Saturday, October 19, 2019

Detroit Couple Hoped to Make It Big in Hollywood, Now They're Homeless

Dashed hopes on the hard streets of L.A.

At the Los Angeles Times, "They came to L.A. to chase a Hollywood dream. Two weeks later, they were homeless":

So many people come to L.A. carrying little else but big dreams. One misstep, one con, one stroke of bad luck can be all it takes to derail them.

I recently met a young couple from Detroit whose journey here started with great hope.

They arrived last spring in possession of a promise, $800, two backpacks and two duffel bags.

The promise was what had prompted them to leave home. But it was broken that first day, before they left LAX.

Their interactions in our city then began to fray so fast that two weeks later they were sleeping on our sidewalks.

I asked them if I could tell their story in part to remind us all how swiftly disaster can strike, but also as a nudge to contemplate how we treat others — our newcomers, our most vulnerable, those we routinely write off.

Why tell a person you’ll help them if really you won’t? Some people like to toy, cats pawing at mice.

In Detroit, Loxk Calhoun (pronounced Lock, born DaShawn), had been scraping by for two years on his own since his mother kicked him out at 18. He was thrilled when someone in the music business encouraged him to come to L.A. He describes himself as an audio engineer who also writes music and raps and performs. He wants to be better known. The guy from L.A. said if Loxk just flew out here, he’d put him up and help make that happen.

But Loxk got here and he didn’t. He offered no help at all. When Loxk called from LAX, he said he’d be out of town for a long time.

Loxk and his girlfriend, Bri Meilbeck, who just turned 24, suddenly had only each other. They were novice travelers. They’d been together just one month. In a giant city, they had no one else whose support they knew they could count on.

In a fix, Loxk called another contact on his phone — a music producer he hadn’t yet met. He was relieved when this virtual stranger said that he and Bri could come stay. But the West Hollywood house they arrived at, which looked like a mansion on the outside, turned out to have bedroom after bedroom crammed with bunk beds. Bri and Loxk didn’t know how many there were or even whose house it was.

They also didn’t know that the producer to whom they had given some money owed rent — until one night after dark they got the word that the landlord wanted them gone at once.

This was the moment when they slipped into homelessness and slipped out of the world as they’d known it. They were the only ones who noticed. They had just $50 left.

As they strained to lug all they owned out the door, they knew that they would have to own less. At a dumpster, they shed a lot of favorite clothes, including Bri’s pink Adidas track suit.

Where to go was a problem. They didn’t know L.A.

But there had been a moment during those early days when they were feeling so overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all that they needed to get away and be alone. So they’d splurged on a cheap room at the Las Palmas Hotel in Hollywood, which in “Pretty Woman” is where Julia Roberts lived in the tough times before Richard Gere.

They’d liked that little brush with fame, though there’d be no fairy-tale rescue for them. Now pushed out of the house, they went back to the Las Palmas and scaled the fence of the park next door. Trying not to be seen, they avoided the playground’s rubber mats and lay down on pavement under Bri’s faux fur coat. All that night, she kept her eyes open.

A couple of years earlier, Bri had gotten very close to finishing college. She’d had her act together. She’d never imagined this.

“I was very scared. You could hear people yelling and screaming. I thought someone was going to rob us,” she told me. On her phone, she searched the discussions on the social news website Reddit, typing in phrases: “I just became homeless,” “Where do homeless people go in L.A.?”

Early the next morning on Venice Beach, the two bummed a smoke from a homeless man with a dog. He offered up tips for their new life.

Wear fresh socks to avoid infections. Go to St. Joseph Center for help. He walked around with them looking for a tarp and pieces of cardboard for their bedding.

That night and for a few nights to come, until they could get their own, he let them sleep in his little tent, squeezed in with him and his German shepherd, in front of the Public Storage at 4th and Rose avenues...