Caroline Havens was born in Nebraska and moved to the Los Angeles area many years ago. In July 1997, Ms. Havens became homeless when she lost her job due to an illness. She tried applying for unemployment, but was rejected because of her health issue. Unable to work a full day, she tried to apply for General Relief but was informed that she had to apply for unemployment.
As she went round and round with the bureaucracy, Ms. Havens’ mental health began to deteriorate and she found herself on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, visiting soup kitchens for food and living on the streets.
While on the streets she had a breakdown and was transported to Del Amo Hospital. But at the hospital, she resisted help because she did not feel she was treated well by the peer advocate or the judge who put her in the hospital. Eventually, Ms. Havens connected with a nurse who listened to her and helped her understand her medications and gain sufficient stability to move to Excelsior House and then to transitional housing operated by Portals Mental Health. In April 1998, Ms. Havens was offered an apartment at Gower Street Apartments where she has been ever since.
In the beginning, Ms. Havens had difficulty believing that she wouldn’t be put back out on the streets again. It took almost two years for her to feel safe and secure that she would not be asked to leave.
Since moving into permanent supportive housing, Ms. Havens has accomplished much. She is an exemplary tenant and volunteers extensively. She is active in Gower Apartment’s volunteer program, called AIM. She regularly volunteers at a nearby church staffing the library two days a week. After training for two months, she became a peer advocate at Long Beach Mental Health Program where she had her own caseload and worked with clients in Long Beach. Ms. Havens also volunteers with ACOF staff at most events where there is an ACOF Team, such as HomeWalk and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s (LAHSA) bi-annual Homeless Count. Her favorite volunteer assignment so far is LAHSA. As a result of her reliability, LAHSA recently sought Ms. Havens out as a regular volunteer in their office.
For fun, Ms. Havens resumed playing the French horn which she began many years ago. Before injuring both feet recently, Ms. Havens played in two bands in Santa Monica, including the Santa Monica Emeritus College Concert Band.