My name is Rita. I am currently H-.

Hello, my name is Rita, and I have been unhoused here in LA along with my three dogs for going on five years now.

I had wanted to wow everyone with a finely crafted essay on the auguries & viccissitude  of H-ness, however I was stricken with a blinding headache that made my nose bleed; I had to shut down for a minute until it started to subside.

It is very difficult to get out of this situation, the pandemic has made it altogether more difficult, something I would like to remedy, which is why I am running for a seat on the neighborhood council where I live.

Even though we are supposedly under strict order to shelter in place, we are still being moved around by enforcement agencies. The city just shut down the shelters after 4 months and now they say they are opening more? A track record of failures.

Every day I see new faces, but I also see the same faces as well.

I see new faces and they must be thinking the same thing I was when I ended up on the streets, they're thinking okay this is just temporary, I just have to keep moving.

But that catches up to you really fast. Then you find yourself stuck outside when the weather turns bad, one minute you're telling people there is no way you'll end up in a tent, next thing you are grateful for any kind of tent you can get.

That was me, a few years ago, and I still had that viewpoint up until 2 years ago, when I moved out to the "country", to the vestigial slice of excess Railroad Right of Way that bisects the track and the concrete channel of the upper tributary channel of the LA river watershed.

I was slated for project roomkey, but that program came and went, and now they are booting people out onto the streets again.

In the interim, I came up with a grand idea for the area where we live; something that would benefit the community, something that anyone could get behind, something that might take us out of here through a work cooperative, something based on the idea of the community land trust, where the rails to trails concept meets with urban forest - but with a twist - I wanted to do something that could improve Ridership aboard the train - so I came up with an idea called Rainbow Forest.

It's basically a work cooperative that could provide housing. People can work maintaining the forest and then the forest will provide them interim housing.

This way no one would have to look at poverty aboard the train, no one would have to live right next to the rail, and we could offset the annual summertime temperatures in addition to our carbon footprint.

So this is what I have dutifully been pursuing, we have gotten a lot of support both locally and statewide, as a matter of fact anytime I mention the Rainbow Forest to a person who is age 13 or younger I get "What? I want to go there!", my youngest told me this on a video call, then he proceeded to go and get his jacket, assuming we could go now.

H-minus and the Rainbow Forest became part of California ReLeaf Network at the end of last year, an achievement I was quite proud of.

I will be working very hard in 2021 to make the concept of the Rainbow Forest a reality, we hope to be planting the first trees this year.

What exactly is a rainbow forest? Well, it is a forest of trees that bloom in the colors of the rainbow, stretched along the four miles of track from Chatsworth station to Wilbur station.

It hasn't happened yet, but it will, and when it does you will see it as a rainbow colored streak when you look at the satellite imagery of the west valley, from now until as soon as two years time.

I think giving people purpose in life is the only way we will fix this crisis called Homelessness.

But until then, we have a very large community with acute needs that cannot be met by outreach teams. My place serves as a waystation for wandering unhoused individuals, as they migrate through I get asked for a ton of things, food items, tents, blankets, dog food, batteries, especially water which every gallon must be carried out here, the tap water out here registers on the DST at 175 PPM, so I only get purified water from the machine….

Flashlights, rope, trash bags, tent stakes, shovels, milk and cereal especially, and those are always difficult to keep without electricity. I often cook, and always enough for five people, on any given day there might be new faces, none of it ever goes to waste.

I support a community of around thirty people in my close proximity, in addition to the hundreds more who know my name, I am the point person for streetwatch, which means I make myself present at every enforcement, ensuring that people at least get to keep their most important things, it can be hectic if you are involved in a sweep and if someone is not there to mediate with law enforcement people can often lose valuable possessions like identification cards or medication, collateral damage in the fracay.

We would be so grateful for your support, not just me, but the dozens of other individuals that are out here, and I would like to rent some portable bathrooms so we can minimise the potential health risks associated with the alternative.

Thank you so much for caring!

All the best in 2021!

Hindsight is 2020!


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Rita Dunn 
Chatsworth, CA
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