So I had a meeting at the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health in downtown Los Angeles the other day. They are causing major mental breakdowns with the way they handle parking. There must have been 100 frustrated people waiting in their cars to get into the parking structure. The mental meltdown down continued when I got inside. I now have a picture in their system where I look pretty thick and like I have no chin whatsoever.
A chunky beaker from The Muppets? Or Patrick, the star fish, with a little more hair.
To be fair to LADMH, I’ve seen some great miracles happen on a pretty tight budget. Fifteen years ago I worked with someone who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is now a JD and a mental health advocate. I ran into him the other day and he is happy, doing well and making a difference with his life. I guess it’s good they don’t spend hard earned tax payer money on unneeded necessities like good camera equipment or parking attendents.
After the meeting I took a short walk to grab some lunch. The Chipotle down the street met my needs well and while I was walking back to my car a homeless man stopped my on the street, and questioned me about my leftovers. “Will you be eating that any time soon?” He inquired. “No. Would you like some lunch?” I asked. “I would be most grateful, he responded.” “Come, come, come and sit down so we can talk for a minute,” he persuaded me. And so I did.
The home he had built outside the Department of Mental Health was quite beautifully decorated and I commented on it. “Oh, will you take a picture of it? Then email it to me? I would love to have a picture of my home. “ I thought, “Why not?” And proceeded to take one on my phone. As I attempted to email it to him, I had trouble finding my way around my new phone (being technically savvy is not one of my strengths.) He asked if he could help and when I handed him my phone, he turned out to be quite a wiz with electronics.
I asked him what was hanging from the trees. He explained that he drinks a lot of tea and throws the tea bags up into the tree for decoration. (I may need to steel that tip. It looked really rustic and pretty.) He also had some beautiful plants and was growing fresh food.
He showed me some paperwork he had stamped by the court about getting an appointed attorney for his disability issues. He had been a fisherman in Alaska when he came to this country, but had become injured and was no longer able to work (you can see his broken wheelchair in the background. There is a picture of a woman taped to the wheel right behind his knee, leaning against the tree.) He asked if I had an address he could give to the court. Apparently they would not process his paperwork without one. “When you get their reply in the mail, you could come and bring it to me?”
I run a program in Los Angeles county for youth ages 15-26 who are at risk for severe mental health issues like schizophrenia. In 2011 it was estimated that roughly 4,ooo youth were homeless in LA. With 80% of them being individuals and 20% being homeless youth with children. That’s a lot of kids sleeping on the streets. Many of them grew up abused or neglected and are products of the foster care system. I work with many collaborative groups throughout South LA to address this problem. And one of the biggest problems is not having an address; to put on applications for jobs or housing, or to use for mailing or identification cards. Not having an address hinders you in every way and the homeless in Los Angeles have trouble finding a way around this loop hole. Anyway. I told Izaz I would let him use my private practice address for his court paperwork, and when I received anything I would come and bring it to him. He became very grateful and bowed to me what seemed like a hundred times.
I then told him I had a website and asked if I could put his pictures and email address up on it. He said many people had asked him that “but I don’t know why?” “Maybe someone else could help you too, I explained.” He said “Ok. Yes. You can put it on your website.”
So here it is. Izaz Khan. His home is located at 523 Shatto Place in Los Angeles, 90020.Behind the Department of Mental health building. He is a beautiful and grateful man, who honestly…didn’t ask for much. My leftovers…my mailbox.
He then asked me to get him some cigarettes. I almost immediately said no. Cigarettes are a hard limit for me. But he handed me a box full of the money to cover the cost. “Please. I cannot walk to the store. It is right over there. I would be most grateful if you would take this money and walk there for me.”
And to my surprise I found myself walking over to the Walgreens to buy the cigarettes. I had never bought cigarettes in my life, and was 100% sure there would never be such an occasion. But life continues to teach me that when I think I know something, what I know can sometimes get turned upside down and inside out. There are layers of reasons for the things people do. And at that moment I couldn’t find it in me to judge him for smoking. Or in me to judge me for not being able to hold my hard limit. His gracious, grateful, glowing spirit made me happy. And I wanted to make him happy in return.
Feel free to email Izaz Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org . Or bring him a cup of tea. He will bow and thank you and make you feel a little less unstable than you may have felt when you started your day.
Lady in waiting.
Serving the royalty around me.