EPISODE 69 – YOUTH HOMELESSNESS IN L.A. WITH ROBIN PETERING

In our 69th episode, we chat with Robin Petering (@robinpetering), the executive director of Lens. Co, a research and advocacy company committed to ending youth homelessness in Los Angeles. We speak with Robin about her journey from community-based clinics in Oregon as an undergrad student to her PHD program at USC, which she completed in 2017. Robin and I discuss the definition of “youth homelessness,” including what we do not know about youth experiencing housing insecurity given our current frameworks. We also shout out the Hello Dogtown podcast, a podcast by and for youth with lived experiences of homelessness. Hello Dogtown is produced by Lens Co in partnership with Safe Place for Youth and funded by the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Innovations 2.

J.T.

CirculatinG

While young, we stood tall against each other
Without knowing we were mountains.

Now grown, we stand alone, though
Betraying surfaces like fountains.

Mounting finite time and space,
We turn into the earth again,

The way knowledge turns to wisdom,
Only to become unknown again.

J.T.

This poem is dedicated to every brother, friend and neighbor gone too soon from our communities.

The Rite of Passage in L.A.

Sometimes poverty and addiction is all you see,

Is this the world I left behind to you,

Or is this what was left behind to me?

What I know is I hurt with you when you weep,

Broken promises that left you, scars we both keep.

Keep ya head up, they told me

Now it’s your turn.

Is that destiny?

You see you yourself are not a broken promise, though,

Homie.

But you have to make your way through brokenness,

To know

What’s truly free.

You’ll be free.

J.T.

School Us

School of hard knocks, they say
But name one that be soft, in L.A.

All these cops trying to press with your day,
In our city it’s the price that you pay,

But you’ll learn how to make it, okay
Yeah, you’ll learn how make your own way

To be true in this city so blue,
And still be you during,
Each of its hues.

J.T.

What a Ride, Los Angeles; Our Final Flyer for BTS 2 is Now Live

It’s going to be a show like no other that day in Los Angeles. I sure hope you’ve saved the date! August 24th, 2019 from 4 – 8 PM.

J.T.

Our 2nd Annual Back to School Party is about Fulfilling a Need, Lunging Forward

It’s exactly two weeks from now that on August 24th, 2019, just after 8:00 PM, a group of twenty-somethings and I will be concluding a special event known as the 2nd Annual Back to School Party at El Gran Burrito in Los Angeles.

It’s going to be a small gathering of people and families in the little vicinity of Los Angeles I call home, but one which will draw many eyes for days after it’s over for being a  demonstration of how to move and shake quickly for communities to educate and organize themselves. I’ve yet to fully come to terms with what the implications may be for my ole neighborhood afterwards, but perhaps I’m not supposed to. Perhaps I’m just supposed to believe, or keep believing, because that’s what so much of this has already been: just belief.

When I stop to think about why this is, however, or just how it is that we got here, how we got ‘so deep in’ to holding events like this for people–particularly youth and families–I have to pause.

My mind thinks back to Pasadena, and I remember the first and only Model United Nations High School conference that I put together at Pasadena City College for Pasadena’s high school students as the President of the Model UN club at the college. It was 2012, and I was 21 years old.

I remember being quite disturbed on the morning of the event, particularly by the stillness of everything, the way it seemed to be just a typical day. It was not. For me personally, the day of that High School Model UN conference was a day I had been waiting and planning for months ahead of time. It was another community gathering: a day when young people were to think critically about the world beyond them in a simulated meeting of nations.

Then, in perfectly ironic fashion, on the morning of the event, when there was supposed to be a microphone and speakers setup for my team and I at the college’s amphitheater, where we’d start our conference, there they were: missing in action, that is.

I had to scramble, and I made my way to the main office. I needed to call the whole world at the college, or whoever it needed to be, to let them know that in case they had forgotten, we’d made an agreement to set up this sound system for our conference to take place.

Finally, I was told by the folks at the main office that the equipment would be arriving. But then, my phone rang.

It was time to greet the students and everyone else who came to participate with a commencement speech. One of my fellow-team members asked if I’d prefer that he give the opening speech instead since we were running late due to the missing sound system.

But there was no chance on earth I would let someone else address the audience in my place. I was the president of the club. And I had spent so long planning this conference for the students that they had to wait. And I to run. So I sprang back across campus in my suit and bow-tie to make the opening speech.

I remember that it started to sprinkle, which made it so that I needed to be even quicker if I wanted to pull it off. In Los Angeles everyone is afraid of a little rain. In Pasadena, we were too.

I lunged forward. When finally I got to the amphitheater, I saw them. A whole swath of heads above shoulders huddled together, just waiting to see what would happen next. Three different high schools at Pasadena City College for the day.

How could a part of me not be afraid then; even if I had something to say, how could I know if they’d hear me?

But the rest of me, the one that would take over, was simply going to finish the job I set out to do.

As I stood before the audience then–all the conference’s high school participants as well as their teachers–looked at me, and I was ready to speak to every one of them; whether they were young or senior citizens, black or white, and regardless of where they came from, I was convinced in my heart that I had something meaningful to say to all.

And I addressed them as their host.

It would turn out to be a beautiful conference. The best High School Model UN conference in five years of being held at PCC.

As I recall that day, I’m nearly set on it as the first occasion or moment in which I showed true love for speaking to the world with some kind of speech.

But then, how can I forget the marches for Immigrant Rights in 2006, through the streets of Los Angeles?

In a world far removed from collegial Pasadena, I was 15 years old, standing at the intersection of Sunset boulevard and Highland avenue when a reporter from the local news approached a group of my peers and I with questions about why we were out of class that day, or why we had walked out. I remember my classmates calling out to me and finding me among the crowd. They wanted me to speak with the reporters.

I didn’t quite know how they all reasoned this out, but what I did know is that I wouldn’t refuse their request. Not with all the emotions on that day, which was the first of three days of marching through Los Angeles and cities all over America in solidarity with immigrants.

I answered the reporters’ questions then, only half-knowing what I was doing as I explained to the woman and her cameraman that marching for immigrant rights was about showing deep love for immigrant people and culture despite any legislation to the contrary–it was House Resolution 4437, or a bill set out to erase immigrants by way of extinction–that spurred us into action. When the reporter asked if I had any last words to say, I remember plucking, from somewhere out of the sky, the most energizing phrase I could recall at the moment:

“Que viva la raza!”

My classmates roared just after me, shouting out for themselves, but all at once in a unity that would reverberate with me always:

“Que viva la raza!” they said.

I wouldn’t even see the news clip until some seven years later. But it spoke. I was ready to speak up. I wanted to. My community at the time could see it. A lifetime later, I can see it now too.

Today, on the brink of the Second Annual Back to School Party in East Hollywood, I’m prepared to speak with whoever I can and must once again.

But I’ve already traveled far and wide for this event, raised my chin up high despite exhaustion from a world of other commitments, and stood tall to speak despite any air of hostility or indifference that could be thrown my way as another advocate haranguing leaders or their representatives to “do the right thing.” In any case, each time I’ve had the chance, I’ve advocated fiercely for my cause.

I’ve been brave, even when it wasn’t expected of me. And when no one asked it of me. But I’ve known for a long time I would have to be brave, just in case. My community taught me that. With BTS 2, I haven’t forgotten for one second. We will continue lunging forward.

J.T.

5 Tips for When 4th of July Sucks

So it’s supposed to be the big day. The day that everybody goes outside and watches fireworks blazing across The City. It’s also supposed to be the day of the barbecue. From what you’ve seen and heard, the way it’s supposed to be is that your family is supposed to get together, and you’re all supposed to have lots of food over the grill and charcoal, some water balloons, maybe even a water gun or two, and the loudest, most rambunctious fireworks in the world.

But what if you don’t have any of that? Or what if you’re actually totally ‘over’ the 4th of July before the first grill is even lit?

When I was a Young in Los Angeles, 4th of July was more often than not a day when it seemed like everyone except my family and I could enjoy the time. There was never much money for fireworks, and ever since my brother and I were toddlers, mom had completely banned any water guns for us to play with. This left just water balloons, but then, on the 4th, there were only so many kids who still wanted to chuck water balloons at each other as teens; everyone was more interested in the crackle and spark of fireworks. This left my brother and I to mostly just watch as other kids got to light up their explosions.

But now, maybe because you’re luckier, I’ve got 5 tips for you to get through the 4th of July when it’s dragging that my bro and I would have appreciated knowing about when we were in your shoes!

1. Don’t stay in while the pops crackle. Go outside because it’s fresher. Even if it’s just to go to the store to get some milk and cookies, that still counts as getting ‘outta the house. You’ll notice the slower pace of the city during a holiday like the 4th. In L.A., most of the roads tend to quiet down some, which relaxes the vibe of the whole place. And if you and your folks can hop on a bus or rail line to get out somewhere farther like the Santa Monica Pier or Elysian Park, the city will feel even more fresh for you to sift through. Ah, freshness. You need this!

2. Don’t just buy a cheeseburger or pizza. Make your own cheeseburger or pizza. For the former, I’ve got a secret for you: with just a little over five dollars, you can purchase ONE POUND of ground beef AND a bag of burger buns. With or without some parental support, you can throw some salt and seasoning on the beef, grill it–EASY on the oil–warm the buns, and then add cut up onions, lettuce, and a slice of tomato, avocado or whatever other ingredients your belly calls for. Then, WALAAH. Your burgers won’t taste like the kind you’re used to buying places, but they’ll be better because they’ll be made by YOU, COOK. Your own personal barbecue!

3. Don’t lounge around home being bored. Take a nap. If you’re able to, try to lie on your back and rest your mind with a good book, preferably during daytime since the evening will be locked in explosive sounds at least until midnight. A nap also works well with Item 2 on our list, since both the beach and the park can serve as key locations to catch a few Zzzzs. You also need this!

4. If you can’t sleep, fine. Get started on your own podcast for the Jimbo Times Hoodie Challenge. I mean, can you blame me for trying to spur you into some action? Now’s as good a time as ever! At least to get started on the outline, for crying out loud. You do realize you’re going to need a new hoodie after summer, right?! Yes, yes you will.

5. Don’t be a grump. Tell mom or dad you love them, then run like they’re zombies. Continue running. What I mean is, you need to take a jog! Why doesn’t anyone believe me on this? A light jog is good for your mind and body! It helps expel the pressure points, or the places where your body accumulates stress. It’s too easy, if you don’t over-think it. And your phone will still be there when you get back. Trust!

And that’s it, folks. That’s five tips for you this 4th. Now, is the short set of tips a bulletproof list of stuff to help you get through the day? Nope. It’s just a start.

Most importantly, what you have to know is this: if the day ends up dragging for you no matter what you do, you’re not alone. It happens. And quite frequently too as you come to terms with reality. But in this case, you might as well give at least one of the items here a shot just to see if it helps. At day’s end, it’s still never too late to make the day count in your own way, and of course you can do it. Jimbo Times believes in you.

J.T.