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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Weller’s Homeless Story No. 12

Chaplains Steve and Regina Weller of the LAPD Homeless Task Force

Chaplains Steve and Regina Weller of the LAPD Homeless Task Force

The homeless stories from Regina Weller stopped in September at No. 11. Sometime ago Update reported that the Wellers had found homes for 179 people this year. The number is definitely higher now. Both Regina and Steve have been busy training others to do what they do in conjunction with the LAPD Homeless Task Force. Wellers have been too busy to update the number of homes found, new people on the task force, how the class went etc. In addition to their work as chaplains with the homeless force, they are both pastors of the Foursquare Church in Venice and hold Sunday and Wednesday services.

Geneva, a Songbird Leaves Venice
By Regina Weller

Geneva was sitting by herself on a bench, and I could tell she had just woken up. Her eyes had settled in on us as we moved about the area to ask the unhoused on the Venice Boardwalk whether they were interested in getting off the street. As I got nearer, her blanket slid off her shoulder and caused a shiver.

“A little cold out here in the morning even though it’s a hot summer,” I commented. “Yeah, it’s definitely cold out here in the early morning air,” she replied. The woman looked healthy and clean, and in pretty good shape for someone sleeping on Venice Beach, so I asked, “What the heck are you doing out here?” “I’m singing for tips from the tourists, cause I don’t have a job or a place to live,” she answered. She added that she had been homeless in Venice for over a year.

I explained to Geneva the benevolent aim of the LAPD Homeless Task Force and she seemed interested, even excited about the possibility of finding a permanent place to live. She said she was receiving general relief benefits, but it was not enough for rent. I then explained that I could help her with the finances to move into collaborative housing.

“You mean live with others?” displaying dislike on her face. “Yes,” I said, “it’s two women to a bedroom, and in this case four women living in a two-bedroom duplex. But look where you’re at now. You’re living with about a hundred, with no privacy and no protection, no refrigerator, no private bathroom and no kitchen! Now think it over clearly and when you’re ready, call me.” I handed her my card and left to talk to others nearby.

Geneva called early the very next morning. I drove out to Park Avenue on the boardwalk and she was there waiting. Onlookers stared at us as we loaded up her items into the trunk of my car. One of them murmured, “Oh I guess the Songbird is leaving Venice Beach.”

We began the drive to Los Angeles where I had an available spot. Geneva let me know how thankful she was for the opportunity, and stated that it was almost unbelievable. To fill the void in the conversation and soothe her nerves about the unknown, I said, “So you’re a singer – why don’t you sing a song for me?” Geneva smiled and started the beat with a hand clap to her thigh and sang, “Killing Me Softly”:

“Strumming my pain with his fingers
, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song, telling my whole life with his words…. I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style. And so I came to see him to listen for awhile. And there he was this young boy
, a stranger to my eyes, strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words… Telling my whole life with his words
, killing me softly with his song.

“I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd. I felt he found my letters, and read each one out loud. I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on, strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words… He sang as if he knew me
 and all my dark despair. And then he looked right through me
as if I wasn’t there … And he just kept on singing
, singing clear and strong …” (Roberta Flack 1973)

I dropped Geneva off at her destination knowing she would never return to the place I found her. Stunned and captivated in a short time by the unexpected “stranger to my eyes” and the beauty of her voice, I drove home fulfilled and grateful for her and for all the other lives swirling about in my mind.

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