To be trapped in this industry because of your childhood or economic circumstances is unimaginable. But those who profit off of women and girls like this? I have no words.
Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.
But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.
"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."
She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.
"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."
Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.
"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.
"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."
Courtesy of Judy Vaughan
Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."
Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.
Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.
"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."
And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.
A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.
And so far, the program is a resounding success.
92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.
Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.
"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."
When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)
In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.
So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...
A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"
Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.
But that's not all. After he hurls the wild animal away from him, he pulls a handgun—that's right, a handgun—from his hip and yells, "I'm gonna shoot the f*cker!" as he chases it around the yard. The last thing we see is the bobcat running under the car and the man running around it, gun in hand, yelling "A bobcat just attacked my wife!"
Still modern Americana, honestly, but on a whole other level.
This was a wild 46 seconds https://t.co/jIHQg0G4qU— Sada (@Sada)1618515681.0
The video has been viewed more than 10 million times on Twitter. Undoubtedly, many of those views are looped viewings because there's nothing funnier than seeing this bobcat-throwing, handgun-wielding, f-bomb-dropping man go from an adrenaline-fueled, "A bobcat just attacked my wife!" straight back to a chipper "Good mornin!" without missing a beat.
It's just the kind of real-life drama we've come to expect these days—too wild and too unbelievable to even pass muster in a TV drama writing room. That would never really happen. It's too over the top. The guy is packing heat while sing-songing "Good mornin!" in his suburban driveway? Come on. Let's tone it down a little.
In reality, though, the whole encounter begs for an explanation. Thankfully, a bobcat expert chimed in on Twitter to offer just that.
Imogene Cancellare is a conservation biologist who spent years studying wild bobcats, and she was happy to have the opportunity to talk about her area of expertise.
"I feel like I've been training for this my whole life," she wrote.
So it looks like a juvenile bobcat was sitting under a family’s car and got totally freaked out by human activity a… https://t.co/roNaP0JWzj— Imogene Cancellare (@Imogene Cancellare)1618536698.0
Bobcats are medium-sized felids that range from southern Canada thru most of the contiguous US down to Oaxaca, Mexi… https://t.co/HzGqYWoKbu— Imogene Cancellare (@Imogene Cancellare)1618537266.0
"Bobcats are medium-sized felids that range from southern Canada thru most of the contiguous US down to Oaxaca, Mexico. They thrive in a variety of habitats, from swamps to deserts to mountains, and can survive alongside urban environments.
As habitat generalists, they also have a generalist diet and will eat all manner of small rodents, rabbits and hares, birds, squirrels, and even deer (brave adults only). They are solitary-ish, but collar data suggests, like many carnivores, they tolerate others fairly well.
Bobcats are primarily crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn. They spend a lot of time resting during the middle of the day, but it's not out of the ordinary for them to be out and about, nor indicative of illness if you see one."
Let's just pause for a moment to appreciate the word "crepuscular." Brilliant.
"Bobcats are opportunistic hunters and will kill small pets, but I'm not sure how common it is for them to actually eat a pet dog or cat vs killing it to eliminate a threat. Carnivores do that sometimes, sorry.
"Bobcats are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, tho some research suggests populations are declining in much of the US. They are often hunted without limits, both as non-game animals and furbearers. One issue that's becoming concerning: anticoagulant rodenticides.
Long-term research on California bobcats found that 90% of the cats tested positive for anticoagulant rodenticide post-mortem. The cause: eating rodents in urban areas that have ingested rat poison. This doesn't always kill the cats, but it does make them sick.
Bobcats can contract feline distemper from unvaccinated domestic and feral cats. They can also contract rabies. The CDC doesn't list them a main vector in the US, and many biologists think these animals rarely survive rabies to the point of attacking people."
Stopping to add here that the bobcat in the video was later caught and killed by authorities, and did, in fact, have rabies. So obviously a super rare occurrence, but not impossible. Also not the only reason to avoid an encounter with a bobcat, as Cancellare explained:
"That said, a bobcat doesn't have to be sick to totally ruin your day. When I was live-trapping bobcats, as with any animal, we took extreme care to ensure the safety of both human and animal. The reality is if a bobcat bit down on my hand, I'd be unlikely to use it again.
Case in point: me wearing Kevlar gloves while handling an awake 6week old bobcat kitten a farmer called the police… https://t.co/iH2uQcLfC8— Imogene Cancellare (@Imogene Cancellare)1618539156.0
"But, bobcats don't normally seek out humans. Most interactions we hear about are with cornered animals found in buildings, or when pets are attacked. Bobcats are intense, loud, and obnoxious, but they are defensive animals, not offensive animals.
In the video that's currently trending, it looks to be a juvenile cat. I initially thought it was underneath their car and got spooked, but some have pointed out that the cat first crosses the street and runs into the woman, then grabbing onto her legs.
I'm not here to say what the man should or shouldn't have done—having been screamed at by bobcats myself, I totally understand their panic. Tossing the cat as he did isn't great, but what are you supposed to do when you grab onto an apex carnivore like that?"
So glad she said that, because more than a few people have chastised the man for chucking the cat. It had just attacked his wife. The instinct to throw it was totally understandable.
As for rabies and what to do if you find yourself face-to-face with a wild bobcat, Cancellare went on:
Rabies is not common in bobcats, but we have seen a rise in cases in the last few years. Unfortunately when these interactions occur, few options exist.
The only way to test for rabies is to examine the brain tissue, which means killing the animal.
Both people in the video will likely get a rabies vaccination series. If the cat can be trapped, it will likely be euthanized.
It's also possible the cat was running from something across the street and got surprised by the woman and attacked her.
Some people are also saying she was holding a pet carrier with a cat in it. I haven't verified that but it seems like a reach behaviorally for a bobcat to cross the street to attack a cat with humans around.
Sidenote: bobcats don't hybridize with domestic cats. A bobcat is very unlikely to charge you. If it does, it may feel cornered, be protecting young, or, in rare cases, have rabies.
With 1 inch claws and 1 inch canines, a bobcat attack risks deep lacerations. You'd need stitches, but it's unlikely a bobcat could kill a human. If you are approached by an aggressive bobcat, make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw things at it.
I would also stomp loudly a few ft in its direction as a bluff charge. The goal is to appear bigger and madder so the animal decides you aren't worth it.
If you are attacked by a bobcat, keep it off your face and neck. Not because the animal is going to suffocate you by biting you, but because you could lose an eye. The claws are just as effective as the teeth.
I feel bad for the bobcat in the video because he got THROWN, but we're not going to vilify the guy for protecting his wife. If I was holding a bobcat that was trying to bite me, I would absolutely throw it away from me!"
The best way to reduce the spread of rabies in your area, for any species and for any rabies variant, is to 1. vacc… https://t.co/m8FdMz3j8l— Imogene Cancellare (@Imogene Cancellare)1618542612.0
"The best way to reduce the spread of rabies in your area, for any species and for any rabies variant, is to
1. vaccinate your pets and
2. not feed wildlife, or feral domestic pets.
When animals congregate, they are more likely to contract disease. I don't have tips on identifying rabid animals as there is a lot of variation between species and among individuals. An aggressive animal (comes to you) is more likely to be rabid than a defensive animal (trying to get away from you), but not always."
Well, you learn something new every day. It's just not usually because a guy dropped his brownies and pulled a handgun on a rabid bobcat after throwing it across his front yard. It's just too much. Thank goodness for security camera footage, because no one would believe this tale without it.
2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.
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