Through years of disappointments and homelessness, Lenita Stanton never gave up—she knew she had to keep going until she found a place to live. As she says: “Homeless to Hollywood!” This story definitely has a very, very happy ending!
“This was the building, of all the ones I applied for, that I really wanted to live in. For months and months I kept praying I would get an apartment. Then, when I got the letter about the Courtyard, it said I was number 7, and they only had 6 units available--and I cried like a baby. I just thought ‘I’m never never going to get out of downtown and have my own apartment again.’ So then I had my little pity party and went on to work.
“Then I got another call saying I had been accepted, and I just couldn’t believe it. I had applied to so many different places, and when she told me it was the Courtyard apartments in West Hollywood, I screamed and cried at the same time. I had been so worried that my hair literally started falling out, and even after I got in here I just could not believe it--I was really terrified they were going to take it away.”
A native Californian, Lenita had moved to Seattle in 1989. Her troubles began about 8 years ago, after the market crash and economic downturn. The company she worked for began downsizing and eventually closed. “I always worked, and raised my kids in Seattle, but I had to go on unemployment for awhile because I just could not find a job. Then finally I wound up losing my apartment, and then my car. I began staying with my daughter, and couch surfing for awhile. I ended up staying with people that I had once helped pay their bills.
“My family in LA found out about my situation, and they sent for me. I stayed with my mom and then my grandparents for awhile, but it was not a healthy situation.”
Eventually, Lenita ended up in downtown LA on Skid Row, in transitional emergency housing. She got a job and started working again, and applied for housing wherever she could. “At one point I just thought, ‘was I ever going to leave here?’ You know, when things start going that far down, you start thinking about ‘what have you done wrong’ – what did I do to deserve this. You know, you go down the list of everything you’ve done wrong in your life and you think this must be what I deserve…and it was a horrible time.” She lived in two different hotels provided by the Lamp Community during the time she was homeless.
“Being homeless is just a really vicious circle unless you are really persevering to get out of there. It is like a world within a world. A lot of people are using drugs and drinking. I can’t even find words to accurately describe the whole experience down there, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. You never feel safe. I was apprehensive about everything. I could go out to my mom’s home on weekends so I could have some semblance of normality in my life--so thank god I didn’t have to be there all the time.
“I had so much anxiety when I was homeless that I started having panic attacks all the time. I haven’t had as many since I’ve been here, and even after almost a year they haven’t entirely gone away but they have decreased substantially. It helps me to know the rent is something that I can afford, so I won’t have to worry about being kicked out ever again. You’d be surprised actually, how many people have problems—you know just when you are feeling ‘why me’ you meet someone who is feeling worse.”
When she moved into her apartment, Lenita had no furniture at all. “I had absolutely nothing. With the Lamp homeless program, you are given a $600 voucher to purchase whatever you need, but that’s it. $600 and you have to work within that. And believe me I was so blessed with that $600. The church gave me the bed, and the little night stand. Lamp gives you a list of stores that they work with, and my housing advocate through the mental health center came and took me to the furniture place where they gave me the couch, the end table and the nice round dining room table. It was amazing—I started crying about that too!”
She didn’t have any furniture for about two months until all the paper work could be processed, but it finally came. She found great bargains at Goodwill when she could (“...you have to know where to look”), and friends she made at the Courtyard have given her many things. “My mom gave me the centerpiece for the coffee table, and the church gave me the bed and a lamp. I won the napkins at the Bingo we have here in the community room! So it is really coming together. I have a TV from Goodwill for $20—you just have to shop the right places and keep looking until you find things.
“The staff here has just been wonderful too--the building manager and the resident services staff are really helpful. They have yoga, meditation, food and refreshments, and guest speakers for safety procedures and earthquake safety, and nutrition and healthy diets, and they have a game night.” In September, Lenita also started taking classes in computer applications and legal assistance at LA City College.
“I’ve never lived in a predominately gay or transgendered community, and I find everybody here is polite and friendly, and everybody minds their own business. They all know that I am who I am, and everybody respects everybody for who they are. I couldn’t ask for a better community to live in. I love my neighbors!
“I am just so blessed. Sometimes I just walk around the apartment and say ‘thank you God, thank you.’ So, that’s my story: Homeless to Hollywood—isn’t that great?!!!”