I see vacant houses and homeless everday. Our ethics and our economy are to blame. How do realtors rationalize this?
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
If only he'd taken a bath. Barefoot and miserable, the defendant, William Nowell, watched the jurors laughing and chatting as they filed out of the courtroom. Like they were at a cocktail party, he thought. Never mind that his life had just come apart. He started to cry. The verdict was in. He'd been evicted for smelling bad.
Nowell does smell. Even he admits it. But precisely how bad is a matter of debate. In August, it became a matter of legal debate, when the owners of the luxury loft building Nowell lived in took him to court in an effort to kick him out of the very apartment they'd let him into.
Nowell had been living on the streets for the past two decades, and he looks it. He owns one outfit, which he wears every single day: too-big, ragged black sweatpants wadded up into a ball at the waist, and black hoodie sweatshirt. No socks. No shoes. Fierce blue eyes peek out from beneath a large, scruffy dreadlock of hair, which clings to the back of his head like some crazy animal.
Last year, he received what every down-on-his-luck homeless person dreams of: a sudden windfall, a settlement in the amount of $200,000 to do with as he pleased. He would begin anew, he decided: find a home, clean up.
"I always envisioned the place I wanted," he says.
The building at 650 Spring St. fit the bill. It's one of eight buildings downtown owned by SB Properties, the largest loft builder in the area. A byzantine old former Bank of America, with original Art Deco tiles, echoing main hall and steel safe-deposit boxes in the vault downstairs, it's a place straight out of the movies — indeed, the music video for Usher's "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love Again" and scenes from Mad Men were filmed here.
Aesthetics aside, at other buildings, people were rude. "As you can imagine," Nowell says, pointing to himself. "I know I smell bad. I'm sick. I have serious kidney problems."
SB Properties leasing agent Cassandra Smith, however, "was very nice," he says. "She never gave any indication about my appearance or the way I smell. And I was worse than I am now." He met with her "just like this. No shoes." Nowell explained that he didn't have credit but could pay a whole year in advance. "I really wanted to get in there."
They accepted him with six months' rent in advance and a double deposit — a total of $12,000 up front. He signed a one-year lease, at $1,495 a month, for unit 408.
At 800 square feet, with cement floors, exposed-brick walls and industrial piping overhead, the one-bedroom unit is not terribly luxe. But it had 11-foot-high ceilings and lots of sunlight pouring in through three big, street-facing windows. He moved in on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
Nowell has an impressive memory and a genteel way of speaking that is at odds with his derelict appearance. Like a prince disguised as a pauper, he notes who is nice (the evening doorman, and Cassandra Smith "at first") and who is not (pretty much everyone else). "When I met the building manager, she gave me this look," he recalls. "I can sense when somebody doesn't approve."
"Nice to meet you," he recalls having said to her. "But she just looked at me. I knew what was going through her head. How did I get into this building? How did I get approved? What was Cassandra thinking?"
He spent the rest of the day in a taxi, schlepping 125 plastic grocery bags of stuff — the sum total of his worldly possessions — from the motel room he'd been renting in MacArthur Park to his new home. Nowell owned art magazines, books and old newspapers but had neither furniture nor linens. "I wanted to hold off on all that until I finally got my own place," he explains. "It was a big thing for me."
When exactly did things start to go wrong? It could perhaps be traced back to a kind deed gone awry.
Sometime during the day, Nowell got a call from Smith, the leasing agent. She'd purchased toiletries for him. Could she have permission to put them in his apartment?
"It insulted me," he says now. "I wanted to move in quietly and get some much-needed rest. I didn't want to be treated like I've been treated all these years. People wanting to ... whatever ..."
"Why don't you just leave it at the front desk?" he asked her.
"No," he recalls her saying. "Why don't I just lay it out in your bathroom." When he returned to the apartment, he found soap, shampoo, deodorant, a shower curtain, socks, shoes, towels, a change of clothes and a collection of tiny, travel-sized hotel soaps in a pink Victoria's Secret bag waiting for him.
"My first home in two decades, and I felt like it had been contaminated," he says. "It's stuff I wouldn't use. All that chemical stuff."
Nowell eats only organic food and washes — when he washes — with artisanal, handmade soap from Soaptopia. "I'm not going to wear clothes somebody else bought for me. I wouldn't let them bury me in that stuff! It was meant to be a hint. She knew I had money."
I see vacant houses and homeless everday. Our ethics and our economy are to blame. How do realtors rationalize this?
If Mr Nowell wishes to live amongst others he need to recognize that he can't persist with his obsessive behaviour. It certainly seems that he has mental health issues. He refuses to accommodate all reasonable requests to clean himself up. He can't have it both ways. He creates his own misfortune.
For those who think there may be a lot more to this story than the article offers, Here are two stories from over a decade ago -- from the Weekly! -- about Mr. Nowell that may explain his behavior a little better:
Someone hates downtown gentrification, but certainly doesn't mind getting attention and forcing legal remedies.
@SBtenant read the articles... wow I remember this guy... horrendous the way he lived out there on Broadway. No,, SB had every right to do what they did. This man was not a victim, in my opinion, he has a personality disorder characterized with Passive Aggressive behaviors towards authorities. No amount of medication will cure him of this and because of his ant-social tendencies will seem very intelligent.Most sociopaths display higher than normal intelligence. wow! SO he goes from Broadway to SB .. this man is just like another Bill we know on Main Street. Same behavior patterns and intellect. Setting themselves up as plaintiffs , but not really wanting the money, just bucking the system. Passive Aggressive.
@SBtenant HAHAH!! I believe the Stinky One doth protest too much.
So he was passionately against the gentrification of downtown, won a 200K lawsuit against the city and decided that one of the most gentrified buildings downtown was EXACTLY where he wanted to live. When he lost his eviction case in court, he wept. Something just does not add up here.
It's not up to the leasing agent to decide whom to rent to. That's where management calls the shots. Can we stop villifying the poor woman (Smith) who tried to help this guy keep his apartment by giving him a gentle hint so as to cut down on the complaints against him? Would we rather she have called up and said "everyone thinks you smell and if you don't stop the managers will kick you out"? Considering how oddly/entitled/insulted he responded to her act of kindness, I can only imagine how THAT would have gone over.
@Mokiki yes! some folks need to be told these things. When I go on a ketogenic diet when cutting for bodybuilding, I can imagine how bad I smell . No amount of soap and water can get rid of the smell. you have dragon breathe and the smell of ketones coming from your pores is horrendous. Friend of mine asked me if I still smelled yesterday. If you care for someone and have their best interests at heart you will tell them something.
@dgarzila1 @Mokiki @dgarzila - Not to stray off topic, but you reminded me about how my first BF had really awful breath and we didn't know why. He constantly brushed and rinsed. But he was a bodybuilder at the time, and I always thought it had something to do with the protein drinks he consumed. Now I realize it was the ketones. So, good to know.
I have been around a lot of these people. He was planting himself as a plaintiff. He got the money from MTA for being disheveled etc and maybe stinky, but in this case he was looking for another civil rights windfall from the owner of this building. I used to live in skid row and they call this : the big lick. It is disgusting how people think that this guy did not plan it this way. I am with management. I have an illness etc. But that doesn't mean I can be all stinky around my neighbors. Man with all of that money I would have had a suit for everyday of the week. No... This man was calculating looking for another pay out. I am convinced of this.
Eric Andrist (july1962): I read this article and was left wondering why nobody would have taken the time to help Mr. Stinky out with his financial/living choices as he'd obviously been out of society's mainstream loop for far too long. I felt bad because I figured he had no friends capable of providing such "services", assuming any friends he had would also be homeless, etc.
Reading your comments here have surprised me. You seem to be fairly well-adjusted (rude and arrogant but used to living around other people, etc). You seem to be well acquainted with Mr. Stinky. If all this is true then you know full well he had no hope of dealing with that monetary landfall - you must have known he'd blow it and lose it all. And you must have known that Mr. Stinky would not fit in well at the place he rented, which doesn't sound like a good place for 20 year street vetrans.
So my question is where were you when it counted? You can post all you want here, insulting everybody that doesn't agree with you, stating how wonderful Mr. Stinky is, etc, but that doesn't do him any good and I doubt anybody really cares about what you have to say, anyway. Mr. Stinky is out and running low on cash. He'll have wasted the rest soon enough. But he'll always have some finely-aged sweat pants, so I guess all is well there.
So where were you, Mr. Stinky's good friend, when he needed advice and assistance, when you could have helped him make better decisions?
It's too late now, you failed your friend. But by all means, go on preaching and insulting a bunch of strangers on a stupid comment board.
@Lamedeal well said. i think mr stinky's friend is really just trying to help his putrid buddy repeat his initial success against the metro system, and cash in on a new lawsuit vs the SB. then mr stinky can attempt to cause considerable offense and unhappiness to a whole new slew of people. after all, its not illegal, right?
Hmm...sounds like management wanted to fill a unit (i.e. receive $$$) , then remembered after the fact that they didn't actually like him. Sad.
@Sunnie its not hard to fill units downtown. it sounds more like someone took pity on the man and expected him to clean himself up now that he wouldnt be homeless anymore. the fact that the man wouldnt do that makes him an unfit neighbor. restaurants can deny service to people who dont wear shoes, but an apartment cant enforce minimal hygienic standards? do you want to be forced to smell him eating at the table next to you since the law doesnt define what poor hygiene is?
@peabody3000 @Sunnie It was never part of his contract that he was to "clean himself up." They knew what he looked and smelled like and allowed him to rent anyway. It's not that he "wouldn't" clean up, it's that within weeks of him moving in, they began harassing him. He had no incentive to call what he was paying all that money for, "home," and the harassment ended up making matters worse for him. His plan to better his life was ruined by the management company, and now they've taken away a huge chunk of the money he had to get his life on track. And no, if it isn't in the rental agreement, the apartment building can't enforce it. A private business like a restaurant doesn't have a contract with it's customers. They can ask him to leave if they want...the loft building cannot.
@nickbravolives @july1962 @peabody3000 @Sunnie i don't believe i've misunderstood anything at all. i think i know exactly what july is saying but it doesn't change my position, which is one that bears no animosity towards newell but i would never allow him to be in my personal daily home life
@peabody3000 @july1962 @Sunnie actually , skid row housing trust is moving the most hardest to get off of the streets into their units. So there are options. I am glad he lost his lawsuit against the SB, but it is being appealed , so we may see some attorney looking for notoriety join the team and possibly win. But I have seen this issue in skid row happening for a while now. I wish I could find the term : plant the plaintiff, somewhere on the internet , but I can't. These people like WIlliam are very patient even to the point of enduring jail time to get the big civil rights lawsuit money. You can bet he has squirreled some of that money away somewhere. I have learned never to associate poverty with mental illness or lack of intelligence.
@dgarzila1 @july1962 @Sunnie william, either due to trying to enrich himself, or just holding a smelly chip on his smelly shoulder against all of humanity, has only made it harder for people who need to be given a chance to actually get one. if a man moves off the street and insists on stinking like a pile of excrement when he has his own bathroom and organic soap, how will other people attempting to move off the street into normal society be treated? either way its an extremely selfish william and im glad he cant afford to assault peoples senses anymore
@july1962 @peabody3000 @Sunnie i have been downtown long enough to know that even the SB Lofts , was willing to rent to someone who may have been in the process of cleaning themselves up and help him to redeem himself. It would have been a win win if he had done so. If they had offered to return his rent money and he refused ,,, we all know that William was basically looking for another lawsuit, which he got and which he lost. Yes, if he couldn't get decent clothes and a haircut in a couple of weeks management knew something was up. Believe me,,, SB has plenty of people waiting to rent. The problem would have been tenants using William as an excuse not to pay their rents and SB losing out on rent from current tenants . It wasn't that People didn't want him around because he stunk, they were looking to use him as a way to get out of paying their rents and they sue the landlord. Pretexts on both ends of the spectrum... people tend to look for ways to get over. Willliam looking for another lawsuit and the current tenants looking to save on rent due to habitability issues and possibly the threat of going public that they rent to homeless people. In this case SB won and rightly so.
@july1962 @Sunnie and your statement that they "knew what he smelled like" is totally meaningless. how would they know that he would refuse to bathe and launder, or to even replace his balled up sweats? your putrid friend chose all of this. i feel sorry for him in fact, but i would never allow him to make his problems become mine. never. he'll be back on the streets soon and it will be his own doing
@july1962 @Sunnie you keep trying to fall back on whats in the contract and whats in the law books, when neither of those were written to specifically address what happens when a person actually decides to out-stink a pile of hot trash. imagine if there were no contractual stipulations or laws against loud noise, but somebody played were to play music at top volume 24 hrs a day. nothing would stop me and my fellow neighbors from ridding ourselves of the pest. you are making a sophist argument. let me put it this way: he will never have peace until he gets over his hygiene problem, and thats the way society works regardless of what lawyers can pull out of the law books
i heartily applaud this man asserting his right to stink, to never bathe, and to generally be a patron saint of bad hygeine. nobody should be forced to conform to other peoples concepts of what is acceptable. HOWEVER.. the idea that he should be able to mingle freely amongst the washed masses, and that other people have no right to be protected from his clearly offensive odor and appearance, is absolutely ridiculous on its face
@peabody3000 you say that from the safety of your computer monitor but if you had to live next door to this fellow- I'm sure you wouldn't be applauding anything.
I live in this building- and I yelled at a few of my neighbors for pitching a tantrum at the front security guard when this dude first moved in. I believe their comments were "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW DANGEROUS THIS IS?- WHO THE F*** LET HIM MOVE IN" I called them spoiled yuppies and said they should move back to west hollywood if they can't give a man a chance downtown.
I began to eat my own words in about a month. Every time William came down into the loby- the entire 3000sq ft space would fill with a smell I can only describe as a person fermenting in vinegar. Even after he left- the smell would persist for about 10 minutes- that's straight up wizardry! Now we live downtown... where human feces, vomit, garbage, desperation and dog pee are all odors that assault your face on a daily basis. I bet you can't even fathom a smell that would make you second guess your own human decadency.
@hplant i think you only read my first sentence. it was tongue in cheek but was made to draw a philisophical distinction between having the right to be putrid vs the separate issue of inflicting that upon others unchecked, which i then go on to say is something i do not support at all
@peabody3000 No more ridiculous than what you just wrote. How old are you? 12? First of all, he's not asserting his right to stink, he's asserting his right to live for a year in a loft he paid for and signed a contract for. He smelled and looked the way he did when he signed the contract, and the building kicked him out for it. So why don't you try to stay on topic here instead of making a fool of yourself.
@july1962 @peabody3000 It does not matter if he paid for the unit up-front. He may be renting the space, but the property still belongs to the landlord, and the landlord has every right and reason to evict somebody if they are negatively impacting other tenants in the building, which this man very much was. When you rent somebody else's property, you accept certain responsibilities, like taking care of the unit, not stinking the place up, not making loud noises, respecting the basic wishes of the property owner (like wearing shoes in the general areas or, you know, taking a bath so you don't make the entire place reek), etc. It's basic common courtesy. And the reality is that this man's stench was creating unsuitable living conditions for his neighbors. He deserved to be kicked out, especially when you consider that the landlord could have rented the unit to anybody. He had plenty of money, but also plenty of excuses not to alter his behavior. (Oh, I can't use soap, it has "chemical stuff." Oh, I can't wear shoes, it's not "in my heart" to do so. Oh, I can't wash my clothes or buy new ones, but I'll be happy to spend thousands of dollars on expensive electronics and software.)
Let the man sleep in the gutter, because I'm certain there are entire droves of homeless/impoverished individuals who would actually be grateful to be handed a second chance like he was, and would use it to productive ends. Heck, even *I* would love to have been given the opportunity that he was.
@july1962 the topic is the fact that people rightly wont put up with being neighbors with someone so irresponsible about their smell and appearance. good for them
@july1962 so are you going to give him a place to stay when his money runs out?
So let me get this straight, this guy gets 200,000 dollars from the city and prefers to give most of it to lawyers rather than take a bath. Am I missing something here. I will never see that kind of money in my lifetime but if I did the first thing I would do is move out of this godawful city. I'm all about standing up for your rights and individuality but this guy is just plain STUPID. He's the poster child and the reason I never give my hard earned money to the homeless. It would just be completely wasted.
@croupier Show me where it says ANYWHERE that he "preferred" to give the moneys to lawyers rather than take a bath. You're either making that up, trying to be provocative, or you're just stupid. So Yes, you ARE missing something here! How was he stupid? He signed a contract, the management lied and broke the agreement, and he was forced to move out. How was he stupid? Ever hear of KARMA? I'd sure as hell watch your attitude because one day, you might be in his position and no one's going to help you.
I'm glad he doesn't live next door to me. I think the freedom to extend one's arm ends at...my nose.
@Timo Another person who didn't read clearly. You would not have smelled him just "living" next door to him, unless you were in his loft with him, sitting within 10 feet of him.
@july1962 @Timo yo dude...I lived in the building with him, and defended him against my douchebag neighbors. However, his stench did have magical properties. living in a cement building where peoples lifestyles often ooze in stench form into the hallway- where it sits for weeks. I can't imagine what it would have been like living next to william- nor can you.
@july1962 @Timo And you are another person with a political chip on his shoulder. I stand by my original comment: "I'm glad he doesn't live next door to me...". I certainly don't endorse misrepresentation of facts in a civil proceeding, but clearly Mr. Nowell has issues that make him a poor neighbor.
This story was really upsetting, the way people can be discriminatory and lie under oath....however I'm glad his story was told.
a shame people have no tolerance for things they dont understand. I hope Mr. Nowell finds his place of "quiet enjoyment" unfortunately DTWN LA is not the tolerant place. its full of a bunch of annoying hipster folk. Id go somewhere by Griffith park, pppl are nicer :)
his big mistake was moving into the Smug area of DTLA Condo/Loft Real Estate...should of found a Nice Home for rent else where..opinion. DTLA SuX.
If the guy wants to live like a feral, he should just purchase a little shack out in the country or the woods where he won't bother civilized urbanites. He shouldn't insist on living among society if he cannot maintain himself.
@meladiction He DIDN'T "want" to live "like a feral," that's why he was trying to rent a loft. Clearly you have no clue about morality.
@july1962 Really, he needs to dismiss himself from the city instead of forcing others to deal with his personal hygiene idiosyncrasies. I've been a transit rider in L.A. for many years and agree that those who don't bathe and smell awful should not be allowed on the buses. They are like walking petri dishes carrying colonies of bacteria and microbes and possibly parasites which can travel to other people. He can live however he chooses, but not as an imposition to others who are negatively affected by it.
@crazyirishdan @july1962 @meladiction there are places where he can stink up a storm in peace. a loft apartment building isnt one of them. i feel sorry for him but someone who refuses to bathe will never, ever be a neighbor of mine, period. all of your crass raging insults wont change any of that, so go ahead and keep on pissing into the wind
@peabody3000 @july1962 @meladiction YOU are a piece of trash with a good PR department and very little else to show for it in the 'human being' test. A very small person who deserves to walk a mile in that man's shoes and see how vile the above comment is. Your only claim to decency is your money and for once the 'untouchable' had more money than you and got treated like an equal, and it must really get your goat. You're a fascist and that's about the end of that. He's somewhat different and obviously mentally ill, so he deserves to be kicked out of his paid for with cash apartment because of such issues, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act? He admits he has mental problems, ie he has mental health issues, even if he isn't 'crazy', so you're basically not only kicking a man when he's down, you're doing it to a disabled person. Do you dump guys out of wheelchairs and tell them to go wash and get a job? Your rationale is pure bigotry and you obviously have never talked to this man for even a minute. You, sir, DESERVE to be destitute on the streets with a hand out by merely exhibiting such a crass attitude towards another human being, and I for one hope you find yourself there sooner than you can imagine, and I want you to remember me when you arrive. You're also a piece of fucking trash that thinks they're some kind of big shot when in reality a truly 'rich person' wouldn't wipe their ass with a wannabe pseudo-wealthy jackoff like you. I'll bet you can almost afford the lease payment on an entry level luxury car and you wanna act like you're Donald Trump, bleached weasel on his head and all....get a fucking life and please go sterilize yourself before your genotype spreads.
@peabody3000 @meladiction I'm not "contending" any such thing, I know for a fact that's true. He RARELY left his loft, only to buy groceries and pay bills, which he'd do all at one time. If you wouldn't want to expose yourself or your friends to a human being that lives like that, you would be free to move. I never rationalized any such thing! I'm done arguing with you, you're clearly here just to be provocative and stir the pot. Anyone who chooses to write "um," can't be very intelligent to begin with.
@july1962 @meladiction while i do NOT contend that he stunk up the entire building, you ARE apparently contending that he stayed squirreled away in his apt at all times, safe distance from anyone's nose or eyes. there is no way i would want to expose myself or my friends that i have over to my place to that person for even a second. FOR EVEN A SECOND. your rationale that that just because the law doesnt directly address this means that it cannot be dealt with in any way by responsible people doesnt pass the, um, smell test. LOL. soon he wont be able to afford to get in people's noses anymore and im glad about that, very glad :)
@peabody3000 @meladiction Where do you get this stuff?! There are laws against loud noise, there are no laws against stinking. Or, are you King now, and changing the laws? Why do you say "forcing someone to smell." He did NO SUCH THING! He was content sitting in his loft, minding his own business. Clearly you have not read the article or all the comments. You are contending that the management company was telling the truth and that he was smelling up the entire building, all the way to the 10th floor! THAT'S NOT TRUE, and the whole point behind the article!
@july1962 @meladiction if nobody has a right to expect any protection from offensive odor and lack of hygiene, then nobody has a right to protection from loud music. forcing someone to smell something horrible is far, far worse than forcing someone to hear something musical. tell that to your sociopathically putrid friend next time he wants to complain about the noise
@meladiction He doesn't force anyone to do anything! What the hell are you talking about? You're just trying to be provocative. If we go by your irrational rationale, people who wear too much perfume, smokers, etc., should also not be allowed to ride the bus. As for cleanliness of buses, kids with dirty diapers and normal people who have sat somewhere else that's dirty are going to spread that stuff as well, so it's not likely you'll ever be away from you germs. Get over it. But you're wrong...he can live anywhere he likes regardless of whether someone doesn't like his smell. There is no law against stinking.
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