Homeless no more
Veteran gets used to life indoors, and Ascencia works to repeat his story.
Lanny Allen sits on his bed with donated artwork behind him in his home in Glendale where he has lived for four weeks. Allen, with help from Ascencia, a nonprofit homeless services provider, and federal grants since he is a veteran, received the apartment and the furnishings through donations. He is happy and proud of his new life. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / November 7, 2012)
That evening, a homeless man recognized him as the insurance investigator who had bought him lunch when he was hungry. He gave Allen a coat and showed him how to live outdoors.
Allen spent the next 10 years on the streets. He slept in Chess Park back when it was an empty alleyway across from the Alex Theatre until he was beaten by a group of teens. He stayed in the Hollywood Production Center when it was vacant until his “roommate” tried to choke him.
Then he lived in an abandoned restaurant until police found him drunk and “in bad shape.”
That night, four years ago, was when Allen, a veteran who worked in military intelligence during the Cold War, first met Mark Horvath, a homeless advocate who works for Ascencia, Glendale’s largest homeless services provider, which helped him find permanent housing.
Last month, he got the keys to a studio apartment in South Glendale — a formidable feat until a recent influx of federal money flowed in, targeted at ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
“I’m acclimating myself to becoming indoors again after so long,” said Allen, who now has a habit of feeling for his keys in his pockets. “It takes getting used to.”
With the federal focus on veterans, Ascencia set a goal to end veteran homelessness in Glendale by June. But that deadline came and went, and although the nonprofit has housed 23 veterans since May 2011, others are out there.
That’s more due to a change of course, though, than a lack of resources.
Last year, during a survey of homeless people in Glendale, Ascencia found seven veterans, but when they searched for them again, some went missing, while others turned out to be from other countries, making them ineligible for federal help.
So Ascencia made it an open list, hoping to capture any missed veterans.
“One of the hazards of having an updated list is it does become a never-ending problem,” said Ascencia Executive Director Natalie Profant Komuro.
Three homeless veterans are left on the list. Two have jobs, none has a home, and one has difficulties accepting help.
“If by the end of the year we have two people on the list, we can say, ‘Geez, that’s pretty phenomenal,’” Profant Komuro said.
Ascencia uses a mix of federal grants through the Department of Veterans Affairs and city of Glendale to house veterans.
Allen was a beneficiary of about $160,000 Glendale received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development this year to house three to five homeless people. His rent is $50 a month, or 30% of his income, which comes from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.
The housing department subsidy pays for the majority of rent indefinitely until economic status changes, disabilities disappear, or if federal funding is cut — a very real possibility if Congress can’t avoid the “fiscal cliff” looming in January.
The subsidy covers monthly rents up to $961 for studios and $1,159 for one-bedrooms in Los Angeles County. The costs may be high, but it would be more costly to leave people like Allen on the streets racking up hospital bills, Profant Komuro said.
Veterans Affairs subsidies, though, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars, are the primary resource used to house veterans in Glendale.