– I put all this stuff in here, all the branches back
in here just to make it so that anybody coming in, I can hear ’em, and I can get up and
be ready for whatever. And my front, this is
the only way in and out, is through here. And if you wanna walk out,
I will close the door. – [Interviewer] No, no, no way. I’m fine.
– Okay. – Or unless you wanna–
– Well, I’m gonna show you how it’s, yeah.
– Sure. – If you walk out, and if, I’ll show you how I close the door. Well, and then I got a rope on it here. So, I close it up. – Oh, my gosh.
– And then I have the rope that I pull on the inside. This, I put up here, and
I pull this on the inside all the way into my tent so
anybody pulling this out, I’m gonna feel it, and I’m gonna get up ’cause I don’t wanna be
caught, and I got it. And I’m making doors for everybody. And I just made the frame. This is old one, and I
wired it all up together, and this part here is in the ground with an empty can of beans or whatever. That way it swivels on that and– – [Interviewer] How
long have you been here? – I been here, I’ve been up in
the park for three years now. I’ve been in this spot for about a year. I have to make it as
much as home as possible. I have my coffee table. I cook out here when it’s warm, but as you can see, there’s
no ceilings over it, so. In the summertime, it’s
okay, but in the wintertime, I have to dig trenches
for the rain runoff, and a secure place for
my, whatever I have, what little I have, secure enough to, nobody’s gonna come in here. You can’t come in. You can, but who’s gonna wanna come in to just to steal clothes? Nobody.
– Well, they don’t know what’s in here.
– They don’t know what’s in here–
– All the sudden they think it’s a goldmine. You know?
– Well, yeah, but I have a camera that I have aimed here in case anything is taken. Then I know who did it. – [Interviewer] Oh, you
have a security camera? – Yeah, just to time lapse, – Oh, wow.
– Just a quick camera. – [Interviewer] How do
you keep that powered up? – (laughing) By the Orange Line. I go down.
– Okay. What’s the Orange Line? – Well, that’s where we power
our phones, our cellphones and whatever else we have,
our radios, our lights. Everything of mine is USB port, so. – Right, right.
– My phone. I got a headlamp for my bike
’cause batteries are just, after a while they’re too expensive, and if you buy them at the 99 Cents Store, they don’t last that long. They don’t last long, so.
– Well, this is no place for anybody to live.
– No, it’s not, but you know what? Where are we gonna go? On the Boulevard? On Ventura? On Van Nuys Boulevard? You have to bring your
tents down in the morning, and then you can pop ’em up at night. So, and as long as it’s
not blocking a business or blocking wheelchairs
from getting through, but I can’t do that. I know I’m not young anymore. I’m not 20 years old anymore. I can’t drop my tent every morning and just go out and walk around. So, we have to go out and
walk around all day long. – [Interviewer] I don’t know how people do it, actually.
– I don’t see how they do it. I had to set everything up. I have to have it as much
as home because if I don’t, then I might as well just
turn into a drug addict and just veg away in my little dome tent. I can’t do that. – [Interviewer] So long have you? So, how did you end up homeless? – I ended up homeless
because I had a boyfriend in San Diego that my
boss first, my boss died, so I moved from his property. I worked for him for 10 years,
I took care of his horses, and then on the site, I broke horses and I fixed the broken horses. And so I met somebody and
him and his little brother wiped me clean, had me evicted somehow, one way or another, had me evicted. And he got a rental agreement, and he got to stay on the property. I had to leave, and so my brother, a real good friend of mine. I called my brother, came from Idaho Falls and picked me up. And I went out there for
a year and I just said I gotta come, it’s just not happening. My feet are white, getting bad. I need to see doctors for my feet. I can’t do what I normally do, so. – Right.
– So, I had to come back here, and when I came back here
after moving away 25 years ago, I just could not believe the homeless. And I went to my ex-husband
in here, in Van Nuys, and I say hey, I got a problem. I’m out of work, and I
need a place to stay, and he said no. We were married 18 years,
but cirrhosis does a lot to a man’s brain or a person’s brain. I guess he didn’t remember
anything from our past, so. – I’m so sorry.
– Yeah, so I couldn’t stay there ’cause just, and everybody I knew 25 years ago is gone. Nobody left here, so I was
kind of stuck on the street. Went to the church,
found out about the park. Came set up a little
tent, and I said well, this I can do, as long
as I get to somewhere that I can cook a meal
at the end of the day from going to and from doctors, or Cornerstone, or you know?
– Yeah. – Back and forth, and my stuff, ’cause I can’t drag all this stuff around, and I’m not gonna push a shopping cart and look more homeless
because your average blue collar man that’s
got a job, has a house, has a car, PTA, soccer mom, soccer dad, they all look at the homeless as oh, they’re gonna catch something! They look at the homeless
like they better than us, and I made $70 an hour. I wasn’t better than them, and they’re not better than me. This is a bad turn of events
that snowballed into this. – Living in a tent.
– Living in a tent, trying to get doctors to
fix my feet and get this ’cause I don’t wanna draw
off of the system forever. I wanna work, I wanna go to work, and come home, tired
at the end of the day, and have a meal and watch TV. – Like normal people.
– Like normal. What’s normal? I’m more normal than some
of them fools out there, but bad turn of events brought me here, and I’ve had to, you just make do with what you have. There’s LAPD and rangers out here. You cannot just push a
shopping cart through town wondering where you’re
gonna go to the bathroom because nobody will let
you use their bathrooms. You can’t use a Jack in the
Box or McDonald’s bathroom unless, everything locked,
unless you bought food there. – Right.
– So, what do you do? You take to the sidewalk,
you to take to the street, you take to a bucket. I can’t walk, push a shopping cart. I have to be somewhere where I’m private. – [Interviewer] How are
the police out here? – Rangers, the rangers are pretty much, they’re okay because it’s their job to cite 24-hour notice. It’s not legal to be camped here. It’s illegal to have a fire
pit, but you have to cook food. So, where’s the humanity in that? They’re pretty much okay. They don’t like doing this, and I was told by one or two of them that you know what, we don’t like this, but we
have to do this, our job. Or I’ve had one or two come
in and say you know what? Clean it up. But I don’t
have to clean it up. My place is clean.
– Yeah. – How would you feel if you were homeless and your place is a mess? You got shopping carts everywhere. For a man in uniform to
come tell a grown person clean up your shit, clean up your mess. You can’t have it like this. You know what? If we didn’t blatantly, if
they, not me, I’m sorry, my place is clean, blatantly
throw liquor bottles all over the place, and I can’t. I can’t look into the camera
because you know what? Aha.
– Okay, I got it. – Because I’m very– – Yeah, it’s fine.
– But I mean, if they don’t blatantly do
their dope in front of people that are jogging up and
down and with their kids on the weekends, and blatantly
throw liquor bottles, and cuss, and yell, and this about, they’d have a little bit more empathy. The police, LAPD, and
the rangers would have a little bit more
empathy on being homeless because we’re not all– – [Interviewer] You’re not here by choice. – We’re not. I’m not here by choice. A lot of people are. They’d rather be here so they can spend most their money on
everything else but rent. For myself, I’d rather pay
rent than live in a tent. And no matter where I live, I will keep it clean as I can. I will not blatantly in front of, at the Orange Line where
we’re charging our phone blatantly be drinking and making homeless people look bad. – Yeah.
– And homeless people like that give homeless
people like me a bad name. – And they’re just surviving.
– And they’re surviving. That’s all, you know what? They’re surviving that, yeah.
– People use drugs to cope with trauma and homelessness.
– And I can see that running into a snowball effect because it happened to me with heroin. I’ve been clean from heroin 29 years, but I can recall back when I was 20. It snowballed into an effect that I just don’t give a shit.
– And congratulations on 29. – Yeah, thank you.
– That’s no easy feat. – No.
– What would you want people to know about homelessness
that they probably don’t know? – Oh, people, your soccer
moms and soccer dads, and PTA, those kind of people, we are not any less of
a person than you are. You’re not anymore than we are. We’re all the same, we put
our pants on the same way. It’s one paycheck away
from being homeless, and that’s all it takes. And then once you’re
here, it’s like oh well, I might as well get high tonight because it can’t get any worse than this. And then that snowball,
and everything snowballs into where you’re carrying around your sleeping bag on your shoulders. I never thought that I’d be homeless. I saw my mom. I told my mom, I said,
mommy, that old man. I was 10 years old. Mommy, that old man picked
something off the ground, and he lit it, stuck it in his mouth, and he was smiling, and he lit it. And I think it was a cigarette. She says, “Well, honey, it
must have been his brand. “That’s why he was smiling.” 45 years later, I found myself looking on the ground or cigarette butts. And sure enough, I found
one, and I was smiling. I wiped off the filter a
little bit, and I lit it, and I was smiling because it was my brand. So, I could happen to you.
– My first job here, my first job, my car broke down and I had to take the bus. And first time taking a bus in a big city, and a homeless guy got
on with a bucket of fish. And the seat, everybody
started putting their bags so the homeless guy
wouldn’t sit next to ’em, and I’m not like that, right? So, he sat next to me, and
it was a horrible experience. I didn’t ride the bus again until I became that homeless man. And I remember, I had to get on the bus, and walking down as a homeless man, and everybody was putting something next to the seat.
– So that you didn’t sit next to them.
– So I wouldn’t sit next to ’em. It’s funny how life changes like that. – Yeah, you know what? It could change you in an instant. You don’t have money to pay
rent, that’s all it takes is money to pay rent,
whether you’re collecting from the government or you’re working for, if that’s gone, what are you gonna do? You are gonna try to survive. We’re all human. We are all a domesticated animal, not used to the bitter
elements, so what do you do? You build a lean-to, you build a tent, and you get a tarp, you get cardboards, anything to keep yourself warm at night. – Make a security gate.
– Make a security gate. Now I went a little
farther, and I have to, – Right.
– Because I’m 60 now and I cannot be in a little cardboard box. I can’t do it, because
then I might as well start getting high at night and just, or every day and all day, might as well just start doing that
because what do I have left? So, I felt positive about tomorrow, the next day, and the next day. I do the same thing again. I have to get five down. You know what? We work harder, homeless
people work harder than anybody with an eight hour job ’cause when we get up in the morning, we are trying to decide
what we’re gonna have to eat for that day or just that day at all. Water, where we’re gonna
go to the bathroom. We work harder than anybody with an eight hour job, absolutely do. – [Interviewer] How far do
you have to walk for water? – About a mile.
– Each way? – Yeah, I guess it’s about
a mile from where I am, with five gallons. If I don’t have a cart
to put it on and pull it up the hill, then I get to
the Orange Line and wait. Hopefully I have cigarettes to trade. Can you bring this up the hill for me? – [Interviewer] And there’s no days off. – No, no.
– That’s what people don’t understand, there’s no
– Eight days a week. Vacation days.
– No. – No personal leave.
– No, no, no. Not at all. We do it every day, every
morning you wake up. I myself do my chores. I’ve always have, or you look for the next bag of dope. – Right.
– To be honest with you. In not in the plane anymore. – Thank God.
– Yeah. – [Interviewer] So, let’s
talk about something a little nicer, lighter. I met you on a movie set, a movie that’s gonna be about your life. – That’s crazy. I don’t think– – [Interviewer] How do
you feel about that? – I didn’t think my life
was that interesting. Would I not now? It’s not interesting,
but evidently they seem to think it is because of everything that I did before becoming homeless. Can’t do it now, but to them, it was interesting because it’s gonna be a short film about– – A virtual reality, actually.
– About, virtual reality where you put your headset
on, you go into my tent. You get personal with me
so that that soccer mom and soccer dad look at it and go, wow! This person really had a life before, and now it’s torn away. These LAPD, they’re just wicked. They’re mean and they’re nasty. I got my campsite over
here just two clicks away tore away by an LAPD officer that came in. And I was out, I ran out,
and I said wait a minute. Man, do I got my pills
over there for my stomach, and my jacket, and my cane? So, I went back in and I was telling him. He’s cutting into my tent
with this evil, vindictive, – Oh, I’m so sorry.
– Almost sinister way that he’s cutting into it,
but wait, the door’s open. You’re here to push us out, not pillage through my
personal belongings. – Oh, my God.
– This is my home, H-O-M-E. You have to have a
warrant in anybody’s home. You have to have a warrant
to go in and search their, I don’t give a shit if
I’m here illegally or not. It’s still a home, H-O-M-E. It’s still my home. So, he had everything sprooled out, and this is what the beginning of this film I did is about, about we are human beings. We are a domesticated animal. We have a right to do things in private, to go to the bathroom in private, to lay our head somewheres warm. – [Interviewer] Have some dignity! – And to have some dignity. These guys don’t give a shit. They come in and rip your tents up. Oh, now where are we gonna go, on the sidewalk where
we have to lower the, we have to move because people with their businesses don’t. You know?
– Yeah. – And a stray dog, you can see a stray dog with a limp, and his hair matted, walking down the sidewalk in Van Nuys and have the store person come out and give that a fresh, clean pan of water. But we ask for water, for
a cup, we don’t get it. – Wow.
– And they will give that stray dog a pan of water. – Wow.
– Where’s your humanity? This is a bird sanctuary. We’re at this park. It’s a bird sanctuary. They got a sanctuary for
birds because who knows if that’s their last of the species. Who knows if I’m the last of my species. – [Interviewer] Well, you’re
soon to be in housing. – Yes. – Thanks to LA Family Housing.
– LA Family Housing. – [Interviewer] And thank you for Eric. – Eric, wonderful guy.
– Who introduced us, and Rose!
– Yes, and Rose. – [Interviewer] So, my
favorite part on the set was like Emily was just here, and she was the producer. And they don’t normally
connect to homelessness, – No! – [Interviewer] But they loved on you, and now it’s just natural. They’re coming to visit you at your tent! – I know, I know.
– These are Hollywood people, and they’re coming to see you!
– Because they know now it’s not just dirt, and
grime, and we’re dirty people, and we’re drug-induced people. And they see now, they
see there’s people here, they’re well educated. There’s a guy over here
that plays amazing guitar. He speaks five languages. Just a little turn of even
that caused his homelessness. It could happen to anybody, and these LA Family
Housing, when they come out to grab your hand to shake your hand, they pull you in and
kiss you on the cheek. You haven’t had a shower in a week. You don’t smell that great, but they’re still–
– Isn’t that something? – They still pull you in, and hug you, and they do as they say they’re gonna do. – Great.
– And you know what? It might be real hard for
them because of the paperwork – The bureaucracy.
– And that red tape, and the bureaucracy. Amazing they can still make
it back here with snacks, socks, and water. – [Interviewer] So, if
you had three wishes, what would they be?
– I would have a wishbone. – [Interviewer] A wishbone? – And a funny bone, and a backbone. – [Interviewer] (laughing) You’re gonna have to explain that. – Well, a wishbone so
that you have your wish, anything, and a backbone so
that you can stand up tall and deal with your average jogging person or somebody that’s got a home, PTA moms, and have a backbone for that. Stand up straight and tall. So, I’m homeless, but
you hold your head high. And a funny bone, laugh it off ’cause at the end of the
day, you’re still homeless, and you have to. – Wow.
– You have to, yeah. – [Interviewer] Well, thank you very much for talking to me. – You’re welcome very much for– – [Interviewer] And it’s
an honor to meet you. – I have never heard anybody
say it’s an honor to meet you. That just blows me away. My pleasure. (upbeat music)