Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Homelessness is NOT a Choice (featuring LAHSA)

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- This is where I would come through.

Today I have 10 months clean.

10 months clean.

Martha took me to my rehab.

She took me far away from here

so I wouldn't leave.

But I think she knew I wanted it.

She said, "Make sure that you want to go to rehab

when you call me cause I'll make sure you go."

And she wasn't lying.

She got me into rehab within a week.

And I've been clean ever since.

- I've been in this field of homelessness

and drug addiction for 25 plus years.

I got tired staying behind a desk waiting

for families or individuals to come and see me

so I wanted to go out and engage them.

Meet them where they're at.

See how really,

how people really do live on the street,

in the riverbeds, in the mountains,

in the canyons, up in the trees.

That's what I wanted to see.

And I wanted to see

how I could help them to get a home.

(soft piano music)

- Martha's the real star of the show today.

This is her territory.

Los Angeles is broken up into eight service planning areas.

Martha's been working the northeast LA quadrant

since almost the beginning, right Martha?

This has been your beat?

The number of people experiencing homelessness

in Los Angeles County alone

exceeds the total number in many states across the nation.

And so we definitely have our work cut out for us.

We are sending teams that are familiar

with their local geographies and resources.

Homelessness in the deserts of Lancaster

looks very different than homelessness in Skid Row

which looks very different than homelessness

in Hollywood or on Venice Beach.

So she knows all the major encampments

all the service providers

both the official LAHSA funded ones

and all of the groups

that are providing services on their own.

Stitching together a quilt of resources

to support our clients in a very resource scarce area.

- [Martha] Good morning, Tina.

- [Victor] We're back!

So we're here with the LA homeless services.

We're here to chat with you,

if there's anything we can help you out with.

We're connecting with Tina next door here.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

or LAHSA,

performs a lot of functions here in Los Angeles.

We receive federal, state, and local funding

and then we distribute it to local service providers

across the county.

We also have a really strong planning

and systems department

that looks at best practices for homeless service delivery

and makes sure that all of our funded providers

are aligned with those best practices

to make sure that we're delivering services

in an effective and coordinated fashion.

We have over 150 outreach workers

on the street conducting direct service street outreach

across the county.

Good morning, Michael.

How's it going?

All right.

We're just getting you your ID voucher here.

Yoshanda mentioned that you guys would be able to

head down to the DMV on your own

but if you do need any help getting down there,

just talk to Martha

and we can help you out with that as well.

- Oh, I've been homeless since May of 2019.

It's my first time,

second time being homeless.

In 2006 I was homeless for one day.

This is a nightmare.

What I would tell people

who have managed to keep a roof

over their head

or keep shelter at all given times in their life,

I would say, "God bless"

and "You're lucky."

And God forbid that anything should happen

to any more of us here in this country

because it's an epidemic.

- The National Low Income Housing Coalition

recently put out a study that showed that in California

there's only 22 affordable units

for every 100 extremely low income households

in California.

So there's a huge gap in the need there.

They've also issued a recent report that shows

that you need to work three full time jobs

at minimum wage

to afford the rent in an average two bedroom.

So there's just a huge gap in what housing costs

and what people are able to afford.

That's a tragic statistic that really is scary

when you think about where we're going in Los Angeles.

We need to be funding more prevention services

to keep people in the housing they have.

That's a renter protection.

A right to council for folks who are being evicted

would be excellent to help keep people

in the housing they have,

and start to slow down the numbers

of newly homeless folks

who just simply can't afford their rent.

Unless we can find solutions

for these people,

we're going to continue seeing more

and more people falling into homelessness.

- So I had my tent right here.

I think my name's still back there.

Yeah like Meme.

So this is where I lived.

I lived here for five years

on and off.

It was very hard living here, you know?

Especially like when the rains came

and stuff.

There's dangers at dark.

It's lonely.

There's a lot of spots where people could hide

and hurt you if you don't really know

these parts, you know?

There's showers right there.

So I decided just to put a shower in here.

So I put a curtain.

Curtain here.

Curtain here.

And cover all this.

And I put a bunch of rocks right here.

I would bring water from the park

or from the apartment

in five gallon jugs.

And I'd have to drag them up the river wall

to shower with clean water.

- People who think homelessness is a choice,

if you only knew what it took to get out of this situation,

and the longer you're in it,

the harder it becomes.

And everything is so much more difficult

when you're homeless.

If you work and you're homeless

and you're sleeping in you car,

how much earlier do you have to wake up

to go to a gym where you've got your monthly membership

to shower, to change, to shave or put your make up on,

or find a safe place for all of your belongings

that you can't take with you,

that could potentially not be there when you return.

And you're doing all of this through the fear of violence,

of not knowing maybe where you're going to sleep tonight,

where you're going to get your next meals.

It's so traumatizing

and then to say that this is a choice is just,

it just really frustrates me.

It is so difficult to get out of homelessness.

If you're doing everything right,

if you're able to maintain your job.

If you're working with an outreach team.

If you're shooting out the housing applications

every day,

it still takes people weeks, months, years

to get out of it.

And then the longer you're on the street,

the more difficult everything becomes

and the more susceptible you are to fall into addiction,

to fall into a mental health crisis,

and then that can really just set you backwards

and undo a lot of progress that you've made

and it's not a choice.

(upbeat music)

Today we're in Elysian Park

where they come every single Wednesday

and provide showers

to folks experiencing homelessness nearby.

And it makes such a difference

when someone's able to take a shower,

come out feeling clean and refreshed.

Get a clean pair of clothes

and now we can have conversations

where folks really are being able to picture,

what are my long term goals,

where do I see myself in a year,

in five years from now?

And what steps do I need to take today

in this week, in next month

in order to move towards those goals.

In a way that you can really start to conceptualize

what you want your life to look like in the future.

It feels like such a basic thing

that we all take for granted,

but I promise you,

if you don't shower for a couple of days, you feel it.

You feel different,

and then you expound that by a week, a month,

if you just don't have access to showers,

can be so difficult

and so we're really, really happy to be partnered

with Shower of Hope

and with the city to bring these services

to people who need them.

- Ten month ago, I gave birth to my daughter,

I almost gave birth in the tent.

Oh my God we prayed.

It was the hardest thing ever.

It was hardest even bathing was a mission,

and it was so hard.

I was constantly doing things,

fixing up my tent,

making sure I don't get wet, making sure I wasn't cold.

It was really depressing as a woman being out here.

I had to stay on my toes.

I knew what every,

how every leaf sounded when you stepped on it.

I knew how the river sounded.

If somebody was walking up the wall,

I knew.

I knew.

And then right here where it's level,

this is where my tent was.

Right here.

I had a big tent, a patio.

There's my Christmas tree!

Remember I tell you I had a Christmas tree here?

That big.

I had a Christmas tree right here

and I used to sit here

and I used to paint.

Right here.

You know when you're a little kid

and you go back to your home where you grew up,

this was kind of like that.

I think that if that baby wouldn't have been born,

I would probably still be here.

I think I would still be out here.

- The benefits to getting somebody off the sidewalk

and into housing are obvious

for that person experiencing homelessness.

But that's really the only way to address the concerns

that we're hearing from the house constituents,

and house community members to get rid of the encampments

that they don't want to see in their communities.

The only answer is move people into permanent housing.

Criminalization is not the answer.

That is not a long term solution.

The amount of money

that it costs to do clean ups

in homeless encampments is not insignificant.

If we were paying somebody's rent in affordable unit,

that would actually save the tax payers money

that's already being spent to keep people

on the streets.

And we really need to use those funds and those resources

to get people into permanent housing

as the true sustainable solution to this crisis.

- Housing is opportunity.

Housing is something to call your own,

somewhere where you go and nobody's kicking you out.

You don't have to get up early to leave,

to pack up and go.

You don't have to worry about the park rangers coming,

the police coming and taking all your stuff.

It's somewhere I could just go home,

throw my shoes here,

throw my shirt there,

and I know that when I get home it's going to be there.

- When we're able to place somebody

through one of our housing interventions,

we have almost a 95% success rate

over the course of two years.

The folks haven't returned to ask

for additional homeless services.

That really indicates how successful

those permanent housing placements have been.

- So now since I've left the program

and I got clean,

I'm 10 months clean,

I just came up on 10 months,

as a matter of fact,

what is today, the 11th?

Today I have 10 months clean.

Clean and sober,

I'm on my way to get my new apartment.

I already got housing thanks to Martha

she takes me to the mental health Pacific Clinic.

I'm closing DCFS case in April

and I have a job.

I work at Homewood Industries.

I already completed the first portion of my GED,

so I'm in school

and hopefully I'll be attending college.

It's all thanks to the outreach work

that Martha did,

you know like hounding me down.

(laughing)

- This is a very rewarding and blessing job

that God has provided for me to have again.

He took me out of the darkness

and I would like for them to have the same.

A better future for their kids,

for themselves,

and this is why I do this work.

It's very rewarding.

If I have money,

I would do this for free.

It's a blessing to see the outcomes of my clients.

They have a lot of respect for me

and I respect them as human beings.

Cause we're all people

and we just need a little help

to get us to where we need to get to.

- You know what,

whatever problem I have,

she advocates for me.

She advocates for me.

She gives me advice.

She's more than a case manager to me.

She's like my family.

She's family.

That's what she grew to be, family.

Cause not even my own family helped.

But this lady did, you know?

- And so this really is a crisis.

There isn't enough affordable housing.

We're getting people off the streets and back into housing,

but just not quickly enough,

not at the rate that people are falling into homelessness.

So we need everybody in this fight together.

We need everybody's support.

That goes for the professional outreach workers,

the service providers, our elected officials,

but also just the general community

and the public.

One of the most important things the public can do to help

is support solutions.

Support housing,

support permanent affordable housing,

support interim housing

in your community.

Support the services

that meet the basic needs

of people experiencing homelessness

like showers or access to restrooms.

Call your elected representative

and let them know that you do want these services

in your community to help address

those public health concerns that you may have.

You can volunteer.

There's amazing community based non-profit organizations

doing work in your community everyday.

Find those organizations and volunteer

or donate to them.

They need a lot of help

and a lot of resources to do this work.

And by coming together and looking at solutions,

that's the only way

that we're going to find ourselves coming out

of this crisis.

(upbeat music)

The Description of Homelessness is NOT a Choice (featuring LAHSA)