YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Gift of Warmth Is a Gift of Hope for a Needy Family

March 06, 1985|KEN LUBAS

For more than a week, unemployed laborer Keith Smith, his pregnant wife, Harriet, and their three small children lived in a plywood box on a sand-covered Head Start program playground in downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row area.

They were cold--with only the heat from a blazing trash-can fire to warm them. And they were depressed.

"Once things get this bad, it just doesn't seem like there is any way out," Smith said. "You just live from day to day."

But help came Monday from Para Los Ninos, a group that assists Skid Row children. Para Los Ninos provided the Smith family with emergency lodging in a downtown hotel and help in straightening out Smith's misunderstanding with the Department of Public Social Services.

It seems that the immediate problem was two missing welfare checks, totaling about $630. Smith explained that he and his family had been evicted in what he said was "a rent rip-off."

The Smiths lived with another family in an apartment and paid their share of the rent directly to the other couple, Smith said. But the second couple failed to pay the landlord, Smith added, and both families were evicted.

Smith failed to notify Social Services officials of the address change and simply went to his old address to pick up the checks. But the mailman couldn't find the Smiths and returned their checks to the agency.

Without the checks, the Smiths were forced to abandon their search for housing. Skid Row shelters were either full or did not have the facilities to house a family of five, Smith said. The family instead slept in the box on the playground on Gladys Avenue near 6th Street.

Smith said he couldn't even look for work because "you just can't walk off and leave your wife and kids alone when you're living out of a box."

But now he can try to find work--and maybe even a place to call home.

Los Angeles Times Articles