Stories from The People Concern

A Mother’s Path To Permanent Housing

Your support helps Elizabeth move towards home & family.

In an office buzzing with activity, Elizabeth is a source of calm and quiet.
 
That is until she starts talking about her 16-year-old son. Her speech picks up and she brandishes a smile that forces everyone else in the office to follow suit.
 
It was Elizabeth's desire to reunite with her son that led her to seek services at The People Concern after becoming homeless last year. And it's that love that continues to propel her toward her goal of securing permanent housing.
 
As her life's circumstances became more than she could bear, Elizabeth first sought help from a local church before eventually seeking services at The People Concern.
 
Initially, Access Center staff assisted her with mail retrieval and meals. After learning the scope of support available to her, she began working with Case Manager, Lisa Brehove. Elizabeth also began seeing a clinical therapist for mental health care. She later accepted an interim housing placement at SAMOSHEL, and is now actively working with staff to chart a path toward permanent housing. 
 
Currently, Elizabeth maintains weekend custody of her son, which limits the time they're able to spend together. She is eagerly working to move into permanent housing so she'll be able to increase the frequency of those visits.
 
"I miss him a lot," she said. "It's hard because I don't get to see him very much. If I had a home, he could come and visit."
 
Elizabeth views her relationship with the agency as an essential component of her path to stability.
 
"Thank God for the agency and all the people," she said. "They're really welcoming and if you really need help, they will help."

Cassia and Mendocino Farms Give Back

From March 12 to 25, Mendocino Farms is selling a specialty sandwich inspired by Santa Monica restaurant Cassia, with all proceeds going to The People Concern.

Mendocino Farms, a California-based restaurant concept serving chef-inspired sandwiches and salads, has partnered with renowned Chef Bryant Ng of Santa Monica’s Cassia to add Cassia’s Lemongrass Chicken Sandwich with Chickpea Curry to its menu from March 12 to 25.

100% of profits from each sandwich sold will benefit The People Concern and help to improve the lives of those who are food insecure, homeless or victims of domestic violence.

Growing a Community

A home is more than four walls, as proven by the new community garden’s sustainable impact on the residents of The People Concern’s SAMOSHEL interim housing campus in Santa Monica.

“I want them to come out and see that this is not a shelter, it is a home,” explains Daniel, resident of SAMOSHEL and one of the leading participants in the garden. In a short few months, an empty plot of land has transformed into a purely organic garden, which is home to native bees and butterflies and filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables—including broccoli, cauliflower, corn, strawberries, watermelon, and tomatoes.

“We’ve picked some tomatoes already, and they were like biting into a sugar cube they were so sweet,” expresses Jeffery, a ten-month resident of SAMOSHEL. In addition to speaking to the quality of the garden’s produce, Jeffery emphasizes the communal spirit the garden has brought to SAMOSHEL’s program participants. “This is something we accomplished here. It’s community. They can cut up some of our tomatoes and put it in the dinner salad for everyone,” Jeffery shares. As he anticipates soon moving from the interim housing campus to his own apartment, Jeffery hopes the garden will continue to grow in size and impact. “I know it will,” he says confidently. “I remember when it was empty. But we just kept planting and watering. Look at it now,” he looks in awe at the garden.
 
SAMOSHEL’s garden has attracted support from outside the immediate interim housing community. Carolyn, a Master Gardener, raised funds for soil, seedlings, and a drip irrigation system when she discovered the potential impact of a thriving community garden. “I see in their struggles with homelessness how much they are surrounded by walls, cement, structures, and systems. There is not that much real life and connection to nature. I think providing that I their living environment adds an invisible touch for their wellbeing,” Carolyn expresses.

Although it is difficult to quantify how much a garden brings to the people cultivating it—especially people who may be food insecure—Carolyn shares that the smiles and engagement amongst SAMOSHEL’s residents showcases the positive, pervasive influence of the garden. In order to continue to support the people of The People Concern, Carolyn’s next project surrounds the growth of Cloverfield’s community garden, another interim housing campus of the agency. “When you look around, you see cement, light posts, buildings, and cars. But this is life,” Carolyn motions to the beautiful garden.

The garden serves a transformative role at SAMOSHEL, both aesthetically and spiritually. Terrell, a seven-month resident of SAMOSHEL who is now two months away from housing, shares that the garden tends to her anxiety and stress the same way she tends to it. “We are showing appreciation to it, and it is showing appreciate to us,” Terrell describes. The garden also serves as one of Terrell’s ways of upholding her role as the president of SAMOSHEL’s Resident Advisory Council, for she recognizes the appreciation residents feel for the fresh fruits and vegetables.

Daniel says that, thanks to the garden, the difference is “night and day” in the residents’ morale. “I was feeling down. I imagined the other residents were feeling the same way,” Daniel explains, “This feels like a home now.”

Jacqui

In Jacqui’s own words, “The People Concern and their staff saved my life. I finally had stability, a roof over my head, and an amazing support system. I was treated with care, respect, and dignity. I was empowered to rebuild my life."

Jacqui understands that many of us are just one unfortunate circumstance away from experiencing homelessness first hand.

Ten years ago, Jacqui felt like her life was right on track. She had a great job that she loved with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where she was in training to become management. In her free time, she went to concerts, traveled, and played with her grandchildren.

That all changed when she got sick. She bounced around from doctor to doctor, none of whom could explain her chronic pain and exhaustion. As her health continued to deteriorate, she found that she could no longer get out of bed in the morning and had no choice but to begin missing work.

And just like that, Jacqui lost her job. She quit going to the doctor when her health insurance ran out, but the bills relentlessly kept mounting.

Inevitably, the money ran out. Jacqui was forced to give up her apartment and knew she would soon be facing the prospect of navigating life without a home. So she asked a homeless woman to show her the ropes. Jacqui told her “I think I’m going to become homeless soon. Can I hang out with you?”

The woman introduced Jacqui to a health clinic that was willing to see her with no income. A year later, Jacqui was finally diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and destroys its own tissues. The disease has no cure, and Jacqui saw no hope in sight.

For years, she alternated between living out of her car and moving from shelter to shelter. Eventually, the damage wreaked by lupus on her body led to hospitalization. But it was there that Jacqui was connected to The People Concern and moved into one of our interim housing sites.

In Jacqui’s own words, “The People Concern and their staff saved my life. I finally had stability, a roof over my head, and an amazing support system. I was treated with care, respect, and dignity. I was empowered to rebuild my life. While lupus will always be a part of my life, The People Concern helped me manage my condition with their medical care services. They continue to help me maintain the treatment I need.”

Jacqui began healing emotionally as well. Through our arts and music programs, she picked up the violin again after a 30+ year hiatus. She also connected with another resident, Dede, who she credits as her “soul sister” who has been her “rock and support system through hard times.”  Together, Dede and Jacqui now head Daybreak Designs – an arts, crafts, and jewelry microbusiness run by program participants at The People Concern. In addition, Jacqui is back in school now and is working towards using her experiences of hardship to help others by becoming a Peer Advocate.

But most importantly, Jacqui says, The People Concern helped her become housed.

Nine months after connecting with The People Concern, we matched Jacqui with a home of her own in a neighborhood that makes her feel safe. She’s been housed for over three years now, and finally, the future looks bright.

The most important thing for people to understand is that for every person living on the street, there is a story. Stories like hers unfold every single day. There are so many others out there that desperately need the resources to rebuild their lives.

Jacqui now says that “it is my hope that even more people are granted the same opportunity as I was, because everyone should be housed, healthy and safe.”