Gregory Park took a friend up on an offer of a road trip and found himself stranded. He was abandoned and alone in an unfamiliar city, thousands of miles from anyone who might have cushioned the blow.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, he traveled with a friend to Los Angeles, never imagining the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the world would end badly. He was homeless, penniless, and determined.
He was one of 500 who stood in line to complete an application for the Gateways Apartments in August 2013. “The lines were long and there was a lot of paperwork. I did a lot of footwork. If they told me to do something, or bring something, I did. At times, I wanted to give up. I had to fight the feeling of defeat. I was determined though, and I was optimistic.”
He was also persistent. He returned to the SRO Rental Office every day from August until December when he moved in to the Gateways Apartments. He has high praise for the staff who saw him through the process. “Lance, Netta and Rosa Ortiz were all very helpful. They helped me to make sure my paperwork was in order. They made sure my transition was not too hard.”
He celebrated his first Los Angeles Christmas alone in his 5th floor apartment with his service dog and a scruffy ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas tree in his home at the Gateways Apartments. “I call it my penthouse. It is quiet and peaceful and far from the ruckus on the street.”
The peace he has been able to achieve in his new home has inspired him to create a similar space where others in the Skid Row Community can escape the frustrations and fears of their daily lives. He hosts a weekly Open Mike / Poetry Night at the Gateways Apartments Community Room for poetry, song, spoken word. “It is a place where you can come and just be. It is a place where you can express yourself.”
Gregory credits his creativity with getting him through the hard times and uncertainty of being homeless. Since he was a child, he has taken refuge in the comforts of art. He paints, draws, writes, designs clothing and composes poetry. “My art got me through the hard times. I was homeless and alone and now I have a home and a place to create.”
Gregory pays his good fortune forward as a volunteer spokesperson for Action for the Homeless for Homeless Healthcare. He speaks frequently and has testified before the California legislature to appeal for funding. “I feel I am giving back. I found my niche and I can be of help. What seemed like a curse has turned into a blessing.”