I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about a young man I met last July who had just been released from Twin Towers.
I’m considering this a Divine prompt, because I couldn’t shake that memory upon awaking. After a couple hours of pretty darn good detective work, I managed to locate his mother up in Northern California and we had a long chat. Let’s call him Reggie and I am going to use his life story to better understand the meth epidemic that is ravaging our community.
I met Reggie on Tuesday afternoon, July 30 at about 4:30 p.m. The reason I can be so specific is that I was at Union Station planning to take the Red Line back to Hollywood, but I had a 4 p.m. conference call, and I did not want to take it on the train. I bought two pieces of pizzas and found a quiet table in the outdoor plaza and took the call.
With one slice of pizza consumed, I noticed a young man walking toward me. He had a big clear plastic bag with his belongings, and he seemed a bit dazed. His clothes were not clean and his hair was unkempt. I motioned to him and showed him my second piece of pizza. “Are you hungry?” I mouthed at him. Yes! I encouraged him to sit at an adjacent table and asked him to wait so I could talk with him.
Here is what I found out. I have told this story over and over again as an example of multiple things that go wrong when we discharge people from custody with no support.
I learned that he had been in jail for some time, but he was not forthcoming on why. I did not press, because I was more interested in what he was going to do next. He struck me as very kind and respectful, and seemed a bit overwhelmed by his circumstances.
“What is your plan?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have any money and my cell phone is gone.”
After decades on Hollywood Blvd, I rarely give money away, but in this case, it seemed important. I handed him $20. “Where are you going to sleep tonite?” I wondered.
“I’m thinking I will go to 6th and Alameda. There is a place I go there.”
“Well, I have to be in Long Beach on Monday for my probation appointment. And I have to re-apply for my social security because it stops when you are in jail.”
Wait. What? This guy has been released from jail with not a dime in his pocket. His cell phone was stolen. He has no place to sleep. His benefits have been stopped and he has to figure out how to get them re-instated. And, somehow he has to travel all the way to Long Beach to keep his probation appointment! How is that humanly possible? I gave him another $20.
He saw my iPhone on the table. “Do you think I could call my grandma? I have a bank account – its overdrawn by $63 but maybe she could deposit some money for me?”
“Of course you can use my phone!” And this is where his manners impressed me. He said I should dial and hold it up for him so he wouldn’t have to touch my phone.
I think he reached him mom on that call and I could hear the weariness in her voice, as if this was the hundredth time she had received this call. “Reggie, where are you now?”
“I just got out of jail mom. I really need some help with some money.”
The reason I could find her this morning, after donning my True Detective hat, was because Reggie had a crumpled deposit slip in his wallet that I photographed and sent to her, so she could make a deposit. I had the image of the slip, I had her email, and once I spent an hour sleuthing ATT phone records, I could find that phone number from July 30, 2019.
Additionally, I went onto the L.A. Sheriff’s Department inmate locator just to see what I could find out about Reggie, since he is likely out there homeless again. I’m going to need some help deciphering some of the code sections, but this is the framework for his story since I saw him that day:
|Arrested 7/15/19 for a felony in Long Beach.||Released 7/30/19 at 2:36 p.m. (I saw him at about 4:15 p.m.)|
|Arrested 9/4/19 for a misdemeanor in Long Beach.||Released 9/5/19.|
|Arrested 11/9/19 for a misdemeanor in Long Beach.||Released 12/12/19.|
|Arrested 12/20/19 for a felony in Long Beach.||Released 1/15/20.|
|Arrested 5/21/20 for a felony in Long Beach||Released (not sure when) and he has a court appearance scheduled for 6/19/20.|
Now in my next blog, I will share more about Reggie’s life as I had a long talk with his mother. And I will share my impressions about the revolving door that is L.A. County Twin Towers which releases people who struggle with mental illness and perhaps the most debilitating addiction out there – methamphetamine – back to the streets, only to slip back into the abyss. The cycle begins again. Against this background, I also have a story of hope to share, since if there was no hope, this blog would not exist.