This year AHF once again took part in the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. AHF’s float showcased AHF and the Healthy Housing Foundation’s innovative solutions to the homeless & affordable housing crises. In our “Hope for the Homeless” float, we celebrated one of Healthy Housing Foundation’s success stories.
Mr. Herbert Butler, an 88-year-old formerly homeless veteran, rode with Ms. Nicole Johnson-Farley, the case manager who persuaded Mr. Butler to come off the streets of Hollywood and into AHF’s Baltimore Hotel. (Special thanks to Winter Speyer, Healthy Housing Foundation’s National Housing Director, who first brought Mr. Butler’s story to our attention).
Butler, an avid amateur pianist, long resisted going to shelters (for myriad reasons known best to him), preferring his life on the street. However, one ritual remained sacred to him: several times a week, he traveled from Hollywood to Union Station to wait his turn for the chance to play–and entertain harried commuters–for 20 minutes or so on the community piano in the train station’s waiting room.
His case manager Nicole Johnson-Farley, from JWCH Wesley Health Center and Kaiser Permanente, worked hard to earn Butler’s trust on the street, bonding with him over a shared musical connection. Her grandfather (who died when she was just two-years-old) was the famous alto sax jazz musician Captain John Handy, who Butler followed and deeply admired.
In October 2019, Farley was able to connect Butler to AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation. Working with the HHF team, she successfully placed Butler in AHF’s Baltimore Hotel, a 1910 single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotel on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles that AHF has repurposed for homeless and extremely-low-income housing.
Inspired by Mr. Butler’s story, his service to our country, and his passion for music, AHF recently obtained a secondhand mini baby grand piano. We placed it in the lobby of AHF’s King Edward Hotel, directly across the street from the Baltimore Hotel, where Butler resides. Now, Mr. Butler, and other musically inclined residents of AHF’s hotel residences, can play the piano to their hearts’ content.