He landed in the hospital ten days ago when his funds ran out (as they tend to do by about the 25th of every month), then he got robbed of most of his possessions including his medication, and his health took a dive without his meds. But the docs stablized Richard’s chronic congestive heart failure pretty quickly and, within a few days, he was back out on the street again, but—having had a stretch of time where there was no worry about where to sleep, decent food was provided, and his body got enough oxygen for a change—he was in good enough spirits, post release, to provide a week’s worth of intellectually spirited comments at WLA and at a couple of the other blogs he frequents.
Here at WitnessLA, we can’t do much to fix the problem of homelessness. But what we can do, at least with Richard’s help, is to begin to put a human face on the issue. With this idea in mind, in addition to his personal dispatches, I asked Richard to write a few stories about some of the people whom he knows.
The first such story is below:
(For previous chapters of My Name Is Richard, click HERE.)
THE STORY OF S: THE LADY AND THE DOG
I happened to catch a little CNN today while eating lunch today at McDonalds (Yes, some McDonald’s actually have televisions), and the story was a feel good piece about a homeless vet and his dog. The dog was sick so the vet took him to a veterinarian and left the doggie there with two notes. One was to the doc asking him to euthanize the dog ‘humanely’ as he had no money for treatment. The other was to the dog itself explaining how much the vet would miss the pooch and what a void was coming.
Well the Doc was moved by note 2, and treated the dog instead of euthanizing it. The dog got better and now vet and dog are reunited.
Like I said: a human interest story with a happy ending.
The CNN story got me to thinking of a friend of mine. Let’s call her ‘S’ (not her real initial). S is a person I’ve known for over a quarter century. When she works, she’s a paralegal/legal secretary and she’s a whiz at California Civil Procedure. She often knows more than the lawyers, a fact that has frequently gotten her into trouble when she balks at some order that she knows is incorrect. I’ve told to just do what her bosses say, that if they’re wrong, it’s their necks on the line. But she is just as likely to walk off the job instead. And when crossed, she drinks.
S is not a lovable drunk. At times she gets very nasty. She has burned a lot of bridges.
(Did I mention that S was homeless?)
But, whatever her moods, S has one love of her life, a little Pekinese dog that is cute as a button. He is also quite a defender of S. At night he would sleep at the foot of where ever she had made her bed, and warn off intruders with a menacing growl (or as menacing as a 17-pound ball of fluff can manage).
Last January S. moved to LA because of the promise of a job. (She had been living in Orange County where I live.) As I said, S. often does get jobs. Homeless or not, she has style. In her younger years, she was a model and she is an expert at thrift shop clothing. During the period a few years ago that she lived in shelters in Santa Monica, I bet few people she saw would have ever guessed she was homeless. (How many homeless people do you know who looked good enough to get themselves let into the party that was thrown when the legendary Chasen’s restaurant finally closed its doors?)
When S. left for LA she was living out of her car, a 450 SL that she’d bought used some years back she had a job and was able to save some money. (When S. worked, she could make $30 an hour.) On her way to this job interview, she got stopped by the police for running a stop sign. Since her license was expired (Three DUIs will do that) , the police impounded the car. She had no money to get it out of impound and, although I told her she could find another solution, she just let it go. (S. does things like that.) This meant she and her doggie were now back to pounding the pavement.
Living on the street with a dog is not easy and S. had visions of losing her pride and joy. But luck went her way when S. met a woman who runs an animal shelter who agreed to board the Peke. It worked out fine and the little doggie ruled the roost at the shelter, (after all he was bred to be the possession of the Emperor). S saw him on weekends.
But that’s only half the story. This animal shelter woman was also on the board of PATH – People Assisting the Homeless. (Maybe you’ve heard their ads on the radio with Anneette Benning narrating.) PATH, which is located over on a side street off of Pico Blvd, just west of the 405. It provides a one-stop service center for people transitioning out of homelessness.
(PATH specializes in those able to work, and infamilies and battered women, all categories that I don’t fit—in case that’s what you were wondering.)
The woman got S. into PATH and she became their prize pupil—their model of success. So instead of the usual one month, they let her stay almost three. In the meantime she laid off the booze and found work. As I said, when S. wants to be she’s damn impressive. With a good job, no housing costs and few other expenses, S. began to save again.
So, happy ending right?
Wrong. When, she left PATH after three months, and moved into a shared apartment, she soon got into disputes her roommates, which triggered her depression. When things go bad she gets depressed
And when she gets depressed she starts to drink. And…well I told you how she gets when she drinks. I said to her that she should keep saving and find a place of her own. But I think she likes the idea of someone around. Even if it doesn’t work out.
Underneath S. probably needs counseling. (Don’t we all?) And some medication. One of the points of contention between us was her instance that I seek professional help. I’m willing, I told her. But neither one of us has followed through. (She’s gone briefly, but has never followed the shrinks’ advice.)
So is she back on the street? I don’t know. I haven’t talked to S. in three months. I’ve emailed her but she doesn’t answer. She does that sometimes.
I miss S. But to tell the truth I miss that little doggie even more.
Here’s one more thing: In telling this story, I’ve thought it over. I’m going to sign up for counseling tomorrow.
Photo of woman with dog by Chubby Batem