On Sunday, the Las Vegas Sun has published Part 3 of LA writer/essayist/documentary filmmaker Rodger Jacobs’ series of essays documenting the descent to the edge of homelessness where he, and his longtime girlfriend, freelance editor Lela Michael, still teeter.
Below are some clips from Part 3—but we sure to go to the LV Sun to see the full photo-video package
….It is 4 o’clock on a breezy weekday afternoon. As I settle onto a stool at the horseshoe-shaped bar at the sports book at the Fiesta on North Rancho, a dull ache in my arthritic joints warns me of impending winter. Enduring another season of Southern Nevada’s harsh wintry wind and frigid biting cold is a prospect I am prepared to move mountains to avoid.
Even more stinging has been the reaction by many readers to my first essay on being homeless in Las Vegas — mean-spirited remarks that have fueled my decision to leave town. We had arrived here from California in 2007 to care for my ailing mother, at a time when my freelance writing business was following a trajectory parallel to the recession. After her death, we moved to an apartment for two years and then to a North Las Vegas rental home. But we couldn’t afford the cost of maintaining the house that we were contractually saddled with, and in September, under threat of eviction, we moved to a small two-room affair at Budget Suites. Along the way, we have shed most of our possessions; the rest is in a 10-by-10 storage unit, waiting to be redeemed.
We had hoped that by now we would have returned to Los Angeles. But Lela, my girlfriend, and I are still here; relocating even just to L.A. requires more capital than we have. We get by on my Social Security Disability payments of $926 a month (after a $100 monthly deductible for Medicare) and occasional freelance writing and editing assignments. At the urging of Three Square, where Lela volunteers weekly, she recently applied for federal grocery assistance.
We did receive generous donations from a few readers after I first wrote about our homelessness — money that has been spent on groceries, rent, transportation, laundry, medical expenses and IRS payments…
If not for those who were generously “moved to action,” our transition from lease holders to a more uncertain lifestyle could have been a much uglier story. And there has been forward momentum since the second installment of this series ran in late September: A colleague has offered to underwrite the cost of movers when we are ready; my story has also gained a lot of traction in foreign media.
And two publishers in New York have expressed interest in a book proposal, “Shakespeare’s Hand is Missing,” based on this series of articles and features I have penned elsewhere on the marginalization of writers and artists in our current culture (think George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” with a contemporary spin). But to finish the book, I need to get back to L.A., where I have a support network and greater opportunities for supplemental income to sustain the writing. When the move can become a reality is uncertain. As Orwell writes in the aforementioned work, “The great redeeming feature of poverty is it annihilates the future.”
That’s the great, anxiety-producing paradox we’re confronted with constantly: How to meet our daily needs while we must remain in Las Vegas (where we don’t want to be and, according to many who commented, where we are not wanted) and how to set aside enough money to carry us across the desert and into a suitable living space with reserves for deposits and at least two months of rent.
But potential is the most elastic of human qualities and as has happened repeatedly in the past, my skill and potential as a writer will expand to meet my needs. It’s not a question of “how” or “if” but when.
Still and all, Rodger has managed to write—and write well—during this period, working on a book, these essays, plus whatever other paying projects he can land.
On a good day, writing is difficult business. When you’re living on the edge it becomes far, far harder. But Roger Jacobs keeps writing and the rest of us benefit.
Meanwhile back in LA County, as it rained, the Union Rescue Mission bus drove around scooping up homeless LA residents who normally sleep on the street. Homeless advocate, Mark Horvath, tweeted (as he helped) that he saw noone else out there but URM trying to get Skid Row people out of the rain.
The URM’s executive director Andy Bales is the real deal.
iPhone photo by Mark Horvath at Hardly Normal
Photo of Rodger and Lela, by Sam Morris of the Las Vegas Sun