Steve and Regina Weller, as pastors of the Foursquare Church in Venice, have helped Venice homeless get off the streets for years. They used their pensions to do such originally. Then along came the LAPD Homeless Task Force; which was an idea of Captain Jon Peters, to help the Wellers with these homeless.
They became the Foursquare LAPD Chaplains. Their task became greater and they relied on individual donations. This year the Venice Stakeholders Association made a donation of $5000, Tami Pardee properties donated $20,000, and there were other individual donations that helped the Wellers this year. Plus many of these homeless have the resources but do not have the knowhow to get settled.
According to the Wellers it costs about $570 for each individual to be placed in a home. To send someone home is approximately $250. They go out on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the LAPD Task Force to talk to and try to get these people off the street and on with their lives.
The Wellers do not feed these homeless or direct them to places for food; they place them in homes where they can feed themselves. They do not provide them services; they place them in detox centers when they are ready. Then they place them in homes.
They, thru their individual experiences, have established a network for helping these unfortunate. It is unique in Venice. As of 16 December, they placed 201 in homes this year. Venice placements are now on hold until more donations become available. It is impossible to tell people they will help and not have the resources to help them.
If you wish to donate, and it is a deductible donation, write to Foursquare Chaplains, 1400 Riviera Ave., Venice, CA 90291.
By Regina Weller
It is especially cold at the beach at 6am with the turn in the December weather. The woman yelled out to me, extending her hand without getting up from her blanket. I took her hand and she desperately locked on. “Please help me’, she yelled, “or I’m going to die out here!” She told me her name was Regina (same as mine), and explained that she had a broken hip and was getting around in a wheelchair. She said she couldn’t enter housing because of “paperwork” problems.
“Is this your friend laying next to you?” I asked. She shook her head no. The man peeked out of his sleeping bag, “I don’t know her, just laid next to her last night to keep warm.”
The situation undermined me to the core, but the circumstances in the underbelly
of Venice are commonly sad and absurd. Officers Kwon and Ortiz, who are a part of our Homeless Task Force deployment, listened as I interviewed the woman. Regina interrupted me many times in her frustration, but I managed to get her date of birth and social security info.
I discovered that she had been in a car accident in 2014 and suffered a broken hip and brain trauma and was currently receiving Medicare benefits. She said she slept in Skid Row for a while, would get a motel from time to time, and had been homeless on the Venice boardwalk for three months. Her situation puzzled me because this woman had income and seemed suited for a nursing home, but here she was sleeping on cold cement and begging strangers to assist her in and out of her wheelchair. I asked her to remain by Big Daddy’s Pizza on Market Street until I could figure out the roadblocks that prevented her from acquiring housing.
The Medicare clerk on the phone informed me that Regina had an open legal case from a car accident and that the insurance carrier had the prime responsibility, so that the nursing homes could not take Regina under Medicare until her legal case was settled! Further questioning of Regina revealed an attorney’s name so I immediately contacted his office.
The attorney and I argued on the phone with regard to Regina’s pitiful hardship: I couldn’t grasp why the law firm would allow their client to be homeless on the street instead of supplying her with basic living accommodations, which could be deducted from the accident settlement award. I passed the phone to Regina who requested that he close her case even if it meant forfeiting it, because the open case prevented her from entry into nursing home care. The attorney refused the request because of the time he had put into it, and stated it would be finalized in two months.
I called all the housing resources I knew, but no one wanted the liability of Regina’s circumstances because this involved increased care.
With the dead end, I decided to contact Medicare again. Upon further examination by a Medicare supervisor, it was brought to light that the primary carrier was in fact Medicare themselves, so that permissible entry into a nursing home was certainly available for Regina. A glitch in the system had derailed this injured woman resulting in homelessness for months on end! I contacted a nursing home in Paramount that arranged for Regina’s medical evaluation and the transportation to their location. We said our goodbyes.
It was a relief for both of us from the arduous week of clearing up obstacles, and helping her up from her wheelchair to use the restroom. At times, I thought we would both topple over from the weight of her body. Ironically, the day Regina left for the nursing home was the day I received my own Medicare card in the mail. It was a jolt to my reality that I was no longer middle age and had now entered the senior phase of life with all its particulars. I prayed that I too in the event of some future need, might be included as a recipient of mercy and resolve.