Participant Stories

Ronnie's Story

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Ronnie, an L.A. native, has always had a passion for technology. After serving in the Air Force, the self-made IT engineer turned her passion into a career. Perfecting her craft for over 30 years, Ronnie dreamed of passing on her acquired knowledge to others. But when Cathy, her life partner of thirty-three years, became ill, she was faced with the reality of sacrifice, health issues, money concerns, unemployment, and eventually homelessness.

Ronnie moved around a lot in her early adult years, but came back home to California to care for Cathy’s father and his children. With three children now under her care, Ronnie stepped into the motherly role, guidance which she was deprived when she lost her mother at the age of 16.

Shortly after Cathy’s father’s death, Cathy too became ill and balancing work with the care of  her partner three children was more than she could handle. Ronnie had to choose: earn an income or care for her family. Ronnie gave up her job to be a full-time caregiver, a decision that later saved Cathy's life.

Shortly after Ronnie became unemployed, Cathy was rushed to the hospital with heart complications. Ronnie was the glue holding the family together during this difficult time. Over the course of treatments and medical bills, other responsibilities began to pile up. Soon, Ronnie and her family found themselves homeless.

An employee at Olive View Hospital, Cathy’s treatment center, recommended LAFH as a resource. After going through the intake process, Ronnie found comfort within the (former) Valley Shelter* walls. During her stay, Ronnie joined a nearby church which was formative as she entered the next phase of her life. It was through the church that she learned that “when starting anything, first you must find a purpose with what you are doing.”

Without missing a beat, Ronnie began volunteering in order to give back to her community. Every Tuesday and Thursday she serves food in the same quarters she once lived in. Ronnie introduced her fellow members of her church to volunteer as well.

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When asked why she continues to volunteer, Ronnie commented that “the folks didn’t ask to be homeless.”  Ronnie finds comfort in talking with her former neighbors from Valley Shelter. Seeing the positive progress that her friends make while volunteering adds to her continued purpose for giving back to her community.    

The future looks bright for Ronnie, and she hopes to start a program with LAFH and Bridge Housing that teaches participants about financial responsibility, computers, and eventually app development. With the help of her church and the resources provided by LAFH, Ronnie is back on her feet making a difference in the world.

“I know what it’s like to feel like the whole world has closed the door on you, and I don’t
like that feeling.”

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*In 2016, Valley Shelter was torn down, and in 2018 reopened as The Fiesta Apartments, supportive housing for 49 formerly homeless individuals.

Michael's Story

Michael’s Story

Michael, born on an army base while his dad was serving in the airforce, moved around a lot as a kid, spending most of his childhood between Los Angeles and Texas. After serving in the Marine Corps for 13 years on the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, he returned to the US and picked up his studies in Austin. And when he received a job offer in Los Angeles, he saw it as an opportunity to go home.

Michael hopped on the plane to begin his new life, and the next thing he remembered was waking up in the ICU at UCLA 11 days later. An injury on Michael’s foot had become infected, and the infection had spread to his bloodstream. Michael spent the next year in the hospital and recuperative care, going through six surgeries to save his leg and foot. Finally, Michael was better, and he was discharged from the hospital – with nowhere to go. He was out on the streets.

Through a referral from the Department of Health Services, Michael was connected to LA Family Housing and began his search for housing. It wasn’t long before he received word that he would be able to call the Crest Apartments home.*

“I feel safe and secure living at the Crest Apartments. It has case management on-site, a day room, a full community kitchen, computer room and 24 hour security for our safety. LA Family Housing staff help out a lot. I am thankful to LA Family Housing for helping me get back on my feet and off the streets. I’m thankful for the time and effort that they give to each and every one of the tenants at the Crest Apartments. LA Family Housing does not and will not give up.”

Michael shows off his skateboards bearing the logo of his future art studio.

Michael shows off his skateboards bearing the logo of his future art studio.

Now Michael is completing an Entrepreneurship Program at Pepperdine University and hopes to open his own art studio, offering art classes to the community. His room is covered in beautiful paintings and detailed skateboards, demonstrating his natural talent for art. For now, he shares this talent with his community at The Crest, offering art classes to the other residents, often combined with another passion of his: cooking.

“I teach an affordable cooking class because I want to help out and give back – I don’t like seeing people without food. I don’t ask for much, I just ask that people leave with a smile on their face.”

 

*The Crest Apartments are owned by Skid Row Housing Trust with supportive services provided on-site by LA Family Housing.

Bruce

I have lived what many would consider to be a gifted life. I’ve seen great success and benefit for my accomplishments. I’ve been the visual director for a major department store, I’ve run my own display, design, and decorating business, I’ve been a professional photographer, and the national visual coordinator for Disney corporate showrooms and tradeshows. My professional and personal life was all a dream come true...until it all fell apart.

Due to a life threatening health issue, hospital bills, an inability to work, and the loss of my home/work studio, I crumbled. This led to 6-7 years of homelessness, depression, and anxiety. A dear friend suggested I go to the LGBTQ center for possible assistance. The center offered senior assistance for those over 60. I met Michael Kelly (an amazing man) who connected me to LA Family Housing. And so started a long, arduous process of trying to find a safe and stable place to live. Through many ups and downs, through many hopes and disappointments, at last one day I got the call and was asked, “How would you like an apartment of your own in a brand new building?”

It was not an easy process, but finally the day had come – on January 9, I moved into a jaw droppingly beautiful, spacious apartment at The Fiesta. I was expecting something like a small college dorm room studio with a tiny mattress on the floor, but I wasn’t even close. When I walked into my unit, I was without words. I can’t begin to tell you how unbelievable and extraordinary it was to walk into this contemporary living space. What I can tell you is that in the afternoon we had a tenant meeting in the lobby. As the team spoke, the message rang out…”You are home now,” “You are safe.”

My eyes welled up with tears as the realization sunk in…this is my home, I am safe from tweekers, the streets, and domestic abuse. And I had the comfort of mind in knowing that my future had security and direction. The years of insecurity had passed and a new dawn of hope and optimism had emerged, a future of possibilities (previously out of reach) lay before me. All of our lives face challenges in our different paths, different forks in the road, different outcomes to life’s tragedies. But, without hope our paths can seem to lead nowhere. Yet with the compassionate efforts of LA Family Housing and its supporters, some of us can now see that path forward to a better place.

Marilyn Monroe once said:

“Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together.”

And it was Nelson Mandella who said:

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Better things are ahead and the seemingly impossible task of solving this humanitarian crisis, which is the homelessness epidemic, is not yet done. But, LA Family Housing and The Fiesta are taking a significant step towards making the impossible possible and to bring the better into our lives.