Tuesday, December 28, 2004

late Two-thousand-four
backyard foliage reminds
me of times passing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

a little portable lovin' for him or her...
say a thought out loud _ though it doesn't come true right away _ would at least give a swift kick toward becoming said reality.

case-in-point, marketplace morning report plugged the economist's annual year-end review which summed up the year's happenings in verse, which i wouldn't mind checking out. desire to purchase such magazine is reinforced when the thought emerged during routine conversation. said magazine actually purchased at the bookstore after making conscious decision to go there in between work and meeting, just before that steak burrito at poquito mas.

all leading to a series of surprising run-ins.

self help gurus call it self actualization.

Grant Morrison calls it pop magic.

me? just another day in valencia.

i didn't even have to rely on grant's WANK TECHNIQUE.

Monday, December 20, 2004

sweatin' bullets trying to disarm the panel within the allotted five minutes with a gun to my head.

if it wasn't a gun, then it was a scowling tough guy. i was screwed either way.

i don't remember what happened next. i think i got out of the jam before renee montange told me about our bad weekend in iraq in cookie-cutter, soothing, NPR-ese.

SAUGUS _ Julia Bosinger and her 3-year-old daughter Phoenix live on the edge.

They live in a small trailer with walls and ceiling patched with caulk and quick-dry foam, on hillside in remote Bouquet Canyon. Their home shutters and creaks with each gust of high wind, struggling to stay upright.

``This house was Swiss cheese when I first moved in,'' said Bosinger, 42, swelled with pride as she pointed out repairs she'd done to hold her home together.

Bosinger, who lived on the streets of Van Nuys just four years ago, was grateful she'd shed homelessness since with the help of local charities and social service providers. She also has been coping with the mental illness and drug use through county Department of Mental Health.

But she admits to being scared everyday the slightest misfortune could push mother and daughter from their perch.

``Scared to death,'' she said. ``I can't afford to stay in Santa Clarita. I don't have much to live on. Santa Clarita's services have kept me from being homeless.''

Bosinger is among the estimated 10,000 in Santa Clarita who are teetering on the edge of homelessness. Though the city's median household income is about $76,900, about 6.7 percent of residents are living in poverty, according to the 2000 Census.

``They tend to be the ones in the lower end of the economic spectrum,'' said Laura Morefield, board president of the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry. ``For Santa Clarita, that's about $12,000 or less for one person per year.''

The pantry, which serves about 1,800 people a month, has seen a 7 percent increase in clients each year for the last three years.

``Some are permanently disabled,'' Morefield said. ``We have mostly the working poor _ people who are working one or two minimum wage jobs. We have single mothers, some single dads. We catch people who have been laid off, and we have some seniors who are on fixed incomes.''

Seniors are among the fastest growing segment. About 120 are served each month, and their numbers have increased bout 8 percent a year.

Bosinger receives about $1,000 a month in federal disability and childcare assistance. Rent takes up more than half, and the rest to bills.

``Without (the food pantry), for the first week of each month, we wouldn't eat,'' she said.

The pantry also has milk for Phoenix, who turns 4 next month.

``We're big proponents of giving milk,'' Morefield said. ``Half of our clients are kids _ half of that are grade school or younger.

``No child in the Santa Clarita Valley should go to bed hungry. We're committed to feeding children and a way to do that is through their families.''

Bosinger was born in Chicago and moved to Woodland Hills at age 3. She's talkative and friendly, despite struggling with bi-polar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

``I did not know I was sick,'' she said. ``I thought I was the only one like me. ... Up until four years ago, I was sick with my disease, and I got used to it. I didn't know what normal was.''

Bosinger said she left home in her 20s to live on the streets, staying with friends and took odd jobs. She used drugs.

``I felt normal on the cocaine,'' she said.

About four years ago, she came to Santa Clarita, contemplating suicide, when she met Phoenix's father, Rob Bare.

``I went up to Bouquet Canyon to kill myself,'' she said. ``I was homeless at the time. He was out there for a walk. ... He said I could come live with him and his brother.

``I got some angels looking after my butt.''

Bosinger moved into a rented cabin in the Angeles National Forest. They didn't have much, and occasionally dumpster-dived for bruised fruits and vegetables and stale bread, Bosinger said. She also began treatment for the drugs and mental illness.

``When I met Rob, I got cleaned,'' she said. ``When I got pregnant, with (Phoenix), I wanted to be a better mommy.

``Now I can't believe I lived like that. I have to remember how to think, how to talk.''

Two years ago, Rob died from liver cancer. Bosinger and then 2-year-old Phoneix stayed with friends for about three weeks, then rented a trailer in Bouquet Canyon.

It's a small box with a cramp shower, a small kitchen and a bedroom, furnished with odds and ends collected from thrift stores. The only luxuries are a computer and a television set, which along with a rickety car were purchased with $10,000 in one-time federal assistance.

Phoenix pounced around, watching cartoons one moment, then fiddled with an Etch-A-Sketch the next.

``Sometimes, she's the mommy,'' Bosinger said. ``She hugs me and says don't cry, mommy.''

The girl attends daycare at College of the Canyons, and starts first grade next year.

``The families in Santa Clarita are well off,'' she said. ``They live in 3-4 bedroom houses. Some of the women at the day care don't give me the time of day.''

Others have extended hand and home. When the winter cold made it tough to sleep in her trailer, a parent and friend from the daycare took them in. Others hand down clothes and toys for little Phoenix.

``I think Phoenix is getting something to do with SpongeBob,'' Bosinger whispered behind her daughter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Homeless live on city's sidelines

Daily News of Los Angeles
Article Published: Saturday, December 11, 2004

By Eugene Tong, Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- Under bridges, along remote railroad tracks, huddled in cars, Santa Clarita's homeless live in the shadows of meticulous stucco homes and big-box malls, just out of view of the average local resident.

They're people like Ricky, a mountain of a man with shoulder-length hair and a weeks-old beard, dressed in worn but clean flannels. He stood outside the Valencia Kmart store on a frigid evening last week -- most of his worldly belongings next to him in a trash bag. Passers-by hand him spare change.

Ricky said he wasn't homeless, though when asked where he's been sleeping, he points toward the railroad tracks running along San Fernando Road. It's convenient, he said, because there's a coin-op laundry nearby, and he can get work along the city's day laborer corridor, painting the million-dollar tract homes that cover the surrounding canyons.

"I've been out there for two, three weeks," he said. "I'm not in any trouble. I'm just waiting for my check to come in. American Express. Then I'm moving on. ... Maybe I'll buy a trailer. That'll be nice."

They leave traces -- bundled sleeping bags along Metrolink tracks, empty tin cans and campfire remains in the dry Santa Clara riverbed. Appliances, tricycles and clothes litter a remote field near the Antelope Valley Freeway.

The homeless prefer to stay out of sight, or hide in plain sight. Unwanted attention could attract harassment, or law enforcement, said Linda Malerba, a local program coordinator for Lutheran Social Services, a nonprofit group that provides homeless counseling and case management.

"There are encampments all around Santa Clarita most people don't know about," she said. "They drive by in their cars."

Unlike the usual images of people living in cardboard villages in silent desperation, the estimated 175 homeless in the city have many guises -- ranging from financially struggling families to single men and women in their 30s, likely struggling with some form of mental illness. Despite losing their homes, many still have jobs and continue to live on the edge in a valley with nighttime temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s.

"Some of the people coming in look like people you see shopping at the mall," Malerba said. "I had one fellow who's been sleeping on the dirt. He got kicked out of his home. He came here to us."

"A lot of them have lost their jobs or gotten kicked out of the house by their spouse," said Andy Pattantyus of the Santa Clarita Community Development Corp., the agency behind the city's winter shelter, which was shut down this year by the City Council. "They have no family to take them in.

"(Last year) we had three or four families who are parents with children. They try to get back on their feet as much as possible." The shelter served about 30 people each night then.

It could be a gas card to get to work, or just clean clothing and toiletries. Malerba said she has aided roughly 20 homeless people a week.

When the city of Santa Clarita proceeded with plans to close the area's only seasonal shelter due to opposition from residents, the Lutheran group proposed busing local homeless people to shelters in Los Angeles to continue services.

The plan, which won City Council funding, set off a firestorm of criticism from Los Angeles officials, who accused city leaders of exporting their downtrodden residents.

Though the shelter is now poised to reopen by Christmas Day after county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich offered to host it at a county-owned maintenance yard in Canyon Country, Malerba said her charity will continue its work. The busing plan has been scrapped, but the Lutheran group will offer assistance services during the day when the shelter is closed, she said Friday.

Pattantyus agreed case management and counseling could turn around the homeless situation. The shelter, which operated from December until March 14, also provided these services.

"We were able to get half a dozen to 10 people turned around with case management, so they're back in jobs and back in some kind of housing," he said. "But we're not able to help everybody. Sometimes they turn up two weeks before the shelter closes, and we can't turn them around."

A 2002 survey estimated there are about 175 homeless people in Santa Clarita, with 10,000 more residents at risk of becoming homeless.

Article Published: Saturday, December 11, 2004 - 5:23:48 PM PST

Officials try to balance needs, fears

By Eugene Tong and Naush Boghossian, Staff Writers

SANTA CLARITA -- Striking a balance between social responsibility and retaining the quality of life expected by residents has been a tightrope act for local cities -- and a source of heated debate as winter homeless shelters opened this month.

The Santa Clarita City Council's decision to close a temporary winter shelter, citing complaints of nearby residents, then to sponsor a plan to bus local homeless to Los Angeles shelters, triggered a storm of criticism accusing officials of bowing to NIMBY -- "Not in My Back Yard" -- interests at the expense of the desperate and destitute.

Although the controversial busing plan was scrapped after Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich intervened by offering a county-owned yard on Centre Pointe Parkway for the shelter, another city is struggling with the same issue.

In Glendale, police and city officials are drafting a policy to balance the desire to help and residents' concerns after a homeless woman was alleged to have stabbed a tow-truck driver in the restroom of a fast-food restaurant near the local shelter.

The suspect, who was charged with attempted murder, had several prior arrests for violent crimes and said she was in town to go to the shelter, according to police.

Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird believes cities are responsible for effectively managing their homeless populations.

"There are communities that say not in my community. That's an easy answer, but not a socially responsible one," he said.

"It's a constant balancing act. On the one hand, it's easy to say, This is a problem; let's get rid of it. But, on the other hand, it increases the problems for another community."

Santa Clarita sheriff's officials have said the neighborhoods surrounding the former homeless shelter at the Via Princessa Metrolink station saw no significant increase in crime.

Still, Mayor Bob Kellar -- who owns a local real estate firm and is a retired Los Angeles police officer -- questions whether caring for the homeless is a city function. Other officials have maintained that homelessness is a wider social problem.

"There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County, and I would suspect over 70 of them don't have a shelter," City Manager Ken Pulskamp said. "All the years we did have a shelter here, half of the people that utilized this shelter were not from Santa Clarita, and we didn't say, Go back to Los Angeles or to Lancaster.

"All social problems are not resolved by cities. Cities generally aren't in that business. But it's not to say it's not important, and the city of Santa Clarita has gone a step beyond to say we want to be part of the solution."

When the shelter -- operated for the past seven years by the Santa Clarita Community Development Corp. -- faced closure, the City Council awarded $36,000 to Lutheran Social Services, which proposed the busing plan to bring homeless people to shelters in the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles.

Mitchell Netburn of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said cities can look at model programs where there is constant communication with residents, service providers and law enforcement.

"Our experience is that I honestly can't think of a single shelter where community concerns cannot be met," said Netburn, executive director of the joint city-county agency. "When there are community concerns, rather than running away from them, you face them and address them."

An estimated 254,000 people in Los Angeles County experience homelessness at some point in the year, and about 82,000 of them are homeless on any given night, according to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center in Los Angeles.

Among local cities, Pasadena operates an emergency shelter for an estimated 250 homeless, while Burbank sponsors transitional services.

In Simi Valley, officials convened the Task Force on Homelessness in 1999 to serve a homeless population then estimated at 125 in the city of 118,000. The panel allocates federal community development grants to support the Samaritan Center, where various local relief agencies have gathered to deliver services, including a church-run winter shelter program.

The center, next to a church, has attracted little concern from the surrounding neighborhood since it was established a decade ago, said Sandra Thompson, coordinator of the task force.

Thousand Oaks, which has a small homeless population of fewer than 100 in a city of 126,000, relies mostly on local charities and faith groups to deliver services. The city supports these efforts through block grants and endowments, Assistant City Manager Scott Mitnick said.

Service providers believe shelters offer direct access to the homeless, which aids in determining the root cause of their homelessness and referral to specialized care if needed.

It's especially relevant in Santa Clarita because of its relative isolation in the canyons north of the San Fernando Valley, said Andy Pattantyus, an SCCDC board member.

"We do have a unique situation because of the geography," he said. "You'd think twice about driving to the valley.

"Even if the city grows to twice its size, it'll still be a city defined by the ring of mountains around it. The general sentiment is we should take care of our own, and the homeless here is Santa Clarita's homeless."

But critics maintained that shelters -- by offering cots, showers and warm meals -- actually encourage chronic homelessness.

Glendale Police Capt. Mark Distaso said his department estimates about 65 percent of that city's homeless have a chemical dependency, a serious mental illness, or both.

"We draw these people into our community, we don't know who they are and heaven knows what record they have. They prey on our community, and there's no room for that."

Glendale police have responded to 25 incidents involving homeless people since the shelter opened Dec. 1 and have made nine arrests. They included arrests on suspicion of public urination, street solicitations for money, public drunkenness and a man exposing himself to girls at the public park next to the library.

"We're concerned that we might have a sexual predator coming over from Los Angeles and possibly unknowingly sic this guy on our community," Distaso said. "We have to tighten up our processes here and cull those people who are destitute and need a place to stay from those who prey on our community."

A proposal submitted to Glendale officials would make sure the shelter operators enforce the city's "Good Neighbor" policy and evict repeat criminal offenders from the shelter. Police would supply the shelter with a watch list of repeat offenders.

The city also is seeking a long-term solution, Distaso said.

"We're not simply shuffling them from one shelter to another, but are taking a more exhaustive step to find permanent resolution to this issue, because having a cold-weather shelter does not, nor will it ever, eliminate a homeless population."

Meantime, the SCCDC is scrambling to reopen the shelter by Christmas, near an industrial park in Santa Clarita's undeveloped core. The group was expected to apply for use permits Monday with the county Department of Public Works, said Paul Novak, an Antonovich deputy.

Still, the county yard remains a temporary site, and shelter operators are still searching for a permanent home, Pattantyus said.
she ran into her room, shutting the door behind her, only to reemerged in a pink sequined leave patterned like fallen maple leaves cocktail dress.

she asked, "hey, do i look fat?"


"do i look fat?"

"no." i know better than to answer otherwise. "where are you going?"

"office cocktail party. networking. wanna go?" she said.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

i tread through frost-covered lawns, blustery winds and bundled-up local high school kids searching for the homeless this morning.

came up empty-handed, except for a glimpse of a man pushing a shopping cart outside hart high at 7 a.m. when i turned around after a run down by the santa clara river, he was gone. it was just warming up from the high 30s overnight into a brisk 40-ish dawn.

god help anyone who has to sleep outside with only the clothes on their backs and a few possessions in this frigid weather _ air so cold it soaks through my four layers of cotton and wool like a cold bath. my body once warmed by hot engine air succumbed, shivering under the gauze-filtered sun.

i'll be back next week. i have to tell their story before they're run out of town like so much cattle _ courtesy of a city with a sick cowboy fetish, yearning for a past that really never was outside of the most base of hollywood fantasies.
the santa clarita homeless search continues.