Santa Monica resident Jill Turkfeld briskly walks into the Starbucks on Ocean Avenue with her therapy dog, Luna. Her stride is confident. Her smile is radiant. In fact, the 59-year-old carries herself with such poise and grace, one would never guess she has a painful past. One would never imagine that just a few years ago, she was homeless.
From Fashion Career to Homelessness
In the 1980s, Jill was working as a manager for a fashion publication in Downtown Los Angeles. A string of unfortunate events followed: unemployment, eviction, and before she knew it, she was living in her car – until it got impounded. Her own family members shunned her. It didn’t help that she was suffering from severe depression and anxiety disorder. With an empty bank account and no one to turn to, she soon found herself without a place to call home.
“I remember the first time I was in General Relief (a welfare program that benefits adults without dependents), I was in tears because it was so humiliating,” she recalls. She never imagined this could happen to her.
Shelter to Shelter
From 2010 to 2012, Jill found herself moving from shelter to shelter. Some days, she was able to sleep in a more peaceful location with a clean bed, curtains, and a “place to hang your clothes”. Other days, she found herself in overcrowded shelters with little to no privacy. But the hardest part wasn’t the environment for Jill. It was the psychological damage it caused her.
“I felt shame,” she says. “No self-esteem. Zero self-worth. Desperation.”
Getting Back Up
When Jill was in despair at a new shelter, a caseworker from the City of Santa Monica grantee agency The People Concern (formerly OPCC) met Jill and offered to help her find housing. As a former resident of Santa Monica, the prospect of having a fresh start here seemed too good to be true. Within weeks, Jill was moved into a place of her own through the Santa Monica Housing Authority. In addition to her new home, Jill received supportive services to help her heal from the trauma of being homeless.
Not all homeless individuals have the same success as Jill. With limited resources, Santa Monica’s infrastructure can only house so many individuals. However, the City is committed to connecting those in need with resources, both locally and regionally, so they can get critical care and support in their recovery.
Jill shares that she appreciates the City’s personal approach to connect homeless people with local resources.