Give Bijan Gilani a Job

[Moxley Confidential] Meet Orange County's most brilliant, classiest homeless person

Inside South Coast Plaza, a constant flow of eager December shoppers whisked by Bijan Gilani, who was seated at a café table and explaining to me a concept incongruent with the upscale commercial setting: how to live on $3 per day.

"Actually, I'm trying to live on $2 a day, but I haven't been able to do it," said Gilani, who paused and smilingly added, "yet."

Though he has been an artist (a sculptor and painter), businessman, boxer, philosopher, cook, actor, dog trainer, world traveler, honors student, limousine driver, bartender, African-art collector, and fitness trainer and remains a man guaranteed to liven up any party with genuine charisma, the Herculean, $3 daily feat isn't a stunt for Gilani.

It isn't even voluntary.

Incredibly, the onetime, self-made millionaire—who earned a doctorate from UC Irvine—is one of Orange County's homeless. He grew up in an ultra-wealthy Middle Eastern family, but now Gilani doesn't own a television, kitchen, bathroom or bed—unless you count a seat in his 4-foot-by-2.5-foot current residence: a green, 1997 Land Rover.

"I know it's hard to believe that is my home," he said. "But it's true."

If your image of a homeless person includes foul odors, disheveled appearances, scary rants and terrible addictions, Gilani shatters that stereotype. He dresses in old-but-neat clothes from shops such as Abercrombie & Fitch. He keeps his white hair and goatee finely groomed. The aforementioned SUV is spotless and uncluttered. His speech—delivered with the graceful English accent he acquired while attending a British boarding school—doesn't abruptly veer to the nonsensical. He fought in professional boxing matches decades ago, but he carries himself with a gentle confidence that exudes warmth. Jobless, he craves an income other than that of a small, monthly, government-assistance check, but he refuses to beg for pocket change.

In November, Gilani agreed to let an Irvine church pay for a repair to his SUV only if he could perform sweat-producing tasks in return. "I'll work for money," said a physically fit Gilani, who'll turn 59 years old on Christmas Day. "I'll earn it. But I won't just take it. That's important to me."

How can he survive on a few bucks per day?

"You've got to be creative," he replied. "I shop at discount stores and buy items such as lettuce, fresh beans, bread and peanut butter. I make salads with vinegar, tomatoes and some salt. Sure, my diet gets boring."

In typical Gilani fashion, he laughs and says, "I've never dug into the trash!"

He has three relative luxuries besides his SUV: a low-end cell phone, a gym membership and his cherished, free admittance to the Newport Beach Public Library.

Said Gilani, "I realize people have it a lot worse."

In this dismal economy, tales of homelessness are standard fare in the mainstream media. Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard wrote a groundbreaking 2010 series about life on the infamous Skid Row, but I don't recall him encountering a character who resembles Gilani. Yet, as fascinating as he is, his saga might not have prompted attention without a stunning irony.

In 2003, Gilani wrote his doctor of philosophy dissertation at UCI on . . . drum roll . . . homelessness. The thoughtful, 148-page paper titled "The Emergence of Resistant Poverty and the Perception of Low Self-Efficacy" called for new strategies to tackle homelessness based on raising emotional stability and heightened self-reliance.

Just five years later, Gilani would lose his gorgeous, multimillion-dollar Pasadena home during the national housing crash—an event that happened simultaneously with his own credit-card blunders.

"I always had money," he recalled. "Then, all of a sudden, I didn't have enough money to feed my dog. . . . I take responsibility."

Gilani ended up sleeping on rough Los Angeles streets, finding himself emotionally lost and, for a time, determined to find answers inside vodka bottles. But before his own collapse, he'd studied homelessness up close.

"I did what I had to do to get to the meat of the matter," said Gilani. "I wanted to know why people fall into homelessness and what makes them resistant to change. Even when they are offered help, they won't take it. Why? It became real personal to me."

He spent many nights befriending members of this underclass, learning about their individual issues and trying to understand the struggles. "At one point, I collected knowledge about homelessness," Gilani told me. "Knowledge is fact-based. Understanding is experience-based. Now, I understand."

Not surprisingly, some of his experiences have been disturbing. An angry homeless man with territorial sensibilities assaulted him one night on Pacific Coast Highway. He has encountered women willing to do anything—I'll skip disturbing details—for a beer, as well as fearless gutter rodents and machine-gun fire from deranged Asian hoodlums aiming for someone else. He has also discovered good people who've been discarded by society because of perceived handicaps such as a speech impediment or physical abnormality.

"It's very sad," he said. "It doesn't have to be like this. These people have value."

In his scholastic Ph.D. endeavors, he discovered a consistent trait among the homeless. "It didn't matter whether they were male or female, from rich or poor backgrounds, young or old, had become alcoholics or not, if they'd been abused or not," said Gilani. "The one thing everyone had in common was they'd grown up emotionally distant from their parents."

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19 comments
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Roxanna Beaty
Roxanna Beaty

The one thing everyone had in common was they'd grown up emotionally distant from their parents.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to be frozen.--Agedate. ℃⊙M--a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact with each other.

Laughingpig1
Laughingpig1

Why just give Bijan Gilani a job why don't you give me one too because I've been out of the workforce for over a year and a half through no fault of my own and I've got recruiters telling me in emails that "We are now hiring but we don't have any jobs". I haven't had a paycheck since the EDD cut off my unemployment checks in the 6th month of 2011.

Stacey
Stacey

@concerned .........my roomate's mother makes $70/hour on the computer. She has been fired from work for 5 months but last month her pay was $7232 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site http://nutshellurl.com/22i5

TerranceH
TerranceH

@Mimsy Thank you for telling his story...Nobody believes but my neighbor's step-aunt makes $87 an hour on the computer. She has been fired for 9 months but last month her check was USD8525 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site... http://qikr.co/hq26b

Marlon Berend
Marlon Berend

Obamas ready for the most expensive vacation ever.

Sdfs
Sdfs

And your point is? Real estate agents are contractors, not employees, so employers have nothing to lose by hiring them. Retailers hire clerks of all ages, students to elderly, so that their sales force can appeal to all demographics. Their turnover is high, while wages are low.My point was, that any work is noble and while unemployment is high, there will always be jobs to be found, even if you have to lower your expectations, temporarily.And don't worry about me, even if I left my job tomorrow, I have plenty in savings and retirement to last. And I surely will not be living in a car as long as I am capable of getting out of bed every morning and looking for work. Meanwhile Mr. Gilani is a self professed lush, over spender, went in way over his head on a mansion and lost it in the housing crash, was born with silver spoon up his ass, while attending boarding school, refuses to take his meds, and oh yeah, can't find a job.....

Tbplayer
Tbplayer

Real estate agents require a special license and a retailer like Macy's (and their vendors) invest in training. Your point about jobs are there to be found if you lower your expectations is a myth. There is such a thing as being OVER qualified, whether or not you want to believe it.

If you went to a retailer and applied for a job as a clerk with your last job being a VP, they would not hire you. I agree that turnover is high, but it's not like they want high turnover. Training is an expense and the salesperson doesn't become effective immediately. They know you'll bolt as soon as that VP position becomes available, so they'll hire someone else they expect to be around longer.

So my point is that it's easier to say what you would do in someone else's position until you're actually there.

I do agree with you that his own overspending and lack of planning / foresight has contributed to his current predicament.

 Postdoctoral jobs
Postdoctoral jobs

The postdoctoral research position could either be within the same lab and the department where the PhD student has completed their PhD or could be elsewhere. Some graduates prefer to remain within the department as they have become familiar with the surroundings while others prefer to obtain a position in a completely different country. The main purpose of doing a postdoctoral job is to get training in an area of research that is complementary to the researcher's interest. For example, if one as completed a PhD in cell biology and the new graduate could either consider research involving Stem Cells.

Sdfs
Sdfs

Instead of the headline, Give Mr. Gilani a job, how about Mr.Gilani, get a job. Sounds like there are some jobs below his educational stature. Mr. Gilani, there are jobs out there, just swallow your pride and take one. Then consider yourself under-employed, instead of unemployed. The reality is that he expects to re-enter the work force at the same level as he left it, and sometimes we have to take a few steps backward, in order to find gainful employment. I am a vice president in the financial services industry and 50 years old. I own multiple rentals and have 2 kids in college. If I lost my job tomorrow, you bet I will not sit around and wait for another position at the vp level to come around. You might see me selling real estate or working the counter at Macy's. Probably both, until another vp job hits. I have worked steadily since age 15, and started at the vacuum in a car wash, to a 7-11 clerk, to a delivery driver. Being a vp is a cush job, but it took me 17 years to earn it. I'll do it again if I have to. Even if it does take another 17 years. That's the difference between me and Mr. Gilani. And yes I do have a college degree too...

Tbplayer
Tbplayer

"You might see me selling real estate or working the counter at Macy's. Probably both, until another vp job hits." Don't you think those employers know that? Do you think that they'll invest time and money in training you, knowing that you're gone as soon as another vp job hits? You're a veep right now. You'll hire and invest in someone who is overqualified? Maybe you'll be in Bijan's place sooner than you think.

OnLikeDonkeyKong
OnLikeDonkeyKong

Good luck guy. Still sounds like he has a shitload of pride.

John
John

Is it possible this is a Post-Doctoral research project?

Mimsy
Mimsy

Thank you for telling his story. I hope he has a roof over his head in 2012.

Dani
Dani

This poor guy. He seems like a genuinely good person and really does sound like he'd be a great employee. I sincerely hope he can be matched up with a good company who will appreciate him.

Briansays
Briansays

the dirty secret of American biz is that job discription against the aged is subtle (they have figured out how the game the system without violating the law) but widespread and pervasive

it is aided and abetted by the so called values of contemporary American culture in which there is a fetish and cult about youth

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Without placing my company name out there as if it's some PR stunt, if I want to help Mr. Gilani, what do I need to do?

R Scott Moxley
R Scott Moxley

Thanks. Please contact me at: RSCOTTMOXLEY@OCWEEKLY.COM and I will provide your information to Mr. Gilani.

 
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