This is the fifth mini-documentary of our Invisible Stories series on homelessness. CLICK HERE to watch.
Eric Montoya is an outreach supervisor for LA Family Housing. When it comes to his job, Eric is a rock star. He is respected by his peers and even more importantly, the homeless community. Eric works tirelessly to get homeless people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing.
“Permanent supportive housing is the key because services are attached,” Eric said. He knows housing ends homelessness – he has witnessed the strategy’s success. Eric continues with a sobering statement: “I’m a paycheck from being homeless myself … most people who work for a living are a paycheck away from homelessness. [We must] Understand the homeless population so we can break down the stigma of people experiencing homelessness.”
In this video, Eric takes viewers on a tour of the Sepulveda Basin in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. Between 300 and 400 people live in this area and face the constant threat of criminalization, homeless sweeps and being displaced – an action that can be just as traumatic as becoming homeless in the first place. They are forced to move onto another location where they will not be welcome.
Let it be known: There’s no law against being homeless, yet people are harassed because they are … mostly because housed people complain about those less fortunate.
“I’d rather deal with the weather, I’d rather deal with natural causes than with the people who are harassing [us]. [This isn’t] how we really want to live,” said Mark, a former Seattle business owner and ‘Bamboos’ resident.
Mark lost his business in 2008. Shortly after that, he lost his home and everything else of value. Mark says he put everything into his business, but a few contractors didn’t pay while the debts piled up. The business was forced into bankruptcy leaving Mark and Sharon homeless for the past 10 years. For several years, they have lived in a makeshift homeless camp. It’s not how they want to live. No one wants to be homeless.
Jennifer also knows the pain of being unfairly stereotyped by the general public.
“We shouldn’t be at parks because we scare little children. That statement got under my skin. I have a daughter and a granddaughter … I don’t think my granddaughter is scared of me.”
Jennifer shatters all the stereotypes surrounding homelessness. She is sober, does not use drugs and helps those within her homeless community.
“I was a single parent. You always struggle when you are a single parent. I had two jobs to make ends meet … and I lost both jobs within three months of each other. I couldn’t find work at that time, and everything snowballed all at once.” Jennifer added that she was evicted and ended up living in a homeless encampment.
She helps those around her by connecting them with Eric for staples such as food and water, among other things. “We are people, we are citizens – we should be treated with respect.”
All human beings should be treated with respect and provided the basic needs. The lack of affordable housing in this country has led to an increased amount of homeless people. We must take action to reverse this trend.
Since we interviewed Mark and Sharon, Eric was able to get them housing. Jennifer is still homeless.
Invisible Stories is a mini-doc series that goes beyond the rhetoric, statistics, political debates, and limitations of social services to examine poverty in America via a medium that audiences of all ages understand, and can’t ignore.
CLICK HERE to watch more Invisible Stories mini-documentaries on homelessness
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.