VIDEO | 21:57
After Skid Row

After Skid Row

‘After Skid Row’ documents the journey of Barbie Carter as she navigates the transition to housed life following the brutal reality of a decade on the streets. (After Skid Row is a Gnarly Bay production- Directed by Lindsey Hagen, Produced by Lauren Todd, Original Score by Jared Blizzard and Filmed and Edited by Chris Naum. After Skid Row was inspired by the journalism and mutual aid efforts of Amelia Rayno.)

Gangster Granni pried back the shades and looked through the window.

For the first time in over 10 years, she was looking out instead of in; a realization that, once settled in, inspired her to dance as she jangled her new set of keys above her head.

The Los Angeles native who spent more than a decade living in a tent in Skid Row had reached a long-awaited benchmark, getting approved for Section 8 (federally assisted) housing and signing a new lease. Yet amidst the joy of the moment, it was impossible to ignore the familiar context that in so many other cases pushes newly housed individuals right back to the streets:

Inside, there was no bed, no refrigerator, no stove, no chair — little more than Granni herself, and the blinds. She had achieved housing, yes. But it would take far more than a set of keys to ensure it remained a home.

I met Gangster Granni in the spring of 2020 while reporting and organizing mutual aid in Skid Row, and nearly a year later, I was spending time there when after two years she was finally green lighted for federal housing. It felt like a great success; a pinnacle that so few of the tens of thousands living unhoused in Los Angeles are able to obtain.

It was in accompanying Granni — a woman who had become a close friend — to receive her keys that I realized a sobering reality. She had been granted four walls, but woefully few resources to stay within them. There was virtually no assistance with furniture and appliances, no logistical help when it came to figuring out how to turn on her utilities, set up a bank account, find a community of support or replace the many services and resources she left seven miles away in Skid Row.

I felt it was important to tell the story of the “after,” one that is often relegated to the imagination of taxpayers — currently, the recidivism rates of the newly housed to homeless again aren’t even tracked, but anecdotes from social workers indicate they are high.

Over the last year, I have seen Granni evolve from the defensive personality she adopted in Skid Row back into Barbie Carter; whoever she wants to be.

This was a victory of great resolve and inner strength of character on her part — and also deeply, an independent network of financial and technical aid, support and love. From a governmental standpoint, it was an accident.

With this film, we hoped to show a piece of this important context. Until we insist on post-housing supports, we shouldn’t expect a housing success story — as Granni’s is— to be anything more than what it is: a miracle.