Photographer:  Jack Strutz

Photographer: Jack Strutz

Meet Jamie, a mother of two making strides to become an attorney! 

What is your story and how did you arrive at Alexandria House?
Before I stayed at Alexandria House, I was at Union Rescue Mission (URM) Downtown, one of the largest homeless shelters in the US,  with my daughter. They're technically an emergency shelter where you can show up at night where you have nowhere else to sleep and get in.

The level of disconnect there was insane. One of the other residents there went to a case manager and said, "I saw this really cool homeless shelter on Kim Kardashian's TV show." She had never heard of Alexandria House before that.

So, my case manager who was supposed to help me find permanent or transitional housing had little to no knowledge of what other services were out there.

Yes, URM has their own traditional housing program, but it takes two years and I'm thinking, you can't send everyone there. There are so many people that stay at this homeless shelter, what are you going to do with us all?

This transitional housing program is not going to be the best fit for everyone. I told her I didn't really have any interest in going to a 2-year program where I have to spend 6 months taking parenting classes and not working. I've been taking domestic violence therapy as well as regular therapy, and I'm not interested in doing more.

I'd like to get on with my life, go back to school but their program didn't allow for that.

So, it was definitely good luck getting here.

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

How long have you been here?
Since January of this year.

What are you studying?
I want to be a substance abuse counselor.

I just started at West LA for the Addictions Studies program.

Right now, my tentative goal is to get an AA for substance abuse, go back for a 4-year degree in Technical Writing and then attend law school eventually.

That's the goal, and I'm pretty good about getting stuff done once I've sat down and said, I'm going to this. Sometimes you just have to adapt to whatever.

I want to say, 6 months ago was the first time I had ever been on welfare of anything. I went to the office where you sign up and they, oh yeah you can go back to school.

There was just a little misunderstanding because I thought they would only pay for some kind of vocational training like carpentry.

So I was like, okay cool. My new goal is going to Maxine Waters’ Vocational School (because I love her) and I'm going to be a welder.

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

Why? Because it's functional and you can make artwork out of it.

Then when I found out they would pay for regular college, I was like wooot! New plan!

Now, I have to figure out a way for me to go to law school because it's so expensive, or to get assistance up to that point and I can worry about it later on.

Why is law school your end goal?
It’s cheaper than paying my custody attorney now.

Also, when you come to agencies like this, they try to do all this social justice work. They want to talk about the homeless crisis in LA and these things that are important to us, as well as plans they have to open up more agencies.

And I'm like, okay cool, but there are laws being passed every day and law students going to court.

For example, Eric Garcetti decided, all of sudden, they would begin arresting the homeless that sleep on the sidewalks. Like arrest them and do what? What are you going to do with all of their stuff? That's part of the reason cops stopped doing it because you have to collect all of their belongings and place it in storage.

I feel like there are so many things like that that come up and if you are an agency like Alexandria House, there's no reason you can't file an Amicus Brief along with the moving party to say, we agree and here's another angle or reason.

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

The ACLU does it all the time.

Also, there are no reasons agencies that have been around for years, should not have an in-house counsel to help when people who have gone through Section 8 get stuck, for whatever reason.  

If you're a person who is at risk of losing your Section 8 housing, for whatever reason, they're accusing you of something, you come here and tell your case manager. Your case manager and is like, well I cannot help you because they're not an attorney. You don't need to be an attorney to know what to do, but you're going to be taken more seriously if you are.

That's kind of why I picked substance abuse counseling because I think there are so many people with addictions. So it's a skill that's transferrable. No matter what field you go into, you're going to know people that are addicted to something. You're going to be able to deal with difficult situations. It's really important, especially with the opioid crisis going on.

So that's part of that.

I feel the same way about Law School. I know they're talking about it's 2018, is law school really a good investment? I don't want to be a million dollar a year personal injury plaintiff's attorney.

I just want to help the causes I care about, you know? If that means going to work for a nonprofit and suffering through student loans, whatever.

What's the difference between now and then?

I might as well do it and have a piece of paper that says I'm smarter than you.

Are you currently employed?
I was doing transcription line, and I'm hoping to return to it when I get my own place. It's hard at the moment because you need really good internet and a quiet space to work in.

I'd like to get a normal 9 to 5 job, or maybe something working part-time for a non-profit while I'm in school.

At the moment, I'm not working and part of that was getting re-enrolled in school.

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for my kids. I am grateful to have an aunt that has really supported me and really made sure I have what I need. I am grateful for Alexandria House.

It's weird because at one time I was grateful for the Union Rescue Mission, but now I feel like, Ugh it's kind of scammy.

I really am grateful for Alexandria House. I am grateful to live, and I know it sounds crazy, but I am grateful to live in CA, in a state that has a decent welfare system. I wouldn't have made it otherwise.

What empowers you?
I don't know. I think just knowing other people are going through the same thing, encourages me to keep going. The thought that if this is happening to me then it's got to be happening to someone else. There's no way, out of 6 billion people in the world, that I am the only one who is struggling.

Knowing that if I have any way or ability to come out of it, and come out on the other side. Then there is someone else that needs the same support.