Staring at a scene she had never seen before, the realization of what was happening and about to happen in her life hit her like a blow.”Oh God, I can’t handle this. I want to go home,” Tina Swen mourned.On November 2014, Tina landed on the soil of Liberia after spending19 years of her life in America. Now 20 years-old and in total ignorance to Africa and its culture; Tina knew that her life was now over.According to the tall and athletic basketball player, when she was 14 years of age, she had a friend she had known for a very short period that would change her life forever. Because of that friend she says she has left her comfort zone and now finds herself back in Africa.”I told her that I’d always have her back, so she used me into getting even with old enemies, which led me into doing time and eventually getting sent back,” Tina said, shrugging her shoulders.It seems as if Tina’s memory of her childhood friend still haunts her. You can see the tears catching in the corner of her eyes when she has to recall her story.”She ruined my life eternally. Now I am here in the middle of nowhere, around people I don’t know nor understand,” she says in confusion.Tina spent 10 years in jail for assault, she says; and though she learned her lesson behind bars, she thinks there’s still another lesson to learn.” I spent too much time behind bars to know if I’ve truly changed. The real lesson at hand is being back here in the middle of nowhere. What will I do, who will look out for me; how will I survive,” she asked.A challenge that many deportees face when returning back home is not having stability. Some become so fruastrated with their siuation that they relapse and fall victim to crime, violence and drugs.”I don’t know what’s going to happen to me tomorrow, let alone after this interview is done. When you’re gone and I’m faced with loneliness, I guess I have to do what I gotta do to survive out here,” she suggested.As of now, there aren’t any safe homes for deportees or returnees who return back to Liberia. According to Tina, she was not given any money by Homeland security upon her release at the airport.”I don’t have anything, only a few bar’s of soap, lotion and the clothes I wore to go to court following 10 years of jail term. I’m depending on you to help me find a home cause without you, I’m done; lost,” she said, tears streaming down her face.Meanwhile, Tina says after going through what she has been through in the past 10 years of her life, she has a lot of psychological difficulties.”I was 14 years-old when I went to prison and it was in there that I got raped, turned out and inititated into lesbianism. I left my girl back home who took care of me and even brought me the things that I came back here with,” Tina added, ” People saw me at the airport and called me all kinds of names because of how I look and act. It’s disturbing being out here, I’ll need help to cope with this,” she said.Tina’s future is unclear and knowing how to trace her relatives has become a problem. In 1990 she says, her mother was reported missing after she stopped communicating with her relatives abroad.”When we came to America in the 80s, my mom used to call us all the time, along with my older brother. But around 1990, the calls stopped coming and we never heard from them again,” she said, adding that “…when I got locked up, well, my father turned his back on me because he was scared immagration would deport him because of my behavior.”Tina stands alone, dressed in a pair of baggy jeans, a prison t-shirt and a head full of braided hair, Tina needs help.” I’m looking all around this place hoping that someone will look into my eyes and see the good in me and take me in. For the past week, I’ve been sleeping around the airport in a shed with this old lady. I pay her but this is’nt life. I paid for the crime I committed and did 10 years of my life behind bars. Why am I doing time all over again? Why am I back here?” she wailed.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
A university real estate instructor got a lecture from his Echo Park tenants who are facing eviction because the landlord wants to opt out of a federal subsidy program and raise rents. Some three dozen Morton Avenue tenants boarded a bus and rode to the University of California, Los Angeles, where business school instructor Eric Sussman was teaching a class Tuesday. Wearing bright red T-shirts and hoisting signs telling Sussman he should be ashamed, the tenants marched toward their landlord’s class clutching a piggy bank. They also had a letter asking UCLA’s chancellor to review Sussman’s business practices. Campus police wouldn’t allow the demonstrators inside the classroom. A short time later, Sussman went outside to chants of “Shame on you!” He reluctantly accepted the pig, and students later dropped coins into it. Sussman and his partners want out of the federally subsidized Section 8 program, which partially pays the rent for 22 families in the Morton Gardens complex. The government’s fair market calculations are up to $1,000 less than what the units can fetch on the open market. Some tenants, Sussman said, are paying $1,200 for two- and three-bedroom apartments that are worth more than $2,000. Last year, Sussman served eviction notices on the Section 8 tenants, but tenant advocates say the city’s tough eviction rules prevent the poor from being tossed out and a federal lawsuit was filed. The tenants can stay until a judge issues a decision. A ruling is expected in August. Sussman was targeted to “send a message to all landlords,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival. “I love this place I live,” said Debora Barrientos, a 43-year-old single mother who lives at the complex. Sussman said he thought it was inappropriate for the tenants to attempt to “harass and intimidate me,” adding that government must do more to provide affordable housing.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!