By Steve Weller
We left his son on the sand in his sleeping bag under a palm tree on Venice Beach. Teary-eyed at the condition of his son and the lack of response to his fatherly pleas, we sadly walked toward the Boardwalk, but stopped part way as Bob began to express his love for his son and the futility of the situation.
Note: Names have been changed.
Many times, the father, Bob, had come out from Alabama to rescue Ritchie, his son, from the devastation of drugs and alcohol, and I personally had made several visits to the Boardwalk to seek him out. Even, LAPD Beach Detail Officers Mike Ruiz and Joshua Rodriguez had taken it upon themselves to keep an eye out for the young man and give him the opportunity to take the Chaplain’s offer of medical detox and rehabilitation. Ritchie ignored us all. At this moment of bleak circumstance, all I could do was offer a prayer for God’s protection and supply.
Ritchie, now 21 years old, had left his home state some years back for a number of reasons, not the least of these, the conflict surrounding his parents’ divorce. Too often, Venice Beach has become the last stop for young people like Ritchie, running from problems and joining others in homeless encampments where flagrant alcohol and drug use, combined with psychological issues, can lead to violence.
Ritchie’s father, aware of this potential outcome, could not see leaving him in this vulnerable state. So we committed to pursuing Ritchie’s turnaround, including the support of the dedicated Beach Detail Officers that had proved time and time again to be an invaluable resource in our Homeless Task Force deployments with outreach to the needy and hurting on our streets.
And so it happened, one dismal day of drizzle in January, that the LAPD car driven by Officer Mike Ruiz, had a flat tire right there in the middle of the Boardwalk. And there in the midst of that dilemma, Ritchie just happened to walk by the broken down patrol car and stopped to greet Officer Mike.
The words easily flowed out, “I want to call my dad and go home”. The officer let me know of his request, and I was relieved to inform his hopeful father, who quickly booked a flight for Los Angeles. The Officer gave Ritchie a jacket to wear, lent him his phone to call home, and then followed up with a meal and encouragement.
Ritchie stated that he looked forward to leaving the environment that had become unbearable, and to going back home, and we were all happy to make that happen. Upon reunification, dad and son decided to rent a car for thereturn, and together they took the long road home to Alabama to new beginnings.
NOTE: Through regular follow-up contact to date, the family reports that Ritchie still lives with them, and is gradually progressing through the drug rehabilitation program and combined psychological care.