Wednesday, February 08, 2006

State of Hollywood Story #4: Richard Cruz

Richard Cruz came to Los Angeles in pursuit of the Hollywood dream, but all too quickly it turned into a nightmare. Drawn by a job offer from Miramax, Richard arrived to find it had fallen through. When his savings ran out he moved in with an acquaintance in Van Nuys, but knew he had to leave when he caught one of his roommates stealing his possessions to buy crystal meth.

Richard could be any of us. He could be me; we lived in England at the same time in the 1990's, me as a student, he as a theater designer. Bad luck and bad timing left him stranded in a new city with few options. He found himself half-sleeping behind a bathhouse off Victory Boulevard, and wandering the streets in search of a private hedge to rest behind by day. With no job prospects, nowhere to live, and nobody to rely on, Richard felt alone and invisible, when he didn't feel loathed.

People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) in East Hollywood changed all that. PATH took him in, gave him a room with a lock on the door and a bed, and provided him with a haircut. During his 5-week stay there he relentlessly he pounded the pavement and pored over websites until he finally found a job, working security for the nightclub then called Deep at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. He put together enough savings to move out of PATH and get a room at an SRO hotel at 3rd and Main. He did event planning part-time with a company called Portal Productions. Now he's doing okay, but he is still in search of a better room, a car that runs, and steadier work. He's still looking for home.

Just as Richard is relentless in his pursuit of a better life here, so we are relentlessly at work to help him achieve it.


I've blogged before about PATH director Joel Roberts' Project YIMBY. You've heard of NIMBYs; well, a YIMBY says "yes in my backyard." A church full of YIMBYs pushed me to support the Community Redevelopment Agency's construction of a permanent housing facility at Hollywood and Gower, which will take people off the streets for good. Three years ago, the Hollywood Interfaith Sponsoring Committee challenged me to alleviate the housing crisis by building 500 units of affordable housing in Hollywood. Today, three hundred of those units are built, with three hundred more on the way. At the corner of Sunset and Western, we opened the first (though by no means last) project to be completed with our city's $100 million affordable housing trust fund, which is the largest in the nation. And you already know how I feel about the proposed $1 billion affordable housing bond, which would provide us with even more resources to give Angelenos the kind of homes they deserve.

These and other creative, yet common sense, solutions to homelessness are at our disposal, and we are steadily implementing them. The fight can appear overwhelming on its face, but you need only hear the story of Richard Cruz to know the story of thousands more—and to know how vital it is for us to do what it takes to end each of those people's stories in his or her own home.