[Hpn] ***Homeless Angelenos follow Joanna Hayes Path To The Gold Medal Podium
William Charles Tinker
Sat, 28 Aug 2004 14:30:46 -0400
August 28, 2004t
A Dometown Girl
Homeless Angelenos follow every step of Joanna Hayes' path to the Olympic
gold medal podium in Athens.
By Zeke Minaya and Greg Krikorian, Times Staff Writers
Below the Harbor Freeway in the homeless encampment known as Dome Village,
residents have spent the past days gathering around televisions. They don't
want to miss a moment of Joanna Hayes competing in the Athens Olympics.
"'People would walk around yelling, 'Joanna is running! Joanna is running!'
when she was on television," said Graham Foster, 49.
The petite Hayes, 27, is the daughter of Dome Village's founder, homeless
activist Ted Hayes. For the 34 men and women living in the 20 igloo-shaped
structures in the shadow of downtown, the daughter's dream of Olympic gold
became a symbol of hope.
As Hayes crossed the 100-meter hurdles finish line in an Olympic-record
12.37 seconds in Athens on Tuesday, cheers and shouts broke out here, and a
few tears fell.
"I jumped. I really jumped for joy," said resident Chester Ward, 46, a Dome
Village regular since the early 1990s. "To see that sister win that medal -
it sparked something inside me to see her cross that finish line. She just
brought a lot of things to my mind; life ain't easy, but I can do it."
The Olympics mark a high point not just for Dome Village but for the
relationship between father and daughter.
Bible-quoting activist Ted Hayes is homeless by choice, deciding in 1984 to
leave his wife and four children in suburban Riverside and move to downtown
Hayes, 53, said he made that choice after seeing a television report about
Tent City, a gathering of homeless people in downtown.
"Why doesn't somebody do something about this?" he asked himself. Then it
occurred to him that he could be that person, Hayes said.
"I believe the Lord spoke to me that evening," he said.
Joanna Hayes said her father's sudden move shook the family. For years, she
struggled with the fact that her father had chosen to spend time with the
homeless rather than his family.
"I was only 6 years old when he started living downtown," said Joanna, the
youngest of Hayes' four children. "As a kid, it was tough.. Some days I
understood why he had done what he had done. But some days I would wonder,
'Why would you do this?' "
Her older sister, Hadia, puts in more bluntly: "My father basically gave up
his family to live on the streets."
She remembers going to Los Angeles to visit her father, seeing him asleep on
the street and breaking into tears.
With her father away, Joanna's mother, Arlene, worked as a substitute
Joanna was a student at John W. North High School in Riverside when a track
coach, Charles Leathers, saw her potential and steered her toward an
Eventually, Joanna said, she used the turmoil of her family life to propel
"Strength and power come from struggle and pain," she said. "Maybe things
would have been better if my life had been different. But when you wake up
in the morning and you know it's going to be tough that day, that builds
As Joanna was blossoming as an athlete, her father was becoming a passionate
and high-profile community activist.
Soon after arriving in downtown, Ted Hayes emerged as the city's leading
voice on homeless issues and became a familiar face on newscasts and at news
conferences. He helped organize tent cities around skid row before starting
Dome Village. He even ran for mayor of Los Angeles in 1993.
All the while, he would return to Riverside on weekends to visit his family.
Ted Hayes said he had known Joanna was a born runner when, at age 2, she
would run tirelessly between the far walls of their large living room.
"I mean for hours," he said. "We wondered what was wrong with her."
As Joanna grew older and politically aware, she came to respect the choice
her father had made.
"Obviously, with my dad, there have been times when I've been angry with
him," she said. "But there are so many more times when I've been proud of
"I will," she said proudly, "always be the Dome Village girl."
Ted Hayes was cheering in the stands in Athens this week along with Joanna's
mother and other family members.
At Dome Village, Hayes' neighbors shared his excitement and followed his
daughter's every move.
Because Joanna's events were not broadcast live, residents kept up with
results on the Internet, then watched the races at night on television.
Hadia Hayes said she would go into her father's dome to check results
"It was agony waiting," she said.
Ted Hayes created the Dome Village encampment in 1993 as a place for the
homeless to have medium-term housing.
Most of the plexiglass domes are divided in two, offering tiny living spaces
with electricity and heat. Other domes are reserved for families.
The compound includes communal bathrooms, a kitchen and laundry room and a
classroom where residents can learn computer skills. The encampment has been
financed in part with grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development as well as private donations.
"People who come here after living on the street come here tired, broken
down," said Foster, a former nightclub manager who has lived at the village
for a year. He became homeless after the club closed and he discovered he
Residents are permitted to stay for up to two years as long as they "don't
become complacent and treat it like a motel," he said. They must clean the
communal areas as assigned and try to find employment or go to school.
Foster said he only met Joanna a few times during her visits to Dome Village
but that the Olympics have made her seem like part of the community. He has
been videotaping all of her heats, from her first race in Athens on.
"There's been an awful lot of excitement about her," he said. "She's our
champion. Watching her run is not going to be the answer to every problem,
if any problem at all, but it's very encouraging to have such a clear
reminder of what hard work and discipline can accomplish."
In that, Foster sees similarities between father and daughter.
"She is so much like Ted," he said. "There is a freedom of spirit but also a
determination. I see a lot of Ted in her."
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times