Meet Our Newest Resident to Palo Verde Apartments

Joe Ramirez – Palo Verde Resident Finds Renewed Strength in New Home

Los Angeles is facing a major humanitarian crisis with the ever increasing number of people entering homelessness. The United Way reports most cases of homelessness are caused by a variety of social and economic factors, including health problems, low wages and unemployment, but the issue of high housing costs combined with an affordable housing shortage continues to contribute to more people entering homelessness than into permanent housing.

Each person experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles has a unique and compelling story to tell. This is Joe’s Story…

After living on the streets for 6 years, Joe received the keys to his new apartment in March 2019. Since moving into Hollywood Community Housing’s Palo Verde Apartments in his hometown of El Monte, Joe is now able to reflect on the positive path his life has taken. “This place put the light back into my life. I was living outside in the pouring rain and I couldn’t touch the tent without getting water inside. Now I am here and this place is like heaven on earth.”

Joe fell into homelessness when his mother passed away after a battle with cancer. He made every effort he could to stay afloat but he faced an uphill battle he ultimately lost. “I sold my houses, I sold my cars. I wanted to make sure my kids were ok so I helped them with down payments for their own houses. I bounced around for a while, rented hotel rooms, slept in my car, but eventually I had to walk away from everything.”

Having the strength to continue to move forward through life’s ups and downs, Joe was able to find a bigger purpose when he found himself living in the El Monte riverbed. Frustrated with the conditions he was living in, he approached El Monte Police Officer Rodney Gutierrez with a proposition. “I wanted to put some pride into where we were living. I asked him for shovels, brooms and trash bags and we just started cleaning it up. There were times when I was out there cleaning by myself but I gave him my word and my word is all I have.”

Joe’s spark for change motivated not only other members of his encampment to join in, but Officer Gutierrez also joined in to help when he was off duty. Their partnership resulted in them removing approximately 31 dumpsters of trash from the riverbed. “Anyone that would jump in a ditch with me is all right with me.”

Raised in a family with 11 siblings and two very strong, loving parents, he himself, a father of five, relishes in the importance of having gratitude and devoting his life to his children. “I am rich in many ways; life is so good to me now. After my wife died, it was hard being a single parent, but I am rich, because my kids are OK.”

A barber by trade, Joe has recently become employed with ‘Hair Freek Barber Shop,’ in Echo Park. “I have been a barber for over 40 years and I love cutting hair. My chair is the hot seat and I try to give the youngsters good advice.” Joe has taken his desire to give back a step further by starting a non-profit with his current employers. “We go out into the community and we cut hair. This is my way of helping people get their self-esteem back.”

Understanding where he has been and having a clear vision for the direction he now wants to take his life, Joe wants to share his story with others to show that they are not alone. “Things come into your life that you never expect, you live through life and you never want someone else to go through what you went through. It’s not easy, but don’t lose hope.”

If you know someone who is experiencing homelessness please contact the Los Angeles Homeless Services authority at (213) 225-6581 or visit their web-site https://www.lahsa.org/get-help

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