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In Rent Crisis, Disabled Man Fears Eviction

November 17, 1994|MARY GUTHRIE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Patrick Fallos is accustomed to long waits. It takes him 10 minutes to walk five feet, three hours to type a one-page letter, half a day to get to the corner grocery and back.

Now Fallos, disabled for 10 years, is facing eviction because he cannot pay his rent and may have to wait into the next millennium to get help.

When he moved to California last spring from Wisconsin, Fallos, 45, lost his federal housing voucher. The move thrust him into a scramble for low-income housing. He can't even put his name on a waiting list for the housing subsidy that would pay for most of his rent and physical therapy until 2001.

He found the Torrance apartment in April. But without a voucher, his disability income is too little to cover his expenses. He's about $1,400 behind on his rent.

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Last month, the company that manages his apartment building filed a notice to start eviction proceedings. The company has accepted the dribs and drabs of cash that Fallos has given them, hoping he will find the money to catch up.

"Everybody loves him, it's just that nobody can support him," says Derinda Powley, who manages the property.

Since he was severely injured in a car accident, Fallos has tried to maximize the limited use of his limbs that allows him to stand, move his fingers and arms a bit, and walk very slowly.

He rides an electric scooter and uses a wheelchair to get around. These tools, matched with his will to stay independent, allow him to live on his own.

Without additional physical therapy, Fallos fears his dizzy spells will increase, or his weakening limbs will buckle, and he will fall.

"I'm so afraid if I fall again, it could be my last," Fallos said.

He spends his days writing to people who might help him get his housing voucher back, working on his design for an amusement park for people with disabilities, and writing a screenplay.

Videotapes about brain injuries and episodes of the Three Stooges cram the bookshelves in his one-bedroom apartment.

Unable to make himself understood over the phone because his voice ranges from a quiet rasp to an almost inaudible whisper, Fallos relies on letters to communicate his situation. He types with one finger, standing awkwardly over the computer keyboard. After an hour or so he drops back into his wheelchair for a rest.

But Fallos is not the only one in need of low-income housing. About 50,000 people are ahead of him on the waiting list in Los Angeles.

"I probably turn away 20 to 30 people a week that call me for housing," says Dave Wolfe, housing advocate for people with disabilities at Westside Center for Independent Living.

And unless something changes, Fallos' situation may worsen before it gets better.

"There is no money available from us," Wolfe said. "When it gets to this point, the only thing we can do is give people lists of homeless shelters."

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