Sunday, December 4, 2016
street news, views and stories of justice and injustice
Follow me on Twitter

Search WitnessLA:

Recent Posts




public assistance

Arnold “Line Item Vetos” State Parks Funding – UPDATED

July 28th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


Using the poorly named “line item veto,”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger managed, with the stroke of a pen, to make a series of unilateral budget cuts that bypassed legislative approval.

They include an additional $6.2 million cut from the state parks budget,
which according to Bob Cruickshank at CALTICS will likely cause as many as 50 more parks to be closed—or 100 total, which is potentially 1/3 of California’s State Parks.


UPDATE: Here is a letter from California State Parks Foundation president Elizabeth Goldstein:

“This is a dark day in the history of California’s state park system. At a time when Californians are most in need of their low cost, accessible state parks, the gates are being slammed in their faces. At a time when local businesses, particularly in rural communities, most rely on tourism and park visitation for their own economic stimulus, the doors are being shut to them. In the context of an $85 billion General Fund budget, the $14.2 million in “savings” that would come from closing more than 100 state parks is truly a drop in the bucket. But it’s a small drop that will have a ripple effect, then a tsunami, for park visitors and local economies.

Closing more than one-third of the state park system cannot be done
without real consequences to Californians. Although CSPF and other park partners are already trying to identify ways to keep some parks open, it will simply not be possible for the state to walk away from 100 parks and expect others to fully substitute for its public responsibility. California’s state parks have been teetering on the brink of a funding cliff for several decades, this action now pushes them over the edge. California cannot afford for its state parks to be a political football every year. Our state parks desperately need a dedicated funding source to protect them from these now- annual budget actions.”


CALTICS also reports:

• Elimination of state funding for community health clinic programs

• $80 million cut to child welfare services

• Total of about $400 million in health care cuts, including further Healthy Families cuts

• Elimination of funding for the Williamson Act programs to preserve farmland from development

• Deeper cuts to HIV/AIDS programs,

The only fallback position is a veto override.

About that: Fat chance.

But, hey, let’s make sure we keep that 1.2 billion in corrections. (More about that tomorrow. I have some new thoughts about early prisoner release. HINT: It’s not at all what you think.)

God help me, I’m beginning to think we should revisit oil drilling. I’m serious. (If you disagree and are not driving a hybrid, I don’t want to hear about it.) (Or a VW, or other cunning non-gas guzzler.]

Photo by Gary Valle,

Posted in California budget, environment, public assistance, Public Health | 17 Comments »

Motivating Foster Care Kids to College

July 8th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


Every year around 5,000 kids are emancipated
from California’s foster care system. Sixty-five percent of those kids who “age out” of foster care do so with nowhere to live, and 51 percent are unemployed.

When combined with whatever abuse and/or neglect brought a kid into the system, the effects of this sudden removal of all support are stark. One in four foster kids who mature in the system will be incarcerated within two years of leaving. One in five will become homeless before they turn 20-years old.

Only around three percent of those who age out in foster care will ever go to college.

At yesterday’s County Sups meeting, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina honored 80 foster care kids who are part of a pilot program that has taken a small but promising step in reversing those troubling statistics.

Launched in spring 2008, the program known as the First District Education Pilot Program is designed to improve graduation and college entry rates among LA County’s foster children.

Molina, who is one of the program’s strong supporters, announced that of the first graduating class from the program, 80 percent will be attending two or four year colleges in the fall.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” Molina said. “But I’m particularly proud of the students because many of them had just sort of given up. Many of them thought this is just the way the system works. But I think they, too, were inspired and motivated by the caregivers, by the social workers, by the counselors, and all the people that were involved.”

One of the graduating seniors named Jeanette Rios talked about how she was way behind in school and didn’t think it was possible to graduate with her class. Now she has discovered a love of creative writing and is off to college to major in English, after having gotten some work experience interning at Wells Fargo bank. “The most important thing I learned,” she said, “is that I can reach everything I believe in.”

Molina said she hopes to see the program expanded countywide and eventually statewide.

We hope that eventually this is a program that is going to be available to every single foster care child that is with us because they deserve it,” Molina said. “As you can see, these are bright, talented, wonderful young people. And we need to do all we can to give them that boost that they need toward their independence, to really create an emancipation that will truly make them the future leaders we want to see.”

May it be so.

Molina said recently that whatever money troubles the city, county and state are having, there are some programs we must not cut because the long term cost of slashing them will be far more than what we would save in the short term. Let us hope that this pilot program is one of those must-save budget items.


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF EVER-WORSENING BUDGET-CUTS AND EDUCATION, the California State University Chancellor announced yesterday that the Cal States will have a new 15-20 percent tuition hike, which comes on the heels of the existing 10 percent hike approved in May. The LA Times’ Gale Holland has the rest of the story.

Gloria Molina photo from the LA Times

Posted in children and adolescents, public assistance, Public Health | 9 Comments »

My Name is Richard. And I’m Homeless. Part VI

July 17th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


As the homeless capital of America, Los Angeles County has 73,000 homeless men and women; 10,000 without a home are children.

According to the latest figures on services in LA County, emergency and transitional housing and services are in short supply. LA County is short 5,000 emergency beds and 14,000 transitional beds in hospitals and shelters. For every emergency bed, there are 16 people who need it; for every transitional bed, nine people are waiting.

Okay, that’s the context. Now here’s the latest installment from Richard.

This has been a depressing period for yours truly.
The other while riding the bus down here I found myself sharing space with an old woman who was obviously homeless, like me. How did I know? Well, for one thing she was lugging around a suitcase – one of those contraptions with a handle and wheels – that was nearly as big as she was. For another her clothes were raggedy and she was missing her front teeth. And she just, well she seemed about as forlorn as anybody I’ve ever seen. I wanted to know: How did you get here? You’re probably a mother and grandmother so what about your kids? And your husband. Did he die? Did you get abandoned? Why aren’t you in a shelter? But I was too embarrassed to ask her any of these questions. And too ashamed.

Tolstoy famously said all happy families are alike while unhappy families differed. I can’t say how she fell thru the cracks but that she did fall was obvious. And now she’s out there on the street wandering around with a shell-shocked look on her face. Lately we’re told that we’re “whiners” and should get on our bikes and get over it. Well I don’t think this woman can. And, yes, I guess that makes me a bleeding heart as I contemplate a state that will spend a quarter million to warehouse a kid but can’t find the dough to put a roof over this lady’s head. I know I’m supposed to discuss my own condition. But, dammit, I’m a lot better off than she is. And the night doesn’t hold the terrors for me that it must for her.

So you conservatives out there. Let me just ask you a question. What would you do about this woman? Think she might respond to a little money thrown her way for a roof over head? Or would that sap her “animal instincts” ala Larry Kudlow?

That’s enough.
I will save my soapbox rants for another time and place. But right now I don’t feel like singing America the Beautiful. “Alabaster Cities undimmed by human tears.” Sure.

Posted in Homelessness, public assistance, Public Health, Street Stories | 9 Comments »

My Name is Richard. And I’m Homeless…… Part V

July 10th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


NOTE: This is part of a continuing series on long-time WitnessLA commenter, Richard LoCicero, who, due to a series of circumstances (and unbeknownst to his online friends and sparring partners) has for the past few years been homeless—living first in his car and then more recently on the street in Orange County. For the full series click here.


When he can, Richard has been sending me some bits and pieces detailing the sequence of events in his life that led to his present condition of homelessness. Yet, over the weekend, while I was waiting for him to send me a bit more on that part of his story, I sent Richard an e-mail with a whole other list of questions:

1. Where do you sleep? And what are the difficulties in securing a good place to sleep?

2. What time must you wake up? Are there regulations about sleeping on the sidewalk? (There are in LA.)

3. Then where do you go to spend the day?

4. How do you get food? Are the soup kitchens good? Accessible?

5. What about clothing?

6. You stay very up to date on the news, is this just from online reading? Or do you have other methods?

7. What about books: You’re a very literary person,
a lover of words, do you do much non-news reading?

8. Who are your friends on the street? Is there much in the way of community?

Here is his reply:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Homelessness, public assistance, Public Health, Street Stories | 1 Comment »

My Name is Richard. And I’m Homeless…… Part IV

July 3rd, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


My computer is having a psychotic break and I’m on my son’s laptop
so I’ll make this brief. But I wanted to bring you up to date on Richard.

For the short term anyway, things are better. A few very kind WitnessLA commenters sent Richard some funds, which he was able to use to get back into the Motel 6. He says he will send more detailed updates soon. In the meantime, here is a short, interim journal entry from Richard, sent late last week before he got the funds, but after I suggested in an email that one day he might want to write a book about his experience and he mused a bit in response.

Thanks for the kind words. I doubt a memoir is in me. I come from a long line of taciturn Yankee Italians (yes, there is such a breed) and find talking about myself as pleasant as a root canal. I only dropped these bits on you because it was getting hard to hide my condition. As I said, I’m largely responsible for being where I am. That’s not because I’ll let society off the hook. But anyone who has been living in this country the past twenty or so years knows that the margin for error has been drastically reduced and it doesn’t take much to plunge into disaster—bad health, lost job, you can see the ways. I note for one factoid the Reagan administration cut housing assistance by 89 per cent. Now what do you think that did to the availability of SROs?

When I was young, homelessness was an invisible issue. If you wanted to see street people here in LA your best bet was to go down to “The Nickel”—fifth St or our local “Skid Row” and look at the “Wino’s”. Michael Harrington was even more blunt – in his landmark book The Other America (credited with inspiring the “War on Poverty”) the first chapter is entitled “The Invisible Poor”. Harrington meant that in our affluent age (remember we’re talking 1960 now) we don’t really see poverty. We drive by the poor on the freeway or ride by them on commuter trains. So it’s a shock when we learn that they are still among us. Not anymore. I don’t know when it first hit me. Maybe the early 80s. But, all of a sudden, in places like Huntington Beach and Santa Monica I saw people living on the streets.

And now, of course, Richard himself is living on the street
. He says that, more than anything, he longs for a job—maybe something in front of a computer—that would allow him to work in his present physical condition, in return for a roof over his head.

PART V: The path from university teacher to joining the ranks of the homeless

Posted in Homelessness, public assistance, Public Health, Street Stories | 29 Comments »

Finding Relief

January 11th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Brand new and very smart writer (and USC graduate student)
, Matt Mundy has written a strong piece on General Relief in LA Citybeat. It’s very much worth reading. Here are the first few ‘graphs to get you started.

Arthur Walker is unsure where he’s going to sleep tonight
. Slumped at the back of the Department of Public Social Services office on the fringe of Los Angeles’ Skid Row, he’s put in a long, restless, eight-hour day. A hint of fidgetiness emerges every so often, but it’s obvious he’s been here before. If waiting were a card game, his slump would be his tell.

Desperately poor with a lifetime of hard knocks weighing him down in his chair
, the 38-year-old African American fits in well with the other people crammed into this office. Overweight and bald, glasses adding a semblance of scholarliness to a baby face notable for its soft anonymity, he cuts a sympathetic figure. His voice has an understated urgency to it, words tumbling out at a rhythmic clip, rising only when he gets frustrated.

After passing through the metal detector at the front door,
Walker joins dozens of others shoehorned into the cramped, windowless office, waiting for their names – many waiting for hours – to be called out over the crackling intercom. Two large sections of faded-green, stiff-backed chairs provide the seating areas, where some have already fallen asleep, limbs uncomfortably splayed out. Two upright fans futilely recycle the rank air while a lopsided television hangs in one corner, turned off. Everyone looks miserable.

Walker is here to grasp at the last rung on the welfare ladder for single,
childless adults: General Relief. But it’s a slippery rung. At just $221 a month, no one can survive on it for long, and it’s a short fall to the streets. That’s beside the point for Walker right now – he must get approved first, and the earliest the money can come will be next month, too late to help him out tonight.

The rest is here.

Posted in health care, public assistance, social justice | 15 Comments »