By Jacqueline DeAmor
Recently, my Mom said to me, “Every experience, every job, is a lesson that you place in your back pocket. Those lessons will guide you in your career and help you for the rest of your life.” No truer words could have been spoken. I’ve been working in housing for 10 years now. When I was 18 and still in college, I started a part time job working as a copier for a Low Income Housing Tax Credit property in New Jersey and never left when winter break concluded. Over the years I was promoted from an assistant to a Compliance Specialist at a larger corporation. In 2013, I moved to California to pursue an acting career, thinking I had left my work in housing behind me.
However, in September of 2014 I started to work again in providing housing. The difference? This company specifically caters to providing housing for the homeless. I was terrified my first day. My office is located on Skid Row, a place I didn’t know existed. Where I came from, the homeless were not as visible as they are here in Los Angeles. I only heard it as a saying growing up: “If you do this, you will end up on Skid Row!” Imagine my surprise, driving to my office and finding myself amongst the largest population of homeless people in the United States. To be honest, I thought they were dangerous. I drove 2 miles away in fear, hyperventilating, and almost quitting my job right then and there. I started texting my roommate, freaking out about this new job. She said, “It sounds like Skid Row.” My response? “THAT’S A PLACE????” I was incredibly naïve and maybe even ignorant to these circumstances. After thinking for some time, I returned and decided to give this job a shot. I didn’t realize how impactful and important my work would become to me.
Our first major assignment was to lease up a newly renovated hotel with 264 apartments, most of which would house homeless veterans and the chronically homeless Skid Row population. We first started with interviews to make sure people qualified for the programs and subsidies in place. It didn’t take more than a week before I realized that all of my assumptions, beliefs, and pre-conceived notions about the homeless were 100% wrong. I always assumed they became homeless because of drugs, alcohol, criminal history, and mental illness. Yet the majority of those interviewed became homeless due to bad circumstances. For example, they had a bad divorce, family members died, bankruptcy, loss of a job, etc. This could happen to anyone. Those I interviewed started to call me regularly to check in on the status of their application and I found myself attached to them. I bugged my bosses, “When can we start moving them in? How long will this take?” I was anxious to get them in.
One woman called me often, updating me on her current living situation. She was staying at a shelter and they gave her a very rapidly approaching deadline to leave. She would cry on the phone and tell me that she’s going to have to live on the streets again, yet my hands were tied. Some days I wanted to cry from the stories I heard. The homeless were no longer invisible. I started to see them everywhere. I was no longer afraid to walk down Skid Row.
Midway through the process, we called applicants to let them know they were assigned a unit. The reactions were varied and incredibly emotional. I had some start screaming, others cry, some politely say ‘thank you’, and one man who started talking calmly…then midsentence started screaming and laughing. Their joy and appreciation made all the work we were investing into this mass lease up so worth it.
once they leave the military. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I started falling apart and was too prideful to ask for help. One day I looked around and wondered the same thing. How did I get here?” He then asked me a question. “Are you homeless?” I answered, “No I’m not.” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Then you have an obligation to help those less fortunate. You have what so many of us can only dream of. A home.” He was right. I have a roof over my head, a job, savings, and while I’ve had my fair share of struggles…I’ve never been homeless. He made me realize that we all have an obligation to help those less fortunate. Wouldn’t we want the same if this happened to us? Many of these amazing people have stories so similar to his.
After several long months, we finally leased up the entire hotel. Recently, the woman who had been calling constantly about her application called me from her new apartment. She said she had been homeless since 1998 and hadn’t seen her children since they were kids. Yet just a day prior, her son slept over and her daughter started calling her again. She was crying and said that her new place was her castle and that she would be forever grateful. Where she was once invisible to society, she now had a place to call home and could start putting her life back together again. This was a stepping stone to something greater. All she needed was a chance.
How can you help? Donate. Participate in the Homewalk that happens in November every year. Don’t ignore them when you see them. Say “Hello”, “Good Morning” or offer a kind word. Volunteer. If this happened to you, wouldn’t you want someone to notice and give you a chance?
Jacqueline DeAmor is an actress/writer/filmmaker currently working with the homeless. She now lives in Los Angeles, volunteering her time with HomeWalk, SAG-AFTRA MOVE, and FoundAnimals. She has been devoting her time to volunteerism since 2008.
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of the “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.
Even though “The New Hollywood” as an organization is a group of women, we are dedicated to creating a community of like-minded, conscious, supportive people. Thus, TNH has started featuring incredible men who are up to big things in our Amazing Man Series! We are highlighting men who live with purpose, focus on giving back, and who are all around, well, AMAZING men.
This week we are sharing a man who does it ALL, and we mean literally. He is not only an oncologist and naturopath, he’s also a producer, filmmaker, actor, and writer! This week get to know Roy Vongtama and get ready to be inspired!
1. Who are you and what do you do? What is your personal mission statement if you have one & purpose?
My name is Roy Vongtama and I am a holistic MD-oncologist, producer, writer and an actor. My purpose in this particular life is to help people uncover the truth.
2. Who was/is the most profound male influence in your life and why?
Paramahansa Yogananda. I have learned from his teachings- among many things- how to be a leader, how to put my ego aside and how to be heart centered to balance my mind.
(My dad ain't so shabby either. He's very generous and laughs a lot.)
3. Who is the most influential woman in your life and why?
My mother. She taught me discipline and also that my own happiness can never come from another person, it has to come from inside me.
4. Do you have a personal motto/mantra? If so, can you share that?
Depending on the situation: Be true to yourself. Do what you love, the rest comes. (Kinda the same thing to me!)
5. What advice would you give young men and women that you wish you had received?
Live with "balanced recklessness." We need to take chances in things that mean the most to you- mind blowing chances even- but we also need a place to live, food to eat and a way to get around. Gotta have that type of balance!
6. What causes are your passionate about and why?
I am passionate about serving in every opportunity: when I am doctoring, on set or auditions, while I am writing, or even when simply listening to a friend.
For each, I am thinking, "How can I best serve this situation?" Sometimes it’s the simple option, like just being there to listen.
7. How do you contribute to your community and why?
I serve a bunch of ways: I am very involved in “Self Realization Fellowship,” a meditation based spiritual organization, helping their Youth program and serving as an usher during their meditations. I really feel that change has to come from within and meditation has been that way for me. I also volunteer my time teaching holistic approaches to health at cancer centers and groups. I also coach/mentor about five people/youth right now. When someone asks me to mentor them; I really try to be there because I know how important that is, and has been for my development.
8. What projects are you currently working on that you're excited about? Why? How can we support you
I am very excited about my upcoming holistic health book; the working title is "Healing Before You're Cured." I really want to promote a balanced approach to health. So many people are either locked in to only Western ways and some people are too righteous about their "alternative ways." The answer is in the middle.
I am looking for the right publisher, so if you have ideas for me I would love it!
9. What is your definition of being man versus being a boy?
Being a man is having enough bandwidth to be open to the truth when criticized, vulnerable when it calls for it and able to apologize when you're wrong. It is about standing in my own space without being threatened by whoever or whatever situation is in front of me.
Being a boy is reacting to all those above situations thinking only of myself first, "what about me?"
It's a life long process. (But sometimes boys will be boys and we have to have that "guy time"!)
10. What other amazing men would you nominate? Why?
Taylor Grant, he's a horror fiction writer/copywriter/screenwriter/father/husband type. He really comes from an open-hearted space in all the things he does.
Dr. Colbey Forman, he runs his own Beurin University training program teaching psychoneurology in addition to being a Kabbalistic rabbi who helped broker the Middle East peace accord—an amazing soul.
To Goal or Not To Goal — What is the Question?
By Alexis Carra & Pina De Rosa
It’s the New Year and there’s that buzz to set goals, dream big, and start fresh! I tend like look back at what I didn’t accomplish last year, and re-format it for this year’s goals. I love the feeling of possibility in the air and the confidence I have. It’s the giant re-set that our Gregorian calendar gives us to re-member and declare what we really want. And then there’s the other side of it—the one that dreads making goals because there were so many that perhaps didn’t happen last year; or the fear of asking the question: what is it that I really want? Do I even know what I want?
Goal-setting can be daunting and exciting all at the same time. We here at TNH love setting goals—after all we are philanthropic goal group. This year the part of goal setting I am focusing is not so much the end result, the actual goal itself, but rather on the mindset that reaching for that goal creates. “Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve, until you grow into the person who can.”
This is for you if you love goalsetting, but you may have been overwhelmed by it at some point... it’s also for you if you have ever "resisted" the idea/process of goalsetting because it was too much pressure... or perhaps you totally excel at it and want a super-new way that you have never heard of before (unless you have coached with Pina before) that will guarantee to make it way easier (and fun!!) too.
It’s been said that a goal is a dream with a deadline, and we all know goal setting is key to reaching an outcome. You have to know if the plane is bound for Fiji, or Istanbul or Sydney before you take off – it’ll be a completely different flight path… Most definitely, this is for you if you are someone who’s ever had 100 things on your plate, and you accomplished 98 of them, but only focus on the remaining 2. If that’s you, then you definitely want to start by creating the space of forgiveness for the things that did not go to plan. Then proceed with this simple one-two punch:
a) the “Three Daily Habits”, coupled with
b) the “Top 100 Method” is the simplest way to set goals that stick (minus the yuck of the overwhelm).
a) The “Three Daily Habits”, aka the “SKF-factor”, was introduced in the previous blog, and you can review it here.
b) The “Top 100 Method” is a complete new element to goals setting, designed to stretch who you are being in the process; no it’s not New Year’s Resolutions… we all know how long those last, and that 92% of people do not keep theirs! This is a way to set goals that will truly make a marked difference in both your year, as well as your overall quality of your life.
Imagine a spring-loaded plate-dispenser. The top 10-15 plates are visible, and they are traditional white plates. The remaining plates are below, and we easily assume that those plates are also traditional white plates. But what if they aren’t? What if there was a purple plate down there? Or a green or orange one?
once you have reached 100, you can review them and highlight your main 20/25 goals for the year. THESE are the ones that, when you truly focus on accomplishing them, your 2015 will be markedly different! What does this have to do with goal setting?
When writing down your goals, you’ll want to get past the surface, and get past the same traditional “surface goals” that sound like ‘more money’, ‘lose weight’, etc. Set aside 30-40 minutes so you can do this all in one sitting, the way it is designed:
Write out your top 100 goals for this year. Yes, you read that right, 100, that way you push yourself beyond the 10-15 visible plates/predictable goals. Be sure to include your personal, professional, tangible and intangible goals. Then you simply get to focus on completing 1 or 2 each month, using the “Three Daily Habits”.
At the end of the day, year, week, or moment, I want to feel as though I’ve given it my all. I know that when I leave it all on the table, and focus entirely, giving it my all, then the result-- in a way--doesn’t matter as much. I am much kinder to myself if I don't reach the exact goal because I know I did everything I could to achieve it no matter what! Focusing on who I can be, and what I can do to achieve my goals becomes more important than the goal itself. I know the results will come and they could be even bigger than I had imagined!