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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Baseball: Venice Chamber of Commerce vs Venice Neighborhood Council

Take me out to the ball game!

It will be the Venice Chamber of Commerce vs the Venice Neighborhood Council Board Members in the first Venice Charity Softball game Saturday (21 October), Noon at Penmar Park, Field No. 5, 1341 Lake St, Venice.

This first effort “will be to raise money for the continuing work of Homeless Task Force Member Regina Weller. Regina is the single most effective advocate for rehousing individuals living on the streets of Venice,” wrote vice president of VNC George Francisco. “Her mission has come at a cost and we as compassionate residents and stakeholders of the Venice community are coming together to help her continue her successful efforts. Not only does she help those in need by putting them into housing, but she creates a healthier and safer home for all of us here.”

You can help by making a direct donation or pledge per run here.

Wellers’ Homeless Story — No 20

                                Hazel and Mary – Broken Down on Rose Avenue

                                                   (Names changed for confidentiality)

Steven & Regina Weller, Directors, Homeless Task Force

Senior Crisis Chaplains Steven & Regina Weller, Directors, Homeless Task Force

 

 By Regina Weller

Note:  If you would like to donate to the Homeless Task Force, address checks to Homeless Task Force, and send to 1400 Riviera Ave., Venice 990291.

The two women dragged all they owned in several bags and entered the Nursing Home in Riverside last night.   The good news is that they would be roommates. “They were not fussing,” the driver informed me. “This is nice!” he added, quoting Mary’s words. The new environment was a 100 percent turnaround from where they’d been.

Two weeks prior, Venice residents Matt Shaw and Jamie Paige, who are also members of the Venice Neighborhood Council, had discovered the two fragile seniors living in their broken down car on Rose Avenue by 3rd Street, and called me for assistance.   The Homeless Task Force certainly has the availability and know-how to get people off the streets, but there are so many other factors and obstacles that become apparent after engagement. Nothing is ever simple.

Hazel and Mary had been friends for many years – Hazel was once an independent film producer, and her production assistant Mary had worked steadily by her side. Years passed and now in their seventies, they had hit the sidewalks of homelessness. Their social security benefits were not enough for both food and housing, so they opted to live in Hazel’s car and go from motel to motel until their funds ran out.   Along the way, they met up with two stray dogs and claimed them as their own.   The dogs had puppies and now there were four living creatures with them in the car, until the papa dog ventured off about a month earlier. I surmised that he was the lucky one.

For a time, the two friends had set up a tent on the Venice Beach sand, but the sand fleas, and the wind and rain of last November got the best of them and they opted again for the protection of their vehicle.   The transmission finally gave out and they were stranded on Rose Avenue by 3rd Street. For a few bucks, a homeless man would push their car from one side to the other during street cleaning days.

Hazel spent most of her time just sitting in the passenger seat of the car. She said it had become challenging for her to even walk a block with her walker, so Mary had to constantly monitor and serve her. My assistant Rachel and I met with the these ladies several times, and we always became uncomfortable to witness the dogs entwine their leashes around Mary’s legs while she attempted to walk all three at the same time. It was incredible to me that she hadn’t fallen down yet. Jamie, the Venice resident who had first engaged with the women, was of great help with offering to walk the dogs daily, and keeping them for hours at a time to give the seniors a break. These women wanted a place to live, but I was more concerned that the unhealthy conditions had already compromised their lives.

I bought them food and coffee, and eventually, I discovered something more and more unnerving about their situation. During their time in Venice, they had been robbed and swindled out of a small inheritance and their monthly benefits.  Also with all their aches and pains, they relied on the over-the-counter pain medication from CVS pharmacy, and had sometimes gone days on end without bathing.   It was evident they would remain a vulnerable target to the treacherous influx of criminal types at the 3rd and Rose homeless encampment.

I called for the LAPD Hope car to assist with the transport of the ladies to the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) office to possibly acquire a motel voucher until a permanent housing opening for them on February 1st.   While enroute to DPSS, Hazel became very ill in the back seat and I requested the officers to pull over.   Officer Kwon called for an ambulance, which responded quickly, and transported Hazel to Marina Hospital where they later discovered a large blood clot in her leg that would require hospitalization for a week. The Hope car kept to the original plan and continued on to DPSS, but to no avail from that office for certain bureaucratic reasons.

With the “no motel voucher” outcome, we headed back to their broken down vehicle. Meanwhile, the Venice Neighborhood Council members moved into action and raised money for a two-week stay in a dog friendly motel.   It soon became apparent that Mary was also quietly enduring a large open wound and a staph infection, and now it was her turn to enter the emergency room of the hospital.   I’m guessing they might not have survived the winter given their current health dilemmas. Now their pets had to be situated elsewhere, so Jamie took on the arduous task of finding emergency foster care, and she and I kept vigilant for the next step in our plan of action.

When both women were finally back together in the motel room, it was imperative to set newfound goals, especially since they had been asked to leave most motels.   Certain practices of the homeless lifestyle do not meld well with the rules of the motel business. The squalor atmosphere they are accustomed to living in is sometimes brought in with them. We encouraged the seniors toward a safer and more stable environment better suited for their age and health status. The two friends agreed and were then transported by private ambulance carrier to their new residence.

Today, Hazel and Mary are tenants of the Fairmont Nursing Home in Riverside, California – still roommates, still side by side through thick and thin and the homeless camps in Venice, and to the end. With one night of uninterrupted sleep in a warm clean bed, and the nurture of the nurse attendants, Mary said, “I feel human again.”

Wellers’ Homeless Story — No 19

Chaplains Steven & Regina Weller_edited-1

Steve and Regina Weller of the LAPD Homeless Task Force

           LINDSAY RETURNS HOME 

         (Names have been changed.)

Note:  Donations may be sent to the Wellers as follows:  Checks should be addressed to     Homeless Task Force, 1400 Riviera Ave, Venice, CA 90291.

Lindsay was lying in front of the Church doors at the early morning hours, as she has before. The cold wind was blowing and her thin blanket didn’t offer much comfort. She told me that she had refused to take her meds for quite a while which had gotten her into a lot of trouble.

Lindsay’s been living on the streets of Venice for two years. She agreed with me to rethink how she might get out of the mess she was in, being that she’d been kicked out of housing and shelters for her “episodes”.   The LAPD Hope Car Officers Kwon and Ortiz had recently transported her to the VOA shelter but she didn’t stay. The officers had also contacted her family members living in the Northeastern states who were reluctant to allow Lindsay to return home because of the conflict she had caused in the past.

“Do you notice that people accept you better, when you take the medication that makes you feel better? “ I inquired.   “Oh yes! That’s exactly what I must do!” she reasoned. And today, she got a break: I spoke with her brother, who let me know that her father was open to letting his daughter stay with him on the condition that Lindsay consent to follow medical care instructions on a schedule. Lindsay promised.

We’re grateful for the Hope Team officers who collaborated with us, and who got the ball rolling with contacting the family. Yesterday, Julie and Jane of the Marina Del Rey RE/MAX Estate Properties dropped off hand made knit hats and jackets and financial support for the homeless. Tiffany was a proud recipient of the gifts, beaming in her bright blue jacket, matching hat, and her greyhound ticket in hand, “Now, I’m ready to go home to Goldsboro, North Carolina!

Wellers’ Homeless Story — No 18

Chaplains Steven & Regina Weller_edited-1

Chaplains Steven & Regina Weller of the LAPD Homeless Task Force

  The Tamale Miracle
(Names changed for confidentiality)

Note:  No group matches the Steve-Regina Weller team for finding permanent-supportive homes for the homeless. Donations may be sent to the Wellers as follows:  Checks should be addressed to Homeless Task Force, 1400 Riviera Ave, Venice, CA 90291.

By Regina Weller

It was July 2015 and a very hot day, but I mustered up the energy to drive to Long Beach to encourage a woman who was having a meltdown. Well, the advantage in it for me was that half a block down from the collaborative living apartments, they sell these tasty tamales, two for $3, and I thought that it would hit the spot with a nice cool ice-tea.

Sarah, the woman I was going to visit, was still shell-shocked from having to move from Venice into shared housing in Long Beach with three other women. After all, she had once been a college literature professor and labeled herself as highly intelligent and a feminist. This was the worst place she fussed: the area was small and she swore she saw a cockroach the night before, and the women were mental.

We went out to her car to talk privately, “Do you feel your life is in danger? Or would you rather sleep in your car on the street” I politely asked. “Now that you put it that way, Regina, no this is still better, and the women are actually nice. I’m just embarrassed that my health has deteriorated, that I didn’t save money, and that I lost my apartment in Venice.”

I classified her as “derailed,” not a person who would likely become homeless, but can’t fit into the disability category for benefits, and not quite of age to receive retirement checks. Ok, so within our forty-five minute chat, we took the negative into a positive note and I felt that the goal today was accomplished: Sarah has overcome the present day’s hurdles, she has accepted the housing as a step up from real disaster like sleeping on the street. It was a matter of time before she would be back in business, I assured her.

Prior to leaving, I invited Sarah to join me for the tamales sold down the block at the corner store, a tad greasy, but nonetheless tasty. She made a grimace at the thought of tamales so I bid her farewell and got into my car and parked directly across the street from the family neighborhood store. When I entered the store, there were several people at the counter and more meandering through the narrow aisles so it was kind of crowded. The owner had a stern attitude as he tried to patiently deal with the kids clustered at the counter. I knew I should only have one, but I requested two chicken tamales which were pulled from the warm compartment.

Instead of driving off to the freeway four blocks ahead, I decided to sit and eat the meal right there in my car. The heat from the corn masa harina permeated through the air, and relaxed my senses enough to people watch. Then something caught my attention, I spotted HIM right off, not only because he was so very dirty and disheveled, but because he was wearing a wool jacket and it was of a rather bright rust color.

He was hanging out at the corner of the store peering down into the trash can outside, and every now and then he’d almost pull a piece of garbage out, but then change his mind. It was obvious that he was hungry. Then he’d move away and stare into the store and almost walk in, but then decide not to, and there he’d be back and forth between the trash can and the store entrance. I was fixated on his uncertainty, when all of a sudden he reaches in his inside jacket pocket and pulls out the Biggest Gun! It was so very visible against his orange jacket! My breath stopped and my thoughts raced: WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS INSIDE? I HADN’T SEEN THEM COME OUT! WHAT ABOUT THE STORE OWNER, HE’D BE PREPARED TO SHOOT! AND WHAT ABOUT THIS FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD?! AND ALL BECAUSE THIS GUY IS SO DARN HUNGRY??!!

I threw my half-eaten tamale to one side, quickly started up my car and steered over to where I could catch his attention. I raised up the other tamale dangling and swinging in its plastic bag, “HEY! I called out to him, “DO YOU WANT A TAMALE?” He zeroed in on it and rushed over without missing a beat. When he grasped it from the car window, I blurted out, “Don’t Do It Man, PLEASE Don’t Do It! Walk that way toward the Mission, there’s food and help there.” He ripped back the corn wrap and uttered a thank you, then hurried back toward the store, tossing the gun into the bin and headed out in the direction of the Mission.

My car was still running, I managed to stir out of shock and make a quick left. In two minutes I was on the freeway, relieved to be heading home to my husband, but my mind could not stop recycling the events: I questioned whether I should have guilt at not having notified the police, but after all, no crime had occurred! I kept visualizing the store patrons and the jacket and the trash can and the gun, and I was so glad that I had bought TWO tamales! And I prayed, “O God, please help him, he was so hungry and is so troubled!!

About six months had gone by and I was transporting another woman to acquire housing at the same location. I drove right past the store and parked in front of the landlord’s office. There were people on the sidewalk, the tenants coming and going from the apartments, and then there HE WAS! But now he was a TENANT at the shared housing! My surprise exploded: HE MADE IT! HE MADE HIS WAY! HE’S GOING TO BE ALRIGHT!

He was clean and healthy with a nice haircut. I had to walk right past him and I looked back to sneak a peek, and he did the same. His face questioned that maybe he knew me from some time back, from some particular place, for some reason not known to him now, so distant in his memory bank, a familiar passing – yet only half a block from the corner store where they sell the most enticing tamales, $1.50 a piece, warm and inviting, perfect even for a hot summer day.

Donations may be sent to the Wellers as follows:  Checks should be addressed to Homeless Task Force, 1400 Riviera Ave, Venice, CA 90291.

Home Invasion at Beach

A woman who lives on one of the walk streets near Washington and Pacific had a home invasion Monday (21 December) at 1 am. She was asleep in her bed when a black woman appeared at one of the doorways in her bedroom and mumbled something.

The woman in bed woke up, immediately grabbed her phone, and went thru another door to the garage and called police. Three police cars and a helicopter arrived.

The intruder had gotten into the house thru a doggie door big enough for a Labrador-Poodle mix. There are two such dogs living there, but both dogs would do an “over-love” job on any intruder.

It has since been reported that the woman, who some claim drinks and has a mental problem, has been sleeping in yards on the walk streets.

Regina Weller, Chaplain of the LAPD Homeless Task Force, predicted earlier this month that there would be home invasions as the rains started and the cold weather increased.

Here is the home owners’ account of the incident:

A mentally ill woman came into my house thru the doggie door. The dogs barked like crazy but I thought it was the drunks outside coming out of the bars on Washington. Then she was standing in the doorway to my bedroom mumbling.

I grabbed my phone and went out the door to the garage. Called 911, police came. She was across the street by then and they took her away.

She had set up her bed for the night in my yard with her potato chips and water.

I couldn’t identify her because it was dark in my house so police didn’t book her. She was black was all I knew and she had my outside broom that she was probably using to keep the dogs from kissing her.

Does anyone have experience with electric doggie door locks? They go on dogs’ collars.

Weller’s Homeless Story No. 14

 Steve and Regina Weller Chaplains of the LAPD Homeless Task Force.

Steve and Regina Weller Chaplains of the LAPD Homeless Task Force.

Note: The Wellers have rescued more than 200 homeless people in the area this year. They have taken these people, not only off the street, but have put them in the direction of productive living. They at first used their pensions but Mark Ryavec and Venice Stakeholders started to help along with some other individuals. Venice Update, thanks to Regina, was able to tell some of stories of the homeless — put a face on the number. Tami Pardee and Pardee Properties entered the scene and helped.

If you wish to contribute, send check to Foursquare Chaplains, 1400 Rivera Ave, Venice CA 90291. Your donations are deductible and 100 percent used for homeless.

Sarge
By Regina Weller

Sarge

The homeless drunks were piled up on the corner of Washington and Lincoln Blvd by the 7 Eleven store. My husband and I always noticed them there when we drove by. Chaplain Steve often stopped to visit with them to offer various services, including a drive over to the VA for those who were veterans. Steve is also a veteran, so he can easily relate to the vets on the street.

Over a few months time, Steve got to know the Marine Corps Staff Sergeant known as “Sarge,” who for 7 years slept on the hard cement behind the donut shop and sometimes alternated for the sand at the Venice Pier. One day in July, the Sergeant explained to the Chaplain that he had started his career in the Marine Corps in 1993 and had completed 3 tours in Iraq. During his last tour of duty, his friend was killed and he himself was shot in the stomach and lost some of his intestines and his spleen. Sarge lifted his shirt to reveal the scars to Steve and stated that he suffered from PTSD. In addition, he had been exposed to depleted uranium from the war zone which caused nerve damage in his left leg. He left the military in 2003 with an honorable discharge. He mentioned that he had stayed for a short time in the VA domiciliary, but didn’t like it and didn’t want to return.

Because he was adamant about it, Chaplain Steve offered him another option, “Let me take you to a private medical detox in San Pedro and I’ll pay for it.” Sarge paused for a bit, and then accepted the offer. Chaplain Steve and two LAPD officers escorted Sarge to a 10-day medical detox program. Upon completion of the program, he entered shared housing where he remains today. Sarge has since made multiple bus trips to visit Steve, however today we contacted him as part of our follow-up care. He stated that he really likes the House Manager (an ex-coach) where he lives and prefers San Pedro to Venice. He is sober and enjoying the sober lifestyle. We asked him if we could contribute his success story to the “Venice Forward” group as part of the work of the Venice Foursquare Chaplains/Homeless Task Force. He graciously said yes, and asked that this photo from a past local Venice beach blog be included in the story and added, “Tell them, this is where I came from”.

We salute Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Christian Warren and all US Veterans for their courage and their sacrificial contribution in service to our nation.

Weller’s Homeless Story–No. 13

Chaplains Steve and Regina Weller are part of the LAPD Homeless Task Force as well as being Pastors of the Foursquare Church in Venice.

Chaplains Steve and Regina Weller are part of the LAPD Homeless Task Force as well as being Pastors of the Foursquare Church in Venice.

Gail and Aaron
By Regina Weller

I received a call from a woman a few months back who was referred to us by a Church. “But why couldn’t they help you?” I asked, “They have a very large membership. Well anyway, now that I have you on the line, what exactly are you in need of?”

Gail began, “My 25-year-old diabetic son and I are homeless.”

She explained to me that she had been employed as a caregiver for about two years in Malibu, hired by a man whose wife had a debilitating disease and needed full-time care. It was more than a full-time job, she said, because the husband and his girlfriend also lived there, and spent a lot of time together with outside activities and so forth. Gail took care of the wife for room and board.

“I’m not judging the situation,” she said, but the bad part is that he fired me when I went to be with my son who was in a diabetic coma at the hospital for 4 days. Gail, of course, had been devastated about her son’s critical condition, and then losing a place to live added to her stress.

Mother and son were now derailed due to economic loss and they couldn’t afford the motels. She had a car, but didn’t have the money for the registration, so she left parked on her former employers’ lot. “We’ve been homeless for two months now, which I know is not a lot compared to some people, but this is a first for me and I am just terrified every day.”

I told them I would pick them up the next day on Lincoln and Palms in Venice, but Aaron called to say mom was in the hospital for a bad asthma attack, and “Please don’t forget us.” Two days later they showed up at the same site with their big suitcases sitting by the traffic light. I flagged them down and motioned for them to quickly place their belongings in the trunk of my car while no cars were behind. They hustled and then plopped themselves in the car and we drove off to Long Beach to their new dwelling place.

Now strangers introducing themselves for the first time while enroute to an unclear destination is somewhat whimsical, and almost twilight zone, but it’s part of the survival mode behind the shielded veil of the Homeless Task Force. For a moment in time, we’re close up and tossed together by a set of circumstances. Every situation is different, and each character unfolds to bare their heartbreaking ventures.

Compassion fatigue for the service worker, sometimes yielding to tiredness and irritability, is inevitable. Today I’m feeling it and the realization reflects in my actions – like why didn’t I just patiently pull over and park the car so they could load up their items instead of rushing them? My judgment becomes hurried. But at least I am aware of it, and know what to do about it.

I pull over at a small market and buy ice teas for everyone. Aaron and his mother seem relieved and appreciative to just sit in the car and chill. I stand outside to cool my forehead with the cold metal can, and think of a plan to take several days off with Steve somewhere. I’m starting to feel better already with just the thought of it. Chuckling at my flaws, I poke my head in the car window. “Hold on a sec, I will be right with you and we’ll resume to the freeway.” Taking a deep breath and getting a glimpse of the gorgeous cumulous clouds overhead refreshed me. Aware that my husband, Chaplain Steven is also transporting, I wondered how his day was going. I call to check in on him and say I love you.

Aaron is smart and likeable, and Gail is talkative and overprotective of him, but who wouldn’t be given the close call at losing her beloved son.

When we arrived at their new residence, they both examine the outside neighborhood before walking in. “Well, it’s not in a bad neighborhood, and I’m so glad I’m getting my own room,” Gail said, “even though it will be an adjustment living with eight people.” “It’s a five-bedroom house”, I reminded her, “and remember that this collaborative living is a stepping stone from the street until you get financially situated to where you can rent your own place”. I was certain of that fact.

Gail smiled when she saw her bedroom with the big window and the light streaming through. She plopped on her bed and cried.

Aaron went to the men’s back house and readily made conversation with the guys. He took off with them to the store and I gave Gail some alone time while I went to discuss rent money with the house manager in the kitchen. The Homeless Task Force funding donated by Tami Pardee of Pardee Properties covered the family’s first month’s rent, and a Department of Mental Health program grant paid for the following month. Aaron would then be collecting disability benefits until he can be stable again to look for work. Gail said she would be seeking employment in the immediate area.

Gail and I kept in contact by phone and we had lunch a couple of times. After three months of living there, she excitedly notified me that her brother acquired an apartment for them next door to where he lives in Reno, Nevada, and is paying for their transportation. She called a week after they arrival in Nevada saying Adam was happy to live next door to his uncle. Gail reflected that though her experience was rather devastating, and she would never want to go through it again, it was a remarkably rewarding part of her life. She learned a lot about herself, and now identifies with the struggles of the homeless that she used to disregard and even think shamefully of, and “most importantly, will never forget the goodwill shown to me”.

If you want to donate, send check to Venice Foursquare Chaplains at 1400 Riviera, Venice 90291. It is a write-off donation and 100 percent is used to help the homeless get off the street.

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.

Weller’s Homeless Story No. 11

Steve and Regina Weller.  Both are Pastors of Foursquare Church in Venice and Chaplains for the Los Angeles Police Department Homeless Task Forcer.

Steve and Regina Weller. Both are Pastors of Foursquare Church in Venice and Chaplains for the Los Angeles Police Department Homeless Task Forcer.

Note: Update hopes everyone who reads Regina’s stories appreciates the humane effort and drama behind the words. To say that Regina and Steve perform a service to residents of Venice and to the homeless is such an understatement.

Venice Stakeholders Association started helping the Wellers with the expenses and then Tami Pardee of Pardee Properties stepped in to provide consistent support. This has allowed the Wellers to step up their program.

Venetians have all read many times that the City’s homeless population has increased 12 percent in the
the last two years.

The increase in Venice has been 16 percent.

Sam
By Regiina Weller

Sam is Tony’s friend. They occupied a space next to each other on 3rd and Rose Avenue and are familiar faces in the homeless camp for a few years. While Tony accepted a ride to new housing offered by the Homeless Task Force, Sam had declined the offer.

Sam identified himself as a “Christian man” who believed he should stay on 3rd and Rose to pray for the disenfranchised that lived there. It was an honorable act, I thought, and it was also evident that he felt a sense of protection by his own sizeable stature. I reminded him, though, that trouble awaits him there because no one is immune to the treachery and instability of the area, and even so, he could pray for the denizens of that street from a safer and healthier location and that prayer is not limited by distance. He declined again, but I couldn’t dismiss the image of this kind and sincere individual from my mind, who believed he had a genuine purpose and function there amongst those struggling. I would send messages to him in the following weeks reminding him that we were saving an extra bed in the safe residence where his good friend Tony lived.

When I heard the news in July that Sam was stabbed multiple times by a stranger who had come to hang out for a few days on that street, I was instantly dismayed by my own limitations in convincing him to move. The stranger had picked a fight with Sam, and asked him if he “controlled the block.” Sam said no, but that had no affect on the stranger who had set out to exhibit his own prowess to those on that street.

No one knew what became of Sam and detectives kept it tight under wraps regarding the whereabouts of his hospitalization. Chaplain Steve and I believed Sam was alive, or the papers would have revealed otherwise. I put the word out to the homeless I knew to give Sam another message from us should they happen to spot him reminding him of a reserved room far from the city of Venice. But there were no sightings of Sam, no word, no nothing. Two months passed by.

It was my last day and final hour of employment at a non-profit collaborative housing organization. I voluntarily terminated there having intended to be of assistance to them for only a few months because of other tentative commitments. This was my exit day and the entire staff was in meetings, with the exception of the receptionist and myself.

The receptionist transferred a phone call to my cell regarding an upset homeowner who ran a collaborative house in North Hollywood.

“I’ve been trying to reach the housing people because they made a mistake in sending me a man without a scheduled appointment,” the caller said. “I’m sorry but now he’s washing his clothes and he doesn’t have rent money.”

“Calm down, please, cause I can certainly help you”, I answered, “the staff are in a meeting, however this problem is easily fixable because there are other houses we can place him in. By the way what’s his name?” “Sam Cosentino”, she answered to my shock. My words tumbled out, “Would you like me to take this individual off your hands?”

“Yes, I would and thank you,“ she answered.

“No, thank you” I responded. “Now let me speak with Mr. Cosentino if you don’t mind.”

I finally interacted with Sam in what surfaced as a timetable of mysterious ways, and I informed him of our diligent search to find him a safe haven especially after his trauma, and that a car would be picking him up at 8 pm. We hung up and my exit from the building ended with icing on the cake. I left that employment with full satisfaction that my time there served its purpose for myself and for those we had come in contact with, and that the LAPD Homeless Task Force is at best a collaborative relay team for the City at the right time, in the right season, and for the right reasons. Adding to our team, the private donations of Pardee Properties makes housing placements immediately possible.

My husband Chaplain Steven Weller and I drove Sam to his new residence far away from the streets of Venice, and we all prayed together in the car on the road to new beginnings.

Weller’s Homeless Story No. 10

Steve and Regina Weller.  Both are Pastors of Foursquare Church in Venice and Chaplains for the Los Angeles Police Department Homeless Task Forcer.

Steve and Regina Weller. Both are Pastors of Foursquare Church in Venice and Chaplains for the Los Angeles Police Department Homeless Task Forcer.

Tony
By Regina Weller

We drove down 3rd and Rose Avenue in Venice at 6am, then walked the street, calling out the usual morning greeting and announcements for housing placement. Some of the homeless stirred and mumbled in their tents awakened by the voices of the Officers and the Chaplains. Others returned a friendly greeting.

Tony was already up, sitting against the wall staring into oblivion, and paid no attention to us. He had lived there on that street for over two years with his wife, who was now in the hospital with multiple problems and cirrhosis of the liver. Tony is a vet, but for his own reasons, would rather live on the street than accept VA assistance.

I greeted him again and reminded him that the Homeless Task Force was not giving up on him and had immediate housing for him if he so desired.

“I’m so lost” he responded, “and I got bit by a bee or something, Chaplain.” I inquired if he was still committed to staying clean and sober. He affirmed that he was, so I made him an offer: “Do you want to leave here right now and go into a sober living residence in San Pedro? We will help you with the entry fee, but they’re going to drug test you first.”

Tony cried, “I’ve got to get out of here! Some people were beat up last night. Are you really serious about a room for me?” I encouraged him, “Right now is decision time, so throw your bag in the back seat. We’re taking you to your new home.”

Tony receives $1,200 a month in benefits and could well afford the $500 monthly rent in the home in San Pedro that includes utilities. We sat at the kitchen table and he beamed with relief and joy as he filled out the resident agreement. The house manager readily befriended Tony and let him know about all the meetings they would attend together, and then he was shown to his room.

A day later, the bite under his arm grew worse and the homeowner took him to the emergency hospital. The examination revealed he had been bit by a brown recluse spider while living on the street at 3rd and Rose. Tony remained in the hospital for three days before returning to the residence.

Two weeks later, his family called to tell him his father had passed away. One more roadblock, one more set-back, one more discouragement, but this time Tony had the fellowship of the residents at his new home to support him. He commented that he was grateful that he had the opportunity to reconcile with his father while he was alive and stated that his father was happy to know his son was off the street.

Tony has adjusted well to his new residence and is generous in offering his mechanical skills, which has gained him respect and appreciation from the homeowner and the residents. “I’ve been fixing bikes and cars, and doing maintenance around the house. Between that and attending recovery meetings, I’m doing much better here.”

After five months, Tony purchased a boat and enjoys ocean fishing with his friends. He recollects warm memories of his own childhood spent with his father on the family boat.