At 32, Jerome Brown is outgoing and ready for fun, but often in his life something has interfered.

In 1979, while he was a bank clerk in Long Beach, Calif., he came into some money. He bought a Corvette Stingray, suitable clothes and jewelry and was enjoying the Manhattan night life when police arrested him on a charge of embezzling $365,000 from his bank.

Early this year, after spending 10 months in prison and returning to fairly steady work as a temporary office clerk and messenger, he was making as much as $1,000 a month and pursuing an active social life in Los Angeles. But flu put him out of work with no savings and, eventually, no money for his $73-a-week room at the Cecil Hotel.

He applied for unemployment, but the paper work would take time. He was annoyed that his sister and two brothers failed to offer him temporary lodging. "If I had a place like they had, I would have space," he said.

A resident of one of the downtown shelters he had tried told him about the gentler life in Pasadena's Depot. During one of the long bus rides he took so he could nap in a warm place, he headed there.

Not that Brown is comfortable asking favors. He said he would have voted for President Reagan last year out of disgust with the local welfare system. "I know girls that I went to high school with that have been on the county for 16 straight years. They just retired. So that's why I don't like it."

He said he stole the money back in 1979 (an accomplice still at large has most of it, he says) because he believed that his supervisors were not rewarding his skill and energy. Now he prefers to ride out the hard times on his own:

"It's necessary for me to be able to say to myself when I do get back to the plateau that I once was -- sharp car, nice clothes -- I will know I've managed."