Archive for Homeless Outreach

Cause for Celebration

// June 3rd, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Animals, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach

Malibu Logoon State Beach 071If you read the blog, then you know that Thursday was a pretty hard day for me. There was just so much crap that I had to deal with and it really got to me. But thanks in part to my Canon Rebel, my friend Franklin and Kitchen 24 and of course the peace only God can give, I was able to end my day on a good note.

It’s now 11:22pm on Friday night, my friend Franklin is gone home, Dodger is perched in his favorite spot, the news is in the background and I am smiling and just being thankful…..oh I also have a glass of red wine.

The plan today was to take it easy, work on my website, do laundry and catch some awesome jazz at LACMA. Well I never had the chance to do my laundry because some people hog the three washers for the entire building and jazz took a back seat to some chill time with Franklin and doing my best to help him get his internet up and running. Even after calling my friend Darlyna, we were unable to get him all set up.

I knew he would be bummed out so I ask him if he wanted to go for a walk with Dodger and I and maybe get something to eat. he said yes and off we went. I am happy that once he left he was smiling and not letting the fact that he is not on the internet just yet get to him. Although I know how he might be feeling because when I order internet from AT&T it was two weeks after the install before it was working and even now I still dont have the speeds that I pay for and most times the internet does not always work.

So one of the people I do peer support for is now in a great spot. Thanks to my yelling, screaming and demanding that hos blood work get taken care of NOW instead of later and thanks to me not allowing people to push him aside any longer, he is now back on meds and has seen a Dr. for the many issues he has done all he could to get addressed.

What stands out the most for me is that the Dr. thanked me for being so “proactive” and “forceful” in making certain that he needs were addressed. He said most people would have just left defeated and not return. He laughed as he told us “I hope I never get on your bad side”

I can’t even begin to tell you how good I feel right now in knowing that someone is now in care, has meds, had his medical needs not just addressed, but take care of. Just knowing that he is sleeping well tonight is such a great feeling.

Frustration

// June 3rd, 2011 // 1 Comment » // friends, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach

There are times when I have to take a step back and ask myself why I do what I do. There are times when I feel like what I do does not make a difference as far as the big picture is concerned. I say this because there is almost no change taking place in the way organizations handle and are for the people they claim to to doing so much for.

Yeah, I know there are those organizations who have testimonials from people they say they’ve helped, but having been one of those people I have to question just how much of that “testimonial” is truth and how much of it is “forced” I say this because I know plenty of people who have been homeless and tons more who are low income, living in low income housing who say things in order to get a gift card for food, referrals for service and all sorts of things. But when you get right down to it and are able to speak to them about what is really going on and how much these places truly help, without the pressure of having a representative  from the organization present, more times then not, the story will change.  Let’s just face it, just like AT&T will not place on their website or printed information how many times they screw customers over, neither will a homeless service organization or any other organization place it there either.

Yesterday afternoon I get a call from someone I do peer support for and right away from the tone of the persons voice I could tell they were upset. Just to confirm this, right away I asked and just as I thought, they were agitated by something that had just taken place.

After speaking with the person and trying to get them to relax and after they asked me to call to try to get a clear answer, I make a call to their case manager who does not answer their phone. So I call another line and get someone who is able to let the person know that I am calling. I was finally able to get the person on the line only to feel like I am being “stonewalled”

Skid Row is like the wild, wild west. Organizations play by their own set of rules and seem to have this “we you gonna tell” attitude about it. I would even say they have this “let’s just fake it until we get caught and they we’ll address it” This is where testimonials come in handy. If you get enough deprived, under cared for, neglected people to say things like “this place did wonders for me” then chances are complaints from people who say otherwise will go ignored.

Many times rules and regulations are set in place, not to help, but to discourage people. If you already have someone dealing with medical issues, housing issues, food and clothing issues or even transportation issues, then adding one more issue or as i like to call them “road blocks” will only cause them to give up and go away and in the end the organization has successfully achieved its unwritten mission.

I mean come on, if a doctor says their patient would greatly benefit from A, B or C, then why would someone stand in the way of the overall medical and mental welfare of someone they claim to be “helping” let me take this just a step further, how can you help someone when you have no clue of what the person is dealing with? How do you help someone when you have no respect, no compassion for the people you say you do so much for? In order words how can I be a heart surgeon and no nothing about the heart….I don’t even know where it is located or how it works.

Later that afternoon I get another call from someone else totally lost with the HIV maze and has no one to turn to. For 45 minutes I listen to this person break down and cry, tell me how they feel like giving up and ask me things like “what have I done wrong” or “why can’t this be fixed”

It frustrates the fuck out of me, because all I can really do is listen and do my best to comfort each person and encourage them to remain engaged. All I can do is allow them to be heard, vent, yell, scream and yes break down and cry, because case managers do not have time to do any of this…they don’t even have time to care.

It frustrates the fuck out of me because after they are calm, after they have been heard, after tears have dried, I then have to encourage them to go right back into the lions den, right back into harms way, right back to the very person, place or things that have caused this in the first place.

I wish that I could wave a stick in the air and tables could be reversed and the people who don’t seem to get the clear fact that there is a HUMAN LIFE at the other end…….let me take that back, I would I could wave a stick in the air and give them a full taste of the bullshit, red tape, office politics, games and drama that they play every single day, calling it work.

I wish I could wave a stick and give each and everyone one of you assholes what it is like to be ignored when you’re in need. Wave that stick and see to it that you eat from a trash can simply because I failed to do my fucking job and then act like it is your fault. Wave a stick and hold you hostage to pain and suffering simply because I do not give a flying fuck about you. Wave a stick and watch you suffer while I go home and forget you even exist.

It is bad enough in this country to be homeless and be fully engaged in doing all you can to change things and the people in line to help you only cause you more hardship, force you to be more broken.

God knows that people with HIV or AIDS deal with enough stigma and ignorance, but to then have the stigma and ignorance come from the very place in line to help you. The very place that you must turn to for help is a breeding ground for HIV and AIDS stigma and ignorance. PLEASE tell me how this is going to help anyone?

After my last phone call I sat on the sofa for one minute and then I smiled because I was thinking of people like Ms. Lopez who treated me with respect and kindness and I now sit in this apartment because she cared. I think of the clinic and amazing Dr. I now have and how HIV is no longer something that causes me such heartache and pain….because they care. I think of my friends who suit up and show up when I can’t even get my ends to look at each other let alone meet. When after 96 job interviews I am still unemployed and $220 per month does not cover even the most below living expense. I think of the people I know who do outstanding jobs for the people they serve and do so because they CARE.

I jumped on my bike and went for a ride. I had hoped to find Judy, but no luck and just as I was heading back home to Hollywood someone stopped me to say “HELLO”

My friend Sells who I met in the West Los Angeles cold weather shelter was smiling at me, looking like a new person, riding a bike with no back pack and many layers of clothes. He was smiling and happy. After over three years of homelessness and three years of begging for help, he found a place on his own. He is now in school and the cell phone I gave him through my cell phone outreach has now been replaced by an iphone that he purchased.

It is very sad that I, like many thousands of people have nothing nice to say about the old guard that has long been in charge of helping homeless people and people with disabilities. This is not to say that these places do not employ some outstanding people who do great work and truly care about the people they serve, but those people are too far and few in between. Those people end of leaving the field and what’s left is the garbage that hold seats of authority, making up silly pointless ass rules so they don’t have to lift a finger to help as many people as they could.

But it’s people like Sells and all the other amazing people whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, people who do care and go far and above what is required to help those in need where I gain my a portion of my strength and courage to “keep it pushing” and then there is my FAITH in God.

With God I am the majority and with God I can do all things.

In my prayers I do not ask God to give me the strength to claim the mountain of mess, I pray that he moves it out of the way.

Growth and Change

// May 30th, 2011 // No Comments » // Animals, beach, Canon, diet, Exercise, friends, health, Health and Fitness, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach, Me Time, Pictures

JAZZ & ART @LACMA 046This long holiday weekend  has been awesome. It started with jazz at LACMA and today it ended with an awesome day of picture taking with my friend Franklin, who was just one of my friends who helped me kick my weekend off. All I can say is that I’ve had an amazing, fun filled weekend.

Franklin and I have been spending lots of time together and I must say that it has been simply awesome getting to know him better and spend so time with him. I already blogged about how I met Franklin and already talked about some of the things he deals with in his daily life. It has been so cool to watch him open up and grow, so cool to watch him move from someone who barley spoke a word to someone who talks and smiles, so cool to watch him go from someone who stayed in his dark apartment, to someone who now calls me about going on picture safaris.

It is simply so amazing to watch how the gift of friendship can help to change things for someone. How simply showing up and refusing to allow someone to waste away can mean the world to the life path that someone is on. This is why the word “friendship” means so much to me and why I never just throw the word “friend’ around.

My friends are all straight and all couples,  newly weds with a baby, while another has been married a few years with aJAZZ & ART @LACMA 089baby on the way, another couple planning a wedding and the last couple has been together for a very long time. They are all great people and to be very honest they are great friends, not just supportive of me, but of my community work as well.  At times I feel like a third wheel, even though I know when they ask to hang out they truly want to see me and have some hang time with me.

Until Franklin I had no single friend and with him I get a friend who is not only single, but we also share the common interest of photography, jazz, classical music and so much more. Like me, Franklin is HIV positive, so there is just one more thing we have in common and one more thing we can help to support each other through.

For the past two months, maybe three I’ve been thinking of how I am going to grow and change, not just my organization, but in my personal life too. Just last month I had a great HIV check up and in order for that to continue I need to make certain I am doing everything I can to keep my body healthy and stay off HIV medications.

Purpose 118To address this I have been back on my bike and taking longer walks with Dodger, I am also doing all that I can to address more healthy eating habits, however doing this is a huge challenge on government assistance, but I am doing all that I can. The main thing is that i am making certain in get rest and plenty of exercise.

In addition I am also removing people, places and things from my life that only serve as distractions and yes, even problems or drama. This is going to be key in my overall health and well being. It’s funny to me how once you make your mind to be a better person all the way around, people, places and things start to work against you. All of the sudden people you never hear from are now calling, people, places and things start to do more to show up and be distractions and this is where I need to make certain I am clear in where I am going and what I want to accomplish.

The cool thing is this, with getting rest and more exercise I have seen major changes in my mood, my energy and my Sickle Cell is not given me that much of a problem. My days seem to be more full of energy and my stress level is very low. I seem to be smiling more, if that is possible for someone who smiles all the time.

Now let’s talk about my outreaches because they too are changing and I am adding an addition to my HIV outreach.

Do Something Saturday~that empowers people

This is my oldest and most visible outreach and for the past four years I have run this outreach out of my own pocket orMalibu Logoon State Beach 122 efforts combined with the backing and support of my friends and supporters. It’s been awesome and the people I have been able to reach has been great, but it is time to step it up and take this outreach to the next level.

I dont mind sharing my ideas or even talking with friends about what I want to do or how I can help them. But I must say that my feeling get hurt when I my ideas at work in organizations that do not even respect people like me. My feelings get hurt when I see people collect awards for an idea that was mine, but simply because they have the backing of some non-profit or people with deep pockets.

These past three months I’ve had to really swallow my pride and set my feelings aside and know that my ideas are at work making things better for people battling HIV and AIDS as well as people who are homeless or transitioning from homelessness into having their own place.

I’ve always said I do not so this for someone to call my name or to get some award, however it does not feel good to see other people take credit for my idea or something I’ve worked damn hard at. I simply does not feel good.

So no more will I allow organizations who wont even allow me to volunteer for them, take my ideas and use them for their good only to line their pockets and flip me or even people like me the middle finger.

I will say this as I have said all along, you cant help people if you do not speak with them and seeing what I have seen and reading what I have read from 4 very different mega funded organizations really makes me angry, but not in a bad way, i that makes sense. It makes me angry enough to do more, push harder and raise my voice that much more, so that people who are seen but not heard have their concerns addressed.

Malibu Logoon State Beach 193I am adding a support group for people battling HIV or AIDS to my Skid Row outreach. I am just so sick and tired and hearing the same old tired line from the “community” and even people at “ASO’s” when it comes to addressing the needs of people who are greatly affected by HIV and AIDS.

No longer will I wait for people to return emails after I’v sent several and even had face to face conversations with such people. I will no longer accept “they are out of my SPA area” I will no longer wait while HIV and AIDS continues the path it has always been on unchanged since the start of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

After reading this you will understand why I need to remove some people, places and things in my life that only take up space and offer up nothing. I can not allow my health to fail me because I am not doing all I can to remain in good health.

Tomorrow is day 1 in the journey of positive growth and change for both me and my organization.

Today I ended my awesome weekend at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. I am uploading the 344 pictures I took and the video of the day is already live on my youtube channel. I will share the other surprise later this week in either a blog or vlog.

I hope you all have had a great holiday weekend.

Keep Good Moving Forward

// April 15th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach

If I have learned anything from my blog and my vlog on YOUTUBE is that people are always going to have something to say. No matter how well you do something or how much you do it, someone is always going to do all they can to come against any good that comes out of the work that I do.

Nana use to call people like this “ass licks” She said they were so unhappy with the way things are in their own life that they will go out of their way to try to make people feel just as lousy and lost as they feel. She said just ignore them and they will find someone or something else to bother or come against. She always said it has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with them. It’s just who they are.

The other day I posted a video on my youtube channel about a BlackBerry I gave away to someone who is homeless and battling HIV. Now this person works part time and his phone was stolen. Since I have a program called “Keep-n-Touch” I was able to simply replace the phone that was stolen from him. He already has a cell phone plan so all he had to do was simply call his cell phone company and have his service placed on the new phone.

The phones that I give away are pre-paid and come loaded with minutes and it’s own number. This takes away the hardship of up front costs of paying for a prepaid phone. Most people are able to keep up with a prepaid phone. I am not sure how many phones I’ve been able to give away, but I know it is over 300 phones and I have also seen people who still have the phones that were given to them over 4 years ago.

However there are always those people who say “how does this help?” or “how will they pay for the service” People like this will never reach out to help anyone because they are always going to looking for something wrong or a reason that the person in need would fail. They truly cant see how simply reaching out to offer help to someone could some how, some where down the line help the person in need.

I have lots of people who visit my blog and even visit my youtube channel who make all these huge claims about how much they understand and how much they care, but they will never lift one finger to help me do what I do nor will they help anyone right where they live. People like this are a huge waste of time and energy and not worth one second.

I would rather spend the rest of my life doing all I can to help someone in need, then sitting around coming up with reasons why I should do nothing. Some people will always look at things and find reasons why they shouldn’t do anything to help make things better, but at the same time will sit and complain about things until they are blue in the face.

I will say that sometimes it is very hard to take on some many comments from so many people and there are times when I feel like not posting a video or posting another blog, however I will never stop doing all that I can to help people and I will never allow someone who is so unhappy with their own life and how things are in their own world deter me from reaching out to help as many people as I can.

I know I can’t help everyone and there is no way I will ever be able to make homelessness, poverty or the stigma of being HIV positive go away, but I can do all I can to try to make people feel better.

So for all you people who try to get me not to care and wish I would stop trying to help, you should really find something else to do, someone else to bother. I will never stop caring and I will never stop trying to help.

Stay Focussed

// March 9th, 2011 // No Comments » // Animals, Chef, Cooking, friends, health, Homeless Outreach, Me Time

Do Something Kits 016As I have said before here and even on my youtube channel, getting my final pay check from Tri Delta Sorority has been like pulling teeth. After several calls to the house director and several emails to the house president all of which went unreturned, I finally called an attorney who was more than happy to help me with this matter.

It’s really too bad that things ended this the way they did. As I have said before working for the girls was cool, but the house director was something completely different and to be honest I can see why she doesn’t stay at one job for more than 2 years. I was in the office when my attorney friend called her and she acted as if she didn’t even know who I was or what she was being asked, but she quickly changed her tune when she was asked for a number for her boss.

After spending far too much time dealing with this mess I came home and went for a very long walk with Dodger. Before leaving the my attorneys office, she reminded me that my health was something I needed to stay focussed on and not to allow this to discourage or upset me. I do have some money saved up, but I know it wont last long, so not getting my last check is really starting to bother me. However I did listen and hear what it was she was saying to me.

After walking Dodger I took some pain pills and reclined to take a short nap. I had not been sleep for an hour when someoneDo Something Kits 008knocked on my front door. Dodger barking and running to the door made it hard for me to ignore it and go back to sleep. I went to the door only to see the smiling face of my friend Bradly and his two kids, they even had their little dog in toe. I totally forgot they were coming over.

He is very much aware of the situation with Tri Delta and had called to spend some time time with me just to take my mind off things. He also wanted to drop by some items for Do Something Kits. Since I had the help I opened the door to the closet where I keep the bins with the items in it and asked if he would be willing to help me organize them. He said yes and two hours later we were done.

I cant tell you just how much it meant to me to have a friend stop by to help me stay focussed on something else. It was also nice to see his kids and spend some time catching up as well as laughing. Before they left the girls asked if they could talk about me and the work that I do in their class when they return to school. I smiled and say “yes” and this is when they began to tell me what they would say. Now his kids are 9 and 10 years old, they know about my Sickle Cell, battles with cancer, my 29 months of  homelessness and even my HIV.

Do Something Kits 010They talked for a bout 10 minutes and by the time they were done I could feel the tears about to fall from my eyes. I gave Bradly a hug and kissed them goodbye. When I closed the door the tears just came on like a flood gate had been opened. I could not even fight them or control them. The things they said were so kind and pure, to be very honest they were innocent and very raw at the same time. What made me cry was that here were two kids only 9 and 10 years old and they had such love, respect and compassion not just for me, but towards people in general. I was crying because I dont know many adults that have this. My tears fell even more when I thought of them growing up and the innocents about them is replaced by life and how it can change a person.

It wasn’t long before Bradly called to make sure I wasn’t crying for too long. I laughed when he mentioned it and he told me how much his kids as well as him and his wife think the world of me and what I do. He told me not to allow the actions of Tri-Delta and their director get the best of me. He reminded me that I am far better than that and what I do for people in need is far better then cooking for people. “God will always make a way for you Louis, he always has and always will. Trust this”

I reclined back and started to drift off when Dodger jumped into my lap and began to lick my face. Dodger always seems to find a way to make me smile, even when I don’t feel like it. He put his little head on my chest looking up at me, closed his eyes and began to snore. I laughed to myself thinking how protected and loved he must feel. I stroked his little body and said “I love you Dodger.”

Today was yet another day where I needed to kind my mind busy, so after my long walk with Dodger I made the rounds toDo Something Kits 009stores to get some items to help round things out for the Do Something Kits. Once I got back home I walked Dodger again and then began to put the Do Something Kits together

In all I was able to make 26 kits, 9 of them are for women. It was so relaxing to sit on the floor and prepare the kits. I had some jazz music in the background and I even made time to make a youtube video. The sun had already began to set by the time I was done. I even had time to clean the rest of the closet out and thanks to my friend Tina and Andy I will be doing a Sunday Dinner this weekend for homeless people here in Hollywood.

As I started to clean up I was reminded of something my friend KoKo said to me about a week ago and that was no longer having that job will allow me far more time to do what I love to do. She is so right. While not having a job is never a good thing as far as income is concerned, but as far as my overall health and well being is concerned I know I made the right choice and I know that things will all come together and I will be just fine.

I refuse to allow some job to hold me captive or cause my health to fail me. I refuse to allow some sick woman cause me stress and I refuse to allow some little girls with no real world experience treat me like I am so dirty dead animal laying in the road. It’s funny how they said they loved me and cared so much for me, but that love and care is taken away when I do what is right for me, taken away when it comes to paying me my final check.

Do Something Kits 014From here on out my focus is on my work and nothing else and just as my friend Bradly reminded me, God will always take good care of me, just like he has done my entire life.

Now let’s just hope and pray that my transsexual neighbor will not be fighting with her crack head boyfriend all night and I am able to get some much needed sleep and rest.

“Connection without Bureaucracy”

// March 4th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // friends, Homeless Outreach

Chilling 018This week has been pretty relaxing for me. I’ve emailed my resume for two job openings that my friend told me about and later she went a step further and recommended me for the job. I have a pretty good feeling about, but the best thing is that I no longer has the incredible and in many cases life threatening stress of cooking for people who truly did not appreciate it. The possibility of working in the field where. I already do my community work is simply awesome and I am so looking forward to it.

Thursday I got a call from my long time friend who happens to work in the area of homelessness and not long along I had the chance to work with her in developing an idea for something she was planning to do. In the end the brainstorm we did together came together for the greater good and helped people in need. She was calling to invite me to a “thank you” lunch. I was so touched that she even thought to call me. She is my friend and I believe in what she is doing, so I was more than happy to help in any way.

Today after spending some time sending out more resumes and also spending some much needed time with Dodger, I headed for Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles to have lunch with my long time friend and the volunteers who did such an awesome job of helping people in need.

Since some of the people that I do peer support for down on Skid Row were just a small portion of the people who were able toChilling 020 benefit from the outreach, I had already heard from them just how successful the event was and most importantly how very thankful they were to be able to be part of the people who received gently used dishes to help make their house more of a home.

When I started Do Something Saturday, the main goal was to restore dignity and respect to homeless people. As the outreach grew to include children and seniors and then to offer services to people who are low income or formerly homeless, the goal remained the same. Today I am so proud of what I have created and how through the help of some very kind hearted people, who not just understand what I am trying to do, but have embraced it and have gone above and beyond to help me be of service to people who are in need.

Having the chance to meet the other people who worked so hard in order to make things just a bit better for others was so awesome. The chance to hear first hand just how very important it is to them to be involved to help make things better for people who are suffering, people who are in need, truly meant the world to me and to hear first hand how other every day people are willing to stand up for what is right in order to make this earth a much more peaceful place was simply inspiring to me.

Chilling 050Today my friend took us all to lunch to show her appreciation and thanks to us for helping her make her event a huge success, but in the end it is me sitting being so thankful to her for allowing me to be of service to those who are in need through the amazing work she is creating.

I smiled, laughed and had an amazing time today, not in celebration of myself, but in celebration of my friend for the awesome job she did for those who are in need. The great care she took, her refusal to be discouraged by red tape and BS. In celebration of a friend I have always admired, respected and looked up.

I smiled, laughed and had an amazing time because I got to see someone who happens to be my friend doing all she can to “restore dignity and respect” to people who go without it. In my friends eyes and in her smile I had a front row seat to something that has been the core of what I do……”connection without bureaucracy”

She took us to lunch to thank us, but I was the one who walked away being so thankful. How cool is it to see the same passion in your friends eyes that you have deep in your soul. How cool is it to wake up one day to discover that someone you grew up with has the same care and passion for people that you do? How cool is it to have friends who care as much and sometime far more than yourself?

Today I saw the core of what I do, the core of what I work so hard at in a dear friend of mine and my soul smiled, my heart feltChilling 035 joy……..”connection without bureaucracy”

YOU ROCK KoKo

Awesome Week

// February 12th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Chef, Cooking, friends, health, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach, Me Time, work

Although this week went by very fast, it was a very busy week for me, with changes taken place at work and outreaches, placing final things in order for the rest of the month as well as getting ready for what could be a battle for my job. By Friday I was feeling a cold trying its best to get stronger from the day before, but Friday night I took measures to head it off at the past.

WORK

This was the last week of having two chefs of the kitchen. The other chef who cooks dinner give her notice and Friday was her last day. If you have been reading this blog then you know how hard ti was to work with her, but I did all I could to make the situation work. However in the end she made the choice that she had mentioned several times before which was to quit and find a job that worked best for her.

The last week working with her was very pleasant, for some reason she was very relaxed and in many ways very helpful and considerate, but she stuck to her guns about helping to keep the pantry and refrigerator clean and stated true to form with ordering far more then what was needed and three times used items that were supposed to be for breakfast or lunch. However this is now in the past as Friday was her last day.

She seems to be very happy with the new job she will be working and I am happy that she found a place that she feels will work best for her. She will be working at a very high placed eatery in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. A place I am very fond of and a place that has a really cool vibe.

The other thing that took place this week was the fact that I would be training the new chef on Monday and Tuesday of next week. I also was asked by the director to plan a dinner menu for the week as well, but by Wednesday after ordering food for the following week I was told that this would not be the case because there would be no evening chef, but instead a catering company that would not require any training or assistance from me.

For me this raised some red flags mainly because I use to cater and I know the ultimate goal was to have the entire operation and not just part of it. Moreover, according to the house director they have requested that I be out of the kitchen by 1:30pm, which is 30 minutes before my schedule time ends. I raised this point with the director and she did her best to simply dodge the issue with the answer of “well I will have to talk to Brian and see what he has to say about this.”

Now according to the director, the kitchen is about six thousand dollars over budget. For me this is hard to swallow because we have never been given a budget for the kitchen. In any case just while going over all the invoices and making certain that all bills have been paid and that we are current with each vendor, I find that we have nearly a eight thousand credit with the very vendor the director made the choice to stop using.

I made my finding known to the house president as well as to the house treasurer expressing that it would be better to no longer order from other vendors until will use this credit that we have with the other vendor. Doing so would bring the kitchen back on budget with room left to move. They thought this was best, but we will see what takes places in the coming weeks.

As I stated before, the order for next weeks food had already been placed, instead of simply refusing all the items that were order for dinner, the director made the choice to keep the entire order saying “We will just use the extra dinner items for lunch” However in our meeting just last week, the house president expressed that sometimes lunches are a bit heavy, these would be menus that I have not planned, but menus submitted by the house director or the former evening chef. When I mentioned this to the director she simply said “It would not be fair to Oscar if we cancel half this order. They will just have to deal with it.”

Other the this my time at work has been awesome, as I have stated many time on this blog and on my youtube channel the girls I would for are awesome and I love working for them. I made some baked tofu this week and even introduced Soy Lettuce Wraps which were a hit with the entire house. Something the director said would not be well received by the meat eaters. Again she was dead wrong, but then again she always is.

So my goal next week to to continue to do the very best job I can and do all that I can to make sure the kitchen runs on budget, meals continue to be awesome and that the members remain happy with the service I provide them. Judging from the applause I got after a Friday brunch where at one point I had next to 15 brunch tickets stacked up on the counter and from the all the smilies and love the girls continue to shower on me, I am certain my job is till secure. However I am leaving nothing to chance.

OUTREACHES

By Friday I wasn’t feeling all that great so I was happy that I had made some arrangements with my friend KoKo who had some donations from  cousin Mona to give to me because she could not use them. So the items that I planned to do the Skid Row outreach for were passed to my friend and she would drop them off next week.

When I am not feeling well it is always so nice to have a friend like KoKo help me do with I do and even better to know that people like Mona are out there doing what they can, when they can to help people in need. I was also able to get some information from my friend that will help someone who is homeless and looking for a place to live. Through her advice and support I am hoping that this person will follow though and eventually get his own place to live.

I’ve also received a few emails from one of the guys down at Chess Park. His cell phone has died on him, so he asked if I could help him get another phone. I just happen to have a few phones in my donations closet, so I am able to give a phone to him. I just need to load some minutes on the phone and then meet up with him on Sunday. I will also be able to give him a hygiene kit as well.

One of the cool points of my week was the pleasant surprise I received from my friends Kim and Nicole who live in Milwaukee. They sent three boxes with shoes, Do Something Kits and a brand new Fox Sports jacket. The shoes and jacket were part of the outreach to people on Skid Row battling HIV and AIDS. Thanks to my friend KoKo the outreach went on as planned, so this was awesome for me.

SATURDAY

It’s Saturday and it is beautiful outside. Because I am not feeling my best I am simply going to take it easy and relax today. I need to be in top health come Monday as I prepare to pull out all the stops and stay on top of my game. A task I am sure the director thinks I will fail at badly. She must not know about me.

Happy 4 Year Anniversary Do Something Saturday

// February 8th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // beach, Cooking, friends, Homeless Outreach

Do Something Saturday & Old LA Zoo 021On February 3, 2011, the outreach that I created while I was homeless celebrated it’s 4th birthday. it was such a happy and proud time for me. Who would have ever thought that my attempt to reach out and help people who are homeless would grow to what it is today and be so embraced, loved and respected by so many?

Now I could have simply went out with some friends to celebrate this milestone, but instead I am taking the entire month to be of service to homeless people, low income families and people living with HIV or AIDS. This past weekend (Saturday, February 5th) the month long celebration kicked off in the area in which it was created with an outreach to homeless people in Santa Monica’s Chess Park.

I also had the cool opportunity of doing this outreach as with many of the outreaches with a good friend of mine. Together we spent the day with some pretty cool homeless people feeding them Jumbo Jacks, bottle water and passing out Do Something Kits. We hung for about an hour, laughing and talking, I also had the chance to speak with someone who is looking for housing and I am hoping with the connections I have I will be able to help him get started in the right direction toward ending his homelessness.

The cool thing was the fact that just two days before the outreach I received an email from someone who was so helpful to me whenDo Something Saturday & Old LA Zoo 007 I was homeless. To be honest if it wasn’t for him I would have been close to death on what was the coldest February on record, by showing me how to use newspaper to help keep me warm and how to dig a small trench to prevent the wind from blowing across my body while sleeping on the sand at the beach. It was so cool to see him. Later this week I will be picking up a cell phone and taking it to him so he is able to stay connected.

My evening was spent with my friends taking a cool, but very short tour of the old Los Angeles Zoo. I had no clue that there was a such thing, so I was happy that I was able to hang out with them to take some pretty cool pictures.

Do Something Saturday Outreaches 011Sunday I had someone stopping by to drop off donations for the Do Something Kits. This person watches my YOUTUBE channel and happened to see me on the bus coming home from work one day. I was on the phone, but we got off at the same stop and he tapped me on my shoulder to say hello. It was really cool to have met him and later it would mean donations for the Do Something Kits.

Do Something Saturday & Old LA Zoo 008He and I hung out and talked while I finished cooking “Sunday Dinner” for homeless people. This was an added outreach that I planned since I knew I would be home and had the money to purchase the food. After passing out 12 chicken dinners and 10 Do Something Kits, I had the cool opportunity of speaking with this awesome young man on camera.

I could not have asked for a better way to kick off the month long 4 year celebration of Do Something Saturday. I spent this very special time with my friends and then had the amazing honor and pleasure of meeting someone who watches my youtube channel and wanted to get involved.

Looking forward to sharing all the amazing stories from the outreaches as well as the photos all month long.

Thanksgiving

// November 9th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Cooking, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach

cooking with Kengi 011Last year was my first Thanksgiving in my apartment and it was the first Thanksgiving outreach that I have done here in Hollywood marking the second overall Thanksgiving outreach to homeless people here in Los Angeles County. Each time I approach an outreach I do my best to see how it will really help people right now, not weeks, months or years from now. I guess from being homeless I know helping someone right now means so much more to a homeless person.

Last year was the first time I was able to not just feed homeless people, but formerly homeless people and people battling HIV or AIDS, by providing three food boxes to families in need. Thanksgiving day, with the help of friends I was able to feed about 75 people a home cooked Thanksgiving meal. Later I enjoyed the evening with my friends.

So as I type this blog  I am doing so from a much different place then last year. As I said before it was my first Thanksgiving living here after being homeless for 29 months which came to an end in June of 2009. However this year I now have a job and I am able to simply help people instead of waiting and hoping that people will donate items to make what I do possible. I know I can always count on my core group of supporters, but it is now nice to know that I can contribute far more then I use to.

The goal will once again be to feed homeless people, but this year the goal is to provide 10 Thanksgiving food boxes to low income families who are formerly homeless or battling HIV or AIDS. So far thanks to the support of my two friends Tina and Andy who donated two large bags filled with boxes of cornbread dressing mix. I have two people who have said they will donate turkey’s and the rest I will balance out.

I still need someone with a car to help me get the items to the families and also Thanksgiving day I will need people to help me pass out the food to homeless people here in Hollywood.

Once again this will be another Thanksgiving where I am so thankful and humbled by all the blessings God keeps sending my way and yet another year that I will be able to be a blessing to others through my Do Something Saturday outreach.

Another Week

// November 7th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Cooking, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach, Me Time

Shoes 010It’s Sunday and once again I have another week in my review mirror. It was a blessed week, but also a trying week at times when it came to work, but I made it through it and I am so thankful for where my life is and how things have been going for me.

WORK

As I have said before I am so happy to be working again and to be able to pay my bills and have money to do things for myself without having to depend on others to help me. However being back at work brings a whole new test for me. The test to continue my growth and to see just how much i have really changed.

As I said in my last blog, the director and other chef can be hard to deal with. They clearly don’t like each other and they both try to put me in the middle. Well this week I worked on not allowing this to happen and in two cases it caused problems in the kitchen between me and the other chef. She clearly does not want to be there any longer, but she clearly can not afford to not have this job. However this week she has done all that she could to make the work environment a real pain in the ass.

When she shows up she brings this energy that brings the entire vibe of the kitchen down, she also brings this “I have aMonday 042culinary certificate and you don’t” atmosphere with her. She is constantly ordering the wrong items or just not ordering things I need for the two meals I prepare, which causes me to make last minute changes. The director simply says nothing and allows this to happen, but will then sit back and complain when she is asked to go to the store to correct the problems.

Friday it all came to a head for me when she came into work simply walked around for 10 minutes, set up the chaffers for lunch and then left the kitchen. Now this was after she pulled the very same thing on Thursday when I came back from break at 12:30 only to have her leave the kitchen and stay in the basement until 2:00pm. Both times she did this meant that the dishwasher and I were left to run the kitchen alone with no help from her.

When she finally came back to the kitchen long after brunch was started, walking in like she is the last Queen on the planet and then ordering the dishwasher around, I stopped her dead in her tracks. I asked where she had been, why she would simply walk off leaving work that is to be shared by both of us to me and the dishwasher. I asked her what her problem was and shy she always comes to work with such a “stank ass” attitude.

She acted as if she had done nothing wrong, but later asked me if we could talk and this is when she broke down into tears telling me that she would rather work alone. She said she was angry that I have come in and done a great job while she has been there for 8 weeks and still continues to struggle and have a very hard time. She is angry that the members seem to like me better then her and wonders why my two meals are always gone, but her one meal always has a ton of leftovers.

Cooking 035She went on to say that this is her problem and has nothing to do with myself and the other staff members, but she had no answers as to why she treats people on the staff the way she does, no answers for why she cant seem to do her job and no answers as to how she will correct any of this.

However before leaving I did mention to the director that the atmosphere in the kitchen must change and since the other chef has said that the problems in the kitchen are not the other staff members, but her. Since she said that she is not a good fit for the kitchen and does not want to work with me or anyone else, then I feel it is up to the director to make the decision to let her go. But once again the so called director is simply allowing this to continue.

The good news is that I love the work that I have been able to do. I love the working relationship with the dishwasher and the maid. The members are happy with my meals and are happy that I am in the kitchen. it is cool how they come into the kitchen to talk with me and how kind and polite they are when I am in the dinning room.

Overall I would say that I am 95% happy with the job and I am 100% pleased and happy with the meals I have been cooking and simply thrilled at the fact of the members being very happy with how I am working in their kitchen.

When I took the job I knew it would be a challenge to not just return to the high paced forever changing food service in thisCooking 043 area of cooking, but I also knew I would be challenged by someone who has a culinary certificate and feels that since they have this they are some how a better cook and better leader then myself. However what she has learned from working with me is that she is not a better cook and certainly is not a better leader. Her so called degree has not prepared her for a real kitchen where you must be on top on everything from top to bottom without fail….well very little fail.

Her degree has fed her ego and now it is so big she can’t see that she is causing herself so much harm that she could be fired. Her ego will not allow her to allow me to help her with order food and even doing inventory. She must control all of this, because she has been taught that she is not supposed to ask her team members for help.

OUTREACHES

Cooking 070It’s already November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner and this year I want to give complete Thanksgiving boxes to at least 5 families. So far I am pretty sure I will reach that goal. I am also pretty sure I will surpass this gaol. My friends Tina and Andy have already donated  10 boxes of dressing mix, now that I am working I know I will be able to buy 10 turkeys and the rest of the items to go into a box that will help to make this Thanksgiving a time for a a family to be a little more thankful for how their life is truly blessed.

I am also gearing up for a large Do Something Saturday outreach for homeless people battling HIV or AIDS by preparing to give Do Something and Life Kits to Common Ground in Santa Monica, The Jeff Griffith Youth Center in West Hollywood and AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Thanks to the help of my friends Darlyna, Kai, Audrey and Courtney I am already off to a an awesome start for this outreach. Once again, because I am now working I will be able to round out what I am not able to get donated and even add to the total as well.

There are some homeless people right near my job so I will make a point of making certain they have Do Something Kits and when it is possible I will also make certain to see that they get meals and someone checks in on them. There are also a number of homeless people I see on the bus ride to and from work, so I will try to keep Do Something Kits in my backpack to offer to them.

ME TIME

After I get off from work my main focus is on me and Dodger. I make sure that I am spending time with Dodger when ICooking 072come home from work and then also making certain that I take great care of me as well. Bubble baths, long walks and chilling out with friends has been so key for me to unwind and chill out.

Twice this past week I had the chance to hang out with my friend Jason, but I have also had to make sure I was hanging out with him because I wanted to and not because he was bored and has no other friends. Jason also tends to be broke all the time, so I am not about to start treating him each time we hang out.

Wednesday night I had the chance to see a friend that I have not seen in over 8 years. He now lives in New York, has a lover and two kids. Our community work is pretty much the same thing and this is how he found me. Someone in his office reads my blog and watches my YOUTUBE Channel and mentioned what I do. After two months of hearing about me her went to read the blog and then watched a his first YOUTUBE video. He then saw that the person people were speaking about was someone he use to know very well. He reached out and a week later we had dinner. It was great seeing him and hearing all about his life and the work he now calls his mission in life.

Cooking 073Friday I hung out with a new friend Dustin who I have known for a very short time, but when I first met him I was taken by his maturity and how well he seemed to have a full idea of who he is. Dustin is in his early 20’s and doing an internship at APLA. Not many straight Black men at his age grasp how real life really is. He seems to know this very well. it was cool to hang out with him and also have the chance to meet his friend Reecie (I hope I spelled that right)

Saturday was a day with someone who is such a huge inspiration to me and someone I have come to love and admire a great deal, someone who has become like a big brother to me and someone who I know is truly my friend. My friend Donald and I went to the movies to see ‘For Colored Girls’

Let me just say that the movie is awesome and one should be prepared to laugh, cry, laugh and cry again. One should leave feeling inspired to be a better person and live a more healthy and productive life.

It’s funny how for me this movie represented the 90/365 journey I have been doing with my friends from YOUTUBE. it also reminds me of just how vital I am as a Black man and how I have the honor and opportunity to reshape how Black men are viewed by Black women. It’s a great movie that I think all people should take the time to see, but know that many wont because of the title and the all Black cast. This is a shame because we miss out on so much when we allow a title or an all Black cast prevent us from gaining a new perspective and new hope.

It’s Sunday and I am washing clothes while I type this blog. I woke up on Saturday and all of the sudden of felt like FallCooking 075and Sunday brings this feeling even more. There is a chance for rain later today, so I am hoping to be done with the chores around my apartment, head over to Borders to get the last E. Lynn Harris book, spend some time talking with someone I also think of as my brother, only little brother this time. I woke up to texts from Travis, so I want to make sure when he calls I have time to sit and talk with him. Our conversations are always so funny and so fun of life. If he lived here I know he and Donald would also be friends and we would be Black, Bold and Beautiful.

I hope you all have had a great week and an even better weekend. I pray that your week brings both joy and peace into your life and that along the way you stop to take time out to be thankful for the life you have and find peace in the love of God.

I deserve some flowers and I wont wait for someone to feel the same thing. I will buy them for myself, because no one can love me or appreciate me better then me.

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