Written by Rachel Caraviello
When I first met James he told me about his connection to the Los Feliz community. He described himself as a "legend" along the Vermont/Hollywood Blvd. corridor known by many for its cafés and restaurants. Over the years James has become a fixture of the neighborhood talking to passer-byers and selling incense and essential oils out of his backpack on wheels. His tenure in the community has given rise to relationships that have helped him through tough times. One café owner offers James day-old pastries and quiche in exchange for help closing shop and cleaning tables on the patio. James says he doesn't like taking something without giving something back in return.
At 67 years old and after a lifetime of living in and out of institutions, James now lives at the Janet L. Witkin Center. He pays $320 a month for his one-bedroom apartment and says it's the first time he's had his own place (and private bathroom) in over ten years. The county Housing Authority pays the balance of his rent through a federally-funded Shelter Plus Care certificate.
James reflects on his life and is most proud of his ability to survive and to maintain his sobriety these past seven years. An avid NFL fan and self-proclaimed people person, he has already made friends in his new West Hollywood neighborhood. While he still spends most days in Los Feliz, James says he is happy to have a home to retreat to when he gets tired. If you get the chance to meet James the first thing he'll tell you is, "life is good - I'm alright and everything is going to be okay," a mantra that reminds us all to appreciate second chances.