Chasing Hollywood

We arrived in Hollywood, California on October 16th after 48 hours straight of driving and stopping to rest at rest stops with 1 driver and 3 small children from Kansas City. We loaded up everything we own in our crossover SUV and came down here. Our transmission died on the way here when we stopped to grab food in Vegas. The warranty covered it, but took 3 weeks to decide if they were going to and the car was in the shop for over a month. We managed to get a rental car for a few days and AAA is supposed to reimburse us for at least part of that, but that hasn’t happened yet.  We had very little wiggle room with money when we came down here and because of the car problems, so we’ve found ourselves in pretty dire straights, right before we headed this way we had to spend $600 to replace the battery and alternator and that was doing it ourselves (thank you newer cars).

We signed a sublease agreement for a 1 Bedroom Apartment in West Hollywood that came with all utilities including internet and was furnished down to the kitchenware and bath towels. The contract was for October 15th-November 15th with the plan of extending it another month and finding a permanent place by mid December. This was the most affordable option before us and after months of one thing after the next going wrong and us having to postpone moving multiple times, at least this way we would be able to acquire furniture and supplies slowly and have time to save up the money for a deposit on another place. It turned out the tenant’s landlord didn’t know about the sublease.  According to what Fair Housing in Los Angeles told us according to the landlord/tenant law in California, that only should have gotten her in trouble and worst case if she was illegally subletting, she would be evicted, but the owners would still have to give us proper notice since we had a contract and established residency by receiving mail there. She “forgot” we have a service dog and forgot we have a baby even though both were there when we moved in and both were mentioned in the very first conversation we ever had with her. She came by on the 6th day we were there with her big hulky male friend and tried to intimidate us into leaving immediately. Her reason for telling us to leave was because her neighbors complained about hearing a baby crying. She refused to “even discuss” giving all or part of our money back until after we are out. She refused to even consider letting us stay for the duration we had already paid in advance. We didn’t have a vehicle, we had an SuV sized amount of stuff with us, 3 adults and 3 kids which was everything we need to live, including everything for our business. When we called Fair Housing, they told us to call the police because what she was doing was illegal. She and her male friend began carrying our things outside. They tried to take my dog and the children outside but I stopped her. It was over 90 degrees. I wasn’t able to prevent her from taking my tarantula cage outside and she died as a result of sitting in her cage in the sun while she and her boyfriend blocked the way of my husband and roommate from carrying anything back inside. She even ran into me while I was holding my baby and ran me into the wall.  The only thing I could have done other that what we did would have been to escalate things to violence and that wouldn’t have solved anything, especially with the kids there. It wasn’t even an option. We were just holding on and waiting for the police to arrive.  When we called the police, the dispatcher said the same as Fair Housing, that what she was doing was illegal and that officers were on their way to stop her. The 2 cops that finally showed up sided with her very quickly even after looking at the contract and said that she didn’t have the legal right to rent to us and we hadn’t been there long enough to establish residency for even squatter’s rights and we had to leave immediately even though we had been receiving mail there.

We managed through the grace of strangers, friends and family alike gather enough funds to cover a hotel for the night, a Uhaul and a storage unit to get our things moved. We were just getting settled in and even had gigs lined up but ended up having to miss out on that work for lack of transportation and stable housing. My best friend/roommate/business partner, Beth and I were scheduled to start school at Elegance International Makeup School in Hollywood the following Monday. Our situation was very precarious, but through the grace of luck and managing to land a couple of paid audience jobs (when you get paid to be part of the audience for a live taping of a show) we managed to get a rental car for a few more days.  This was essential because even with the most basic things we needed for survival for a day was more than 3 adults could carry on a bus with 3 small kids and a dog, we needed to bring food with us, diapers, necessities for the kids and paperwork so we could try to find help.

We had to take a 2 week hiatus from accepting and shipping orders to get moved out here and the chaos and having no stable internet or place to make product meant a further delay in any business revenue. We literally called hundreds of shelters over the next weeks. We followed up on every lead, everything anyone threw our way. There were no shelters available. We were referred to one agency that could help us (maybe/eventually) over and over again, we were told repeatedly that in a city the size of Los Angeles, with 60,000 homeless people this is the only agency we qualified for. We called the others anyway, but kept getting referred back to this one over and over again. It’s been over a month later and we still haven’t had an intake appointment with them, we will soon, but they don’t do intake appointments very often and even after the intake appointment their waiting list is months long. Shelters wouldn’t even take us if we were separated, not that it would have been a feasible option for us to separate, it most certainly wouldn’t have been and option with the kids and my service dog and our lack of transportation, but it wasn’t even an option available for us to consider to be able to find shelter. Our families don’t have any money or credit, nor do our friends back home. It was miraculous that we were able to get as much as we did initially and there was no way we could expect that much generosity to continue. We are incredibly grateful for it, we managed by the skin of our teeth to avoid sleeping on the streets that first night with our kids and several points thereafter.

We spent 2 nights in Upland, CA with a friend I knew 10 years ago from Topeka, KS with her family (Topeka is where I partially grew up and went to high school). Two nights was all she could offer because their landlord is very strict about guests, but we are forever grateful to her for that. We spent 2 nights with a family we had never met before because a mutual friend reached out to them on Facebook and they were in the area. 2 nights is all they could offer for the same reason. Apparently, it’s common in the area for landlords to restrict guests because it’s very easy to establish tenancy in California and then a landlord would have to go through a formal eviction to be rid of said guests if they stayed too long (ironically enough considering how we landed in this situation). We went down to the Department of Social Services first thing after leaving the hotel the first day to apply for homeless assistance, they told us we had to wait until our medical cases were closed out in Kansas and we had only moved in the middle of October, so we had to wait until December. We stayed for a week after that with my husband’s youngest half sister’s mother and her family in Newman, CA, 4 hours North of Hollywood. When we came back down to apply at DPSS for Homeless Aid, they gave us 2 weeks in a hotel at $60/night. The cheapest we could find was $85/night before taxes and it wasn’t in the best area so we had to pay the difference. We found a crack pipe the first morning right outside the door of the hotel and this particular hotel, in Gardena borders Compton was apparently the happening spot for prostitution (not that I have anything against prostitution), there were some violent outbursts in the parking lot, but for the most part it was (fortunately for us) a quiet stay. DPSS told us they could give us 2 more weeks of hotel assistance once our Calworks Application was approved and we applied for a program called Gain and then are approved. Our hotel assistance ran out almost 2 weeks ago, we have an appointment to apply for Gain this coming week.

We went back up to Newman for Thanksgiving week and will be here for the next few days.  We are so happy and thankful to have gotten to spend this time with family and to have a roof over our heads and a place to sleep other than our car. We JUST finally got our car back a little over a week ago. We are on a leave from school until January 19th to give us time to find a place to live. We have to go back down to Los Angeles this week to try and get help from GAIN because once we are approved for that, they can also help us with $1391 towards a deposit on a place.  Unfortunately in Los Angeles (and we are open to looking anywhere in the metro at this point and even in the central valley where Newman is and just commuting), housing goes fast. From listing to rented it seems to take about 4 days. Twice now we toured a place and called back the same day to apply and someone else had just signed a lease on it hours before. DPSS tells us it will take at least 4 days to get that assistance back after we have applied for and been approved of a place so if we are to be able to take advantage of that help, we need to find a landlord that is okay with that.  We also have terrible credit (low 400s) and my husband and I are in bankruptcy. We have a steady income, we have good rental history and references, no evictions etc, but no hope of anyone we know being able to co-sign. I don’t even know anyone with good credit. It seems like no one has good credit in the midwest and all landlords care about are the things that we have covered. Not out here. Again, we have called dozens of places and toured over a dozen and so far all but the couple that someone else took before we could, said bankruptcy is an automatic no.

We are in bankruptcy because we are trying to fix our financial situation. We don’t have any consumer debt, no credit card debt, it’s all life debt, medical bills and a car that was totaled that we still owed money on and the insurance didn’t cover, things like that. My husband and I have been working towards digging our family out of poverty since we found out I was pregnant with our first son. We were careless with birth control with him, but were grateful for him the same. I was going on a downward spiral at the time and had it not been for my pregnancy, I would probably be in jail or dead right now. Not that it is anyone’s business, but I know there will be people telling us we shouldn’t have had kids unless we were financially stable. We stepped up. We were excruciatingly careful to avoid getting pregnant again with the second 2, but birth control and protection failed (my husband’s biological sperm donor is a dead beat with tons of kids he doesn’t take care of and seems to be a one shot wonder at knocking up women with one night stands too, some of which were even on birth control, so I blame my husband’s genetics) and I couldn’t find anyone willing to tie my tubes until after I had 3 kids. I literally called every doctor I could find in the KC metro and they all told me I was too young and had too few kids with only 2 kids at 26. We love them all and are grateful for them. They have always been taken care of and we have worked our butts off to even be able to move out here. This was our fear in coming out here, this is why we chose to do the sublet and sign the lease in advance and everything to avoid this exact situation, but we are still here and we are still okay and we are still working on getting back onto our feet.

We aren’t asking for a handout, we don’t want the government to give us a free place to live, we want to move somewhere and pay rent but we need to find somewhere willing to rent to us. We want to work and earn our money, but having no stable place to live (there is no where we can stay for more than a few days at a time) our options for finding gigs and even regular jobs are very limited especially in a metro as large as L.A.

Gas is expensive, living in a hotel and preparing food is expensive, not having access to childcare due to instability is expensive. So we are reaching out to the internet, accepting the judgement that may come of our situation and reaching out to those that might be understanding of our situation and be able to point us in the direction of places that will rent to us, jobs that we can do while bouncing from place to place, resources we may not have learned about yet or even support our various small business endeavors that we can do from anywhere. Without our customers, we would be in much more dire straights. We love you. Because when you buy from us and choose ot support our small businesses, you are helping us get back on our feet. You are giving us a hand up not a hand out, and that is all we are asking for. We have for years, opened our home to people who needed it, donated time and resources to charities and done everything we can for anyone to help them find work, housing or get back on their feet. It’s been a running joke for years that I “collect strays.” and the irony  is not lost on me now that we are the strays and we have been so incredibly fortunate to find several people with the same attitude as us who just want to help. People who know what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from under them and who know what it’s like to start out already being underground when everyone else seems to start out at ground level. We came out here because there really are more opportunities our here than in the midwest. Beth and I have been offered makeup jobs for years working with bands and on films and all we had to do was get out here and get settled. We will be able to take our businesses to the next level with the resources and network out here. I stand by our decision to make this leap, that it is still the best decision for our family in the long run and we will not give up and keep working our butts off until we get where we need to be.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to ask me any questions, I will be posting details and updates as frequently as I can. Feel free to email me at I am hoping that by publishing this journey and finally telling my life story starting where I am right now, that others in situations similar to those we have been in will be able to connect and find solace and hope to push forward towards their dreams. After all, I believe that if you knew everyone’s story, you would love them. 

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Posted in Chasing Hollywood, Rachel.