The television blares; a robotic voice bellows from a red radio, updating National Weather Service information. A man with a Santa Claus beard — and the build to go with it — sits in a chair squeezing sallow lemons into a cup and talking about what he says are revelations from God.
Two other men, self-proclaimed best friends, slouch on the sofa. Stephan Polfliet talks constantly and Mitchell Kautz stares off, presumably listening. Another, Grady, scarcely leaves his bedroom except to grab a smoke in the frontyard, where vegetables grow and fruit trees bloom, including papaya.
Elisa Santana Cenzano owns the house and says she has no problem watching over such a mismatched group. But, she confides, she is vigilant about picking the papayas or else Robert Gifford, the man with the Santa beard, will snatch them first.
"But I know that's part of his living on the street for so long," she says. "That's part of him."
This scene of controlled chaos is part of one L.A. nonprofit's never-give-up experiment to reduce homelessness among the most difficult-to-place people.
It was seven years ago that SHARE, or the Self-Help and Recovery Exchange, launched its collaborative housing program; and it now has a network of more than 1,200 beds in about 200 private homes across Los Angeles County.