It’s the type of story you’re likely to see in an old after school special—or hear about in an Albert Hammond song. Brittany* came to Los Angeles from her home in Boston hoping to make it in Hollywood. She had a job at the Nickelodeon network for a while, but it wasn’t quite what she had envisioned. Drug use and long spells of unemployment eventually led her to Skid Row.

She tells this story to Karen Santana, an outreach worker who stops her as she is coming out of a needle exchange. Santana talks with Brittany for about five minutes, asking her questions about her living situation. She takes down some basic information that she will enter into a database, determining whether other outreach workers or health professionals have been in contact with her in the past. All the while she assures Brittany that she can help her find housing. No need to worry about a drug test; killing addiction is a long process, and it’s much easier in a stable living environment. Brittany seems to take Santana at her word. She says she is willing to do what it takes to find housing.

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