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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Weller’s Homeless Story — No. 17

Chaplains Steven and Regina Weller of the LAPD Task Force

Chaplains Steven and Regina Weller of the LAPD Task Force

        Note:  Chaplains Steven and Regina Weller found homes or sent home 212 homeless men and women from the streets of Venice in 2015.  So far this year they have found or sent home 68.  This is the first homeless story Regina has provided since December of last year.

Stranded in Venice

(All names are fictitious)

  By Regina Weller

Chaplain Steven Weller was leaving the Wilshire Police Station when he received a call from LAPD Venice Beach    Detail Officer Rodriguez.   On their early morning rounds, Rodriguez and his partner Officer Kwon had encountered a mother and two young children stranded on 3rd and Rose Avenue in Venice.   This particular homeless encampment has a history of violence, so that the officers were contacting the social services agencies in the area to move the family into interim housing. “They need a place to live,” Rodriguez reported, “These kids can’t stay here.”   The officer added that the organizations directed them to call the 211 operator, but so far there were no motel vouchers or vacancies available.   Being that it was a female with children, Chaplain Steven asked me to interview the woman.

When I arrived, I walked into a scenario of two children running amuck, and a mother who was obviously stressed about her circumstances. Rhonda explained to me that they had left a park in Compton where her family had lived homeless for 2 years. “Me and my boy Jashiah were threatened there, so we had to take off. I had to get out of that park fast”.   I asked her for a list of relatives that might be able to take them in even temporarily, to no avail. She mentioned that her boyfriend had accompanied them to Venice, but he had taken off.   Becoming overwhelmed by her surroundings and all the attention, her eyes swelled up with tears.    Officer Kwon leaned over to my ear, “Chaplain, we’ve been out here with them for a couple of hours, and can’t connect with anyone.   I have small children like this, we need to find a place.”

The Officers let Rhonda know she wasn’t in any kind of trouble, but that the children could not remain there in the best interest of their safety. Rhonda understood, and agreed to let me look for a safe haven for them.   I was in the process of making arrangements over the phone with a resource that informed me of a vacancy in Los Angeles, when two outreach workers arrived from another service organization. They had come in response to the initial call and one of them began to immediately engage with the mother.   I interrupted, “Thanks for coming, but we got this already, no need to interview her”.   The Outreach Worker ignored my request, “We are mandated to interview her,” she asserted.   I continued explaining that it wasn’t necessary to subject the woman through another full set of questions, and I assured her that I had found a place for them. “We are mandated,” she repeated.   “Well” I replied, “I’m finished here then. I will let you take the lead – but before I leave, can you make sure you have housing for her and the children?”

The Worker called her supervisor to request a motel voucher for the family, but there was none available.   She finished with, “My office said to call 211”. Officer Kwon diverted back to the original plan, “Chaplain, I can call in for   another car with child seats for transport.”   “Yes, I agreed, “in view of the circumstances, we have to make a final decision here. Let’s bag up their articles.”

I felt for the Outreach Worker, she was just doing her job and I know her to be conscientious and responsible, but today the system couldn’t support her request. There are 46,000 homeless in LA County, including women with children, and not enough places to stay.   With housing availability at a low, it’s a hit or a miss opportunity.

The police van showed up and the family piled in and we delivered them first to a day shelter for a shower, some food and to pick out some clothes.   A few hours later, the police van returned and we were on our way to permanent housing in Los Angeles where our Venice Foursquare Chaplains organization would cover the first month’s rent of $600.   I asked Jashiah his age, and he answered that he had turned 8 the day before. “Wow! Happy Birthday” I responded, “What did you do for your birthday?” “Nuttin” he said, gazing out the window. I turned to his mother who gave me a blank stare. I realized that in their dire circumstances, Jashiah had no birthday celebration, no cake, no happy song. We sprung into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for him in the police car – he squirmed, then threw his arms up in the air with delight and giggles, with his little sister cheering him on.   When we arrived at our destination, the officers walked to the corner store and bought ice cream bars for everyone. One thing I know for sure, memories stay planted in a child’s mind, locked in forever: Jashiah didn’t miss out when he turned 8 years old, he celebrated his birthday in a police car with fatherly officers, he enjoyed an ice cream, slept in a real bed, and entered a new place called home.

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