Framework

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Kerry Morrison asks John Watkins about his health and housing situation in April 2010. One year later, after 14 years living in a homeless encampment in the Hollywood Hills, Watkins has an apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rudy Salinas / People Assisting the Homeless

Rudy Salinas, right, and Josh Orem, left, drive John Watkins to an appointment. They and other outreach workers with the nonprofit PATH helped Watkins get off the streets and into an apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Watkins, right, at an appointment with Orem. It took several months for volunteers to persuade Watkins, the "Godfather" of the Hollywood Hills, to move into an apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Rudy Salinas, right, passes papers to Josh Orem, as they help Watkins get situated in his new apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Rudy Salinas says goodbye to John Watkins in his new apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

John Watkins looks out his kitchen window at the Griffith Observatory in his new Hollywood apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

John Watkins makes his bed in his new Hollywood apartment that he shares with a friend.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

John Watkins with his dog, Capone, in his new Hollywood apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

John Watkins and his dog, Capone, leave his apartment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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They call him the “Godfather.”

For 14 years, John Watkins held supreme authority over the homeless encampments deep in the Hollywood hills. So it was with some trepidation that volunteers armed with clipboards picked their way up a rugged trail to his mountain hideaway one morning, hoping he would answer questions about his health and housing situation.

Their goal: to identify and find homes for the 20 people at greatest risk of early death if left on the streets of Hollywood.

Organizers of the grass-roots effort had no money to help those they interviewed. But they hoped that by putting names and faces to some of the most vulnerable residents, the community would rally to help. A year later, the early results are promising. Thirty-seven chronically homeless people are in apartments; 34 others are expected to be housed within weeks, and more than $800,000 has been raised to sustain the effort.

1 Comment

  1. January 28, 2012, 8:48 pm

    my name is jesse wood… godfather would know me as jbird… he took me in under his wing and saved my life from a very nasty group of people. i was jumped and beaten almost to death, he found me and took me the this little hospital in hollywood. he sat with me for 4 days at the hospital…he didnt even know me. i lived with him and his dog, "capone" for 4 yrs. i was known to all the squaters as his son. its been 7 yrs since i was in hollywood living in a tent. i am now very well off and have a great family. if there was anyone in the world that needed something like this happen it would be him. If there is anyway possible i would like to contact him. i would like to thank him. i can be reached at 586-932-7409

    By: jesse

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