I met Jason while he was waiting for the winter shelter bus. It was his day off. Jason works full time but because he doesn’t get off of work and back to Venice Beach in time, Jason cannot only access the winter shelter. Jason also shares in this interview that sometimes he’d rather sleep outside than go into the homeless shelter.
During the colder months, LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) operates emergency winter homeless shelters throughout Los Angeles County. At few locations, they bus homeless people to the winter shelters. LAHSA does the best they can with the resources they have, but because there are far more homeless people that need help than there is the support to help them, programs like the winter shelter are at best just warehousing people and do little to end homelessness!
Please don’t get me wrong. Emergency winter homeless shelters provide a valuable service when the weather gets cold. It’s just that the lack of any real housing solutions to get people off the streets combined with a service model that kicks people out during the day, even in cold weather, work to maintain homelessness more than anything.
When we first met, I gave Jason some socks and my business card. A few days later, I received a text from Jason that he checked out Invisible People online. Jason wrote: “I like what you are doing and would be willing to share a bit about my experience.” We tried to connect that night, but Jason called me from work letting me know that he picked up a second shift and we’d have to reschedule. He works as a dishwasher, and you could hear the kitchen noise. I immediately thought how great it is that Jason will get some overtime, but my heart broke realizing that for a homeless people, an unplanned change like that can be logistically challenging. Jason told me he slept in the Silver Lake area that night because it was too late to get back to Venice Beach.
Jason has lived on the streets homeless for a little over a year. He’s had a few good paying jobs in that time, but Jason made the mistake of spending his money on hotel stays. Homelessness is horrible, so it’s common for a homeless person who gets a job to want to get off the streets as soon as possible. Plus, it’s impossible to maintain employment if you can’t shower or get a good night’s sleep. Hotel rooms can become a trap that keeps people in a state of homelessness, but sadly the homeless sector does not make it easy for working homeless people.
There is no end in sight of the affordable housing crisis. The cost to rent an apartment is skyrocketing in every community while incomes remain stagnant. More and more people with jobs are living outside homeless. Some people say “Well move.” But saving up for relocation is not always possible and then where do you go? Rents are going up in every city in America!