Californian takes in a homeless couple

Whenever someone tries to get me to share his/her/zir/their enthusiasm for helping migrants, I offer to pay all of the expenses to bring a migrant to the say-gooder’s house. So far, this hasn’t cost me anything, but apparently sometimes this kind of offer is accepted.

“They were homeless. I took them in. Would you?” (Los Angeles Times):

This June, I participated in Safe Place for Youth’s Host Home Program, short-term “interventions” for unhoused young people, ages 18 to 24. In December, stuck in L.A. traffic, my ears had pricked up. Marlene and Michael Rapkin were on the radio describing an inspiring three months they’d spent as two of Safe Place’s initial cadre of hosts.

“Welcoming the stranger” is one of my core Jewish values, and I’d helped with the annual homeless count.

[See “White men correctly perceive American Jews as their enemies?” for my take on this last expressed statement.]

But could I take in someone off the street? What with a recent divorce, my kid’s stint in rehab and college expenses, I’d been renting out a guest bedroom to make my monthly nut. But when a tenant canceled, and I learned that Safe Space offered a small stipend to offset hosts’ household expenses, I challenged myself to “walk the walk” of my social justice values.

If she is enticed by the “small stipend” handed out by the homeless industry, this divorcée perhaps should have planned her foray into California family law more carefully…

I offered to house any of the youths I’d met except that heavily tattooed couple. She had the word “cured” in bold block lettering on one cheek and “More Love” above her brow; his forehead read “Less Hate”; alas, a skater beanie obscured “Less.” … Then I learned that Keyawna and Jesse had been living — sweltering — in their 2008 Kia. I’ve complained that my marriage broke up because my spouse and I shared a bathroom.

How much do multi-color tattoos over a substantial portion of a human body cost? Would the homeless couple have had a decent nest egg if they’d stuck with their factory skin color?

But if the city can’t accommodate artists from economically diverse backgrounds, then only the privileged will get to create. I was also certain face tats were job killers, until Keyawna explained that they fit their “brand,” and most were Jesse’s designs. He’s a visual artist; she’s an aspiring rapper and soul singer. … She told me later they’d hidden their valuables from me too.

If they have “valuables”, why are they homeless?

9 thoughts on “Californian takes in a homeless couple

  1. Fact fact: where I live, providing free residence for 3 years establishes a common-law marriage. It applies to spouses, but also to in-laws, relatives, friends, anyone! After 3 years the provider can be on the hook to continue providing financial support for life.

  2. > How much do multi-color tattoos over a substantial portion of a human body cost?

    If you can break into the industry and get work in a big city (see below), you can charge $150 an hour or more. No word on how much of that goes to the house and how much to the tattoo artist. This data point is from Chi Town Tattoo and Body Piercing in Chicago:
    “Tattoo prices starting from $50 and up. Tattoo hourly rate is $150 an hour.

    Los Angeles: Studio City Tattoo
    Hourly rate $180/hour. Deposit minimum $100. 6 Hour Package Rate $900 for Larger Projects.
    “Good Tattoos Are Not Cheap and Cheap Tattoos Are Not Good!”

    I imagine one could get a fairly significant proportion of his/her/zir/their their body covered for a total of $2,500 or so, plus the aftercare, etc. My *guess* is that facial tattoos cost more/take more time, due to the degree of difficulty. Faces have a lot of contours in a relatively small area. The tattoo artist is going to want to be very careful, I’d imagine. How much is cheap rent in L.A.?

    BTW facial tattoos are increasingly accepted. A lot of people are running out of prime real estate and the “Mike Tyson” / MS-13 stigma has broken down as more normal people get them.

    If these people really intend to try and make a go of becoming artists in L.A., getting the tattoos could be argued as a rational choice, at least to them, because they think they’ll look the part. A couple month’s worth of rent? You also have to wonder what their “valuables” actually are. Maybe they’re not the same types of things normally construed as “valuables”.

    • Alex: “A traditional full-bodysuit tattoo that covers all your skin from the ankles to the neck can easily cost you $100,000 or more. A half-bodysuit tattoo can easily range from $40,000 to $50,000.”


      Tough to say from the pictures in the newspaper, but it looks like these two have a substantial amount invested in tattoos.

  3. Those two were lucky. Actually, all three of them were lucky, it all turned out pretty well, and the author even got a grant to write the op-ed. I can’t find the anger to blame people who at least try to make something like that work without a sad or tragic ending, “social justice values” or just plain old “let’s help someone” values. There are an awful lot of people in this country who wind up broken beyond repair, completely cast away, lost to hell and gone. At 18 to 24 and homeless, you can go a loooooong way bad in a really small span of time and there is no shortage of people who want to help you go. One trip to serious jail, no family around, no support, etc., and they’re in big trouble. Meet the wrong person in a bar and it’s lucky if they find the body.

    Big cities do a tremendous job of talking and wasting money on things that don’t make a dent in the problem, but they enrich the administrators, developers and politicians. You know how true this is. It’s a dangerous thing to invite two total strangers into one’s private home and try to live with them, even if there’s a stipend involved. People can do an enormous amount of damage in very little time if something goes blooey. I find it hard to be too critical of any of these three.

    I say this because about six years ago I knew someone where I live, a young, intelligent hypersensitive English Lit. major type, piercings and tattoos, quasi-Gothic, totally and completely alienated from her family, full of angst and ennui, and bored stiff with where she lived. Just a real piece of work. She worked nights at a gas station with novels piled next to the register. If you put in a little work, she had spark and was an interesting conversationalist, precocious, very observant, but she kept a lot inside unless you could make her smile. Then the floodgates would open and there was a whole inner universe going on that you didn’t expect. I saw her one day just before she left town forever – she was on her way to L.A. after deciding to move all the way across the country, basically hitching a ride with a few acquaintances on a road trip, leaving it all behind to chase a similar dream. I wished her luck when she left, the last words we exchanged were: “Good luck. Be careful!” “Yeah, I know!” Then she got in the car, waved goodbye, and they were gone.

    I hope she’s OK, I never heard from her again. L.A. can be a very cruel place. America can be a very cruel place.

    • Alex: America is cruel? The couple in the story does not have to perform any disagreeable work. They get to enjoy the body art of their choice every day. Other Americans work so that they can have free housing, free unlimited health care, free food, and a free smartphone. In how many societies has that been possible?

  4. @Philg: Well, that’s true also. Like I said, they were lucky. Maybe I overstated it a little at the end by generalizing to America. They’re also freeloaders doing a pretty reckless thing, in the sense you mean. It sounds like the girl had drug problems. Eventually that kind of luck runs out, and I hope they realize it and count their blessings. The article says there were only six people in the program, it’s very small and sounds pretty select. If they manage to screw that up, I hope they won’t get another chance. It would be interesting to see where they are in a year, and if this kind of generosity was a big waste of time and money. I’m bending over backward here to try and give the people in this story the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I should know better by now. I wasn’t trying to be cute.

    I know people game the system and it can be disgusting. I’ve had to evict freeloading tenants who were doing just that, and in Massachusetts it’s no easy task, so I’ve been on the short end of the stick and it cost me almost $10,000. I was going to reply to anon above regarding Massachusetts tenancy laws, wherein a tenant who has signed a rental agreement actually has legal possession of the dwelling that can only be returned to the landlord by a judge’s order. In Massachusetts, a landlord is less a property owner than a “provider of housing” under the law, and if you try to retaliate against a delinquent tenant, violate their “right of quiet enjoyment” or otherwise shirk your obligations just because they stop paying rent, absent a judge’s order, *you* the landlord are the one who hangs. We went through the whole arduous process getting a successful eviction executed, at our expense. We even had to pay to store their belongings.

    So I was being a little soft here but I can turn right real fast. I hope these two realize how lucky they are.

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