It’s such a small world.
Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra, in the news late last year as an Elector for the Electoral College from California, is also a documentary filmmaker and author living in New York City. Her most recent film for HBO, 2016’s Meet the Donors, was about “Why billionaires pour millions into elections.” She told an interviewer from The Observer that Joe Kennedy III told Richard Plepler, head of HBO, that she should make the film.
But before that, six years earlier, she swung by the motel rooms of Orange County in Southern California where I live, and interviewed families living there. The interviews comprise the documentary film Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County, which, near as I can tell, made absolutely no difference to anyone’s life whatsoever, except, very most definitely, the filmmaker’s.
In 1988, I spoke before the city council in Redlands, California, one of my two hometowns, and told the audience, “There are families living in cars under the freeway overpasses in our town.” The council didn’t believe me at first. They only believed me after I gave them a tour and they saw what at that time were termed “Welfare motels” and a family “making do” in a car parked under a less-traveled overpass.
For the next ten years, I spent my time trying to address the situation in Redlands, the largest area in Eastern San Bernardino County, and eventually at the state level with the Department of Housing & Community Development, and even nationally.
In the early-90s, I was invited to go to Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress about ways to help families — in my case almost 100 percent of those we knew were single mothers with children — move out of poverty. The idea was to help them get decent jobs, find a place to live and strengthen their lives and the lives of their children. During that time, we worked with over 2,000 families. Later, from 2005–2011, I returned to the nonprofit field and served as an executive for the Los Angeles organization Beyond Shelter.
None of the women I helped start businesses or move out of homelessness during that later time in Los Angeles are “doing okay” right now. I don’t know about those families in the Redlands area. I would guess that no more than 10 percent are “okay” right now. As the middle class has suffered mightily since the 2008 mortgage crisis, America’s poverty rates have exploded. Those who have suffered the worst are children.
No documentary film is going to solve this. Unlike the lady with the camera who neither knows nor is likely capable of understanding or caring about the role our citizenry and government played in this disaster, I know exactly what put those families in those motels and I know that today, more than ever, it is almost impossible for them to “get out,” even with all the help in the world.
Here’s why the families are in the motels:
- They have very low incomes ($1,500 a month or less), no credit and no savings.
- The parents are working 1, 2 or 3 low paying or part-time jobs to get by, i.e. pay the motel, food, etc.
- It’s more cost-effective to stay at the motel because there are no utility bills, water and trash are paid.
So the family would have to have at least $4,620 in monthly income to qualify for one of the lower priced 2-bedroom units at this complex. If Mom is taking home $1,600 a month, she can technically “afford” $533 a month in rent. There not only isn’t any place in Orange County, including studio apartments, available for that , there isn’t any place in the state of California renting for that without some type of housing subsidy.
I know what I am talking about. I did this for a living and managed to put deals together for hundreds — in Southern California years ago — over 2,000 families. Back then it was possible because there were more affordable places, even houses, and individual landlords willing to help or cut some of these ladies/families a little bit of slack.
In Los Angeles, it became increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, most of these families living on the edge had already used up any temporary or emergency help available to them. Today, they literally scrape by surviving hand-to-mouth.
When I tell people “We are living in Dickensian times,” few believe me. The others just ignore me or look the other way. In the 80s and maybe early-90s, we had a shot. We certainly made an impact in San Bernardino County. But greed took over.
I started writing this article because I had discovered, to my shock, that … bear with me here … the charities that are supposed to help are instead …
This nice lady gave over $16 million From Rockefeller Foundation to Doug Band/Teneo
Nonprofit Quarterly isn’t “fake news,” it’s a sober industry publication that covers issues related to foundations, private nonprofits, fundraising best-practices and legal governance issues for NGOs. Seldom, if ever, does it feature “controversial” articles.
So this article drily stated that Ms. Rodin, who had an impeccable educational and employment background, including being the first woman to serve as Yale Provost and first female head of a U.S. foundation of the size and stature of Rockefeller —
This nice lady basically paid a huge, and unprecedented sum for “PR” to the Clinton-linked Teneo consulting firm, and had already refused comment to publications like the Boston Globe, which asked what Ms. Rodin had gotten in return for these whopping PR consultant payments to Doug Band, Bill Clinton’s “body” or right-hand man. You know me — so this article noted that Rockefeller’s 2014 non-profit disclosure form 990-PF (due November 2015) hadn’t yet been filed so the 2014 contribution was “unknown.” It was zero.
But of course Rockefeller did give $550K to the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.
And of course, I can’t even casually glance at any Foundation’s 990 without seeing appalling stuff like —
So anyway here I was looking at this article that said this lady was giving very big amounts of money for “PR” to Doug Band/Teneo and that big newspapers like the New York Times and Boston Globe had already covered it, and Nonprofit Quarterly reporter had already added up the sizable amounts and “relationship.”
“That would get any ‘average’ or regular non-profit CEO fired,” I told my friend on social media. “It’s clearly a violation of Rockefeller’s mission and vision and automatically subject to board and management questions.”
Now I’m quite sure that a quality article as I’m writing here will result in a few exchanges with readers commenting, “How ignorant are you??? How could u criticize Rockefeller Foundation???”
Putting that aside, this is how I ended up with Alexandra Pelosi’s HBO documentary film, Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County.
Ms. Rodin was known during her tenure as being a champion of the Rockefeller Foundation’s “data-driven” approach. She shared with the Wall Street Journal a mission-driven quote from the Foundation’s founder, John D. Rockefeller: “The world owes no man a living, but it owes every man the opportunity to make a living.”
I honestly don’t think we are doing too much better now with average people getting opportunities than during Mr. Rockefeller’s day. If he had known women had to work to take care of their children the way they do now, I think he might have said “person” and not “man.”
I had lots of laughs reading the laudatory Journal report on this nice lady Judith Rodin, including the initial feature that she’d done some of her “data driven” work with Peter Thiel’s firm Palantir, the very company that had “prepared” one of the worst excuses for a “report” I’d ever seen on the Clinton Foundation’s bullshit world meetings of corporate leaders, celebrities and international dictators, the so-called Clinton Global Initiative.
So while looking for the grossly shocking information about how many kids live in poverty in the U.S. (the total percentage has not changed since 2008, but the percentage of children living in poverty has skyrocketed to over 20% and 44% live low-income) — that was when I saw Pelosi’s homeless children of Orange County film and when I saw who the director was, well, I just had to write this article.
Because these people, Pelosi and Rodin, aren’t like Charles Dickens, a poor boy whose father was sent to debtor’s prison, and who worked in a bootblack factory as a child, but who grew up, and through his writing became a wealthy man who made actual positive change in Victorian England, especially in prison conditions and treatment of prisoners — oh, and treatment of homeless orphans too.
I don’t think Dickens made “data-driven decisions” or films for HBO nobody has ever seen. Watch this little 50-second trailer for the homeless kids. She left every single blessed one of them right there where they were at. Every single one of them.
And what’s Alexandra Pelosi doing living in New York City and being an elector for California? And how many homeless people could have decent places to live for the $16.5 million paid to Doug Band/Teneo by Rockefeller Foundation over those three years? Well, if my former organization had been working with them …
Six-thousand and six hundred.
(This lightly edited story was previously published at Medium.com on December 28, 2016. The editor made no attempt to update it.)