Access Center in Santa Monica.
Jesse connected him with an OPCC and Lamp Community clinician - a resource that allows him to openly examine his feelings in a safe space. He was also able to secure a state driver's license, a significant personal milestone.
Dsouza adamantly praises OPCC and Lamp Community for its commitment to serving individuals struggling to find stable housing. In his view, it serves as a beacon of hope for individuals in need. "OPCC and Lamp Community is very, very important," he said. "Without OPCC and Lamp Community, there would be a lot of people that would be lost in so many ways. [The agency] is a huge stepping stone moving forward toward something. Without it, you're stagnant."
On a quiet Friday afternoon, Keith Salas sits peacefully in his quaint mid-city studio. Wearing a hat with the word "Sunset" scrolled across the crown, you immediately get the sense that he's at peace with his surroundings.
Just about every inch of his space is immersed in artistic expression. A canvas covered in strikingly contrasting lines - a product of his bold imagination - hangs above his bed. Another piece, comprised of a salvaged wooden chair protruding from the canvas, is mounted on the open wall space near his front door.Put simply, Keith has found a home. A safe space where he and his art can flourish with help from the dedicated staff at OPCC and LAMP Community.Prior to establishing a relationship with OPCC and Lamp Community, Keith's life was marked by depression and bouts of persistent drug addiction. He struggled to maintain steady employment and eventually spent a decade living on the streets of LA.
He connected with the agency through the Annenberg Access Center and began working with case manager, Erica Tobin, to chart a viable path toward permanent housing. They developed a plan and eventually launched the search for permanent housing. Once they were able to pinpoint a space, OPCC and LAMP Community provided the security deposit and new stove for the unit.
"Keith is very proactive and resourceful," said Erica Tobin, Keith's case manager. "We worked as a team to get him housed and he is very driven."Keith has been sober for the past two years. His days are now spent finding inspirations for his art, a gift he inherited from his mother. He transforms discarded objects and furniture into frames or objects for his paintings.It's been quite the journey for Keith - traversing the winding path to permanent, stable housing. But it's a journey that has been well worth every step. "It's been the best year of my life because I got my place, started painting, and got out of my depression," Keith said. "My whole life has totally changed."
Earl became homeless when his sister passed away. She had been the rock in his life and without her, he had no one else. For years, he struggled with a substance addiction and would occasionally stop by the Access Center for services. He even connected with SAMOSHEL briefly, but wasn’t able then to commit to the steps that were necessary for him to truly change his path. It took a great deal of trial and error as well as patience, but the OPCC staff never gave up on Earl and most importantly, he never gave up on himself.
Eventually, the trust the OPCC staff had built with Earl paid off and he accepted interim housing at Turning Point. As he worked with the case management and clinical staff, it was discovered he was living with untreated mental illness. As he came to understand his illness and accepted treatment, all other parts of his life began to turn around.
He addressed his substance abuse issues through our Wellness Program, attended life skills classes, and started a savings account with our money management program. And finally, at the age of 66, he moved into the first apartment he can call his own! Earl is thankful for the services that he received at OPCC and expressed how the patience of the staff provided him with the encouragement and support he needed to rebuild his life. Congratulations, Earl!
It was a cold winter when Robert came to OPCC. He had nowhere to go and did not trust people or social service organizations. In the last 11 years, Robert had become wheelchair bound, was battling a substance addiction, and suffered from several medical disabilities that led him to become homeless.
Robert started coming to the Access Center for a hot meal and a place to keep warm from the cold weather; within time he started to trust the staff who welcomed him so warmly and encouraged him to meet with a case manager. The staff helped him overcome his distrust and secured him interim housing at SAMOSHEL. He also adopted a beautiful German Shepherd, Queen Edna, who is his constant companion.
While at SAMOSHEL, the staff helped him obtain an electric wheelchair to replace the manual chair he’d had for too many years. Robert began to attend daily support groups including substance abuse recovery programs. With the help of these programs and the staff support at OPCC, Robert is now proud to say he is clean and sober.
It has been a very long journey, but Robert and Queen Edna just moved into their own apartment! He says, “I have never had so much stuff in my life. I didn’t think it was possible.” Robert is still working closely with OPCC staff to maintain his apartment and attend group meetings. Robert is very grateful for all the support he has received from his OPCC family and says with a big grin, “I can’t stop smiling.”
Juan became homeless when his father passed away. Juan’s father had been the rock for him and his sister. Without his father, Juan did not know what to do or how to provide for his sister, who is chronically mentally ill. Juan fell into a deep depression and life did not matter to him anymore. For several years he struggled with substance addiction; self-medicating to forget about the loss of his father.
Everything changed when he started seeing a mental health specialist who referred him to Turning Point at OPCC.
With the help of Turning Point’s staff, Juan began rebuilding his life. He started working again and saving money with the guidance of money management classes. He met regularly with his mental health clinician and participated in an addiction recovery group. During his darkest days, he had lost touch with his sister, but since beginning his work with Turning Point, he has reconnected with her.
We are proud to report that Juan has achieved another significant milestone: he is now living in his own one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. Juan says he plans on staying employed and housed and looking at life with optimism. His landlord supports his current stability and says that people deserve a second chance to turn their lives around. Juan is thankful for having OPCC in his life and feels very fortunate having met people who value him for the changed man he has become.
Richard was homeless for 39 years. He had nobody in his life. All day, every day, he would collect cans and bottles to recycle. As he puts it, “I worked 9 hours a day to make $10. Enough to buy a cup of coffee and something to eat.”
Physically disabled and living with a severe mental illness that had gone untreated, Richard was well-known to all of the emergency responders in Santa Monica.
Thanks to the intense services he received from OPCC’s Integrated Mobile Health Team (IMHT), Richard is now living a completely different life.
He has his own apartment in Koreatown and OPCC staff have helped him finally begin receiving the Social Security benefits for which he is eligible. Through the trusting relationship the staff patiently built with him, they’ve helped Richard see the benefits of regularly taking psychiatric medication. Thanks to that stability, his social skills are stronger and he’s able to focus on keeping his apartment clean and bills paid on time.
Through IMHT and OPCC, Richard now has the support system he has always needed
Michelle became homeless when she lost her job due to a medical condition. She had been diagnosed with acute sepsis. Michelle has always been a hard working, independent woman and it frustrated her to be unable to work. She worried about her safety at night and now, due to her health condition, had to navigate the streets in a wheelchair.
Michelle’s health deteriorated and she was hospitalized. She was discharged from the hospital to OPCC’s Respite Care Program and began her recovery. From there, she spent some time in interim housing at Turning Point. Through the support of OPCC staff, Michelle began to regain her confidence and found the strong woman within herself she’d feared was lost. She started seeing a mental health clinician and participating in money management classes.
This year, Michelle ended her homelessness. Michelle is walking again and preparing for knee and hip replacement surgery. Since volunteering in the kitchens at OPCC as a resident, Michelle developed a taste for culinary work. She is hoping to attend culinary school and one day work in a fine restaurant. Good luck, Michelle!
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