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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Weller House Opens One Week, Filled the Next

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Weller House, a fourplex in south Los Angeles, opened last week and will house 28 formerly homeless men and women, who were on the street or living in their cars. The people were set to start moving in last week.

The building was constructed by Heidi Roberts and her husband John Betz purposely for the homeless. Late last year, they notified Regina Weller that they planned to name the building “Weller House” after both she and her husband Steve who passed away in September 2017. Both of the Wellers dedicated their lives to helping the homeless in Venice. Theirs is a book unto itself.

In November last year, Regina went to see the house and blessed it with her marker as shown in the photos.

In April this year, the construction came to a close, the furniture, the beds, and appliances arrived and were put in place. The time had come for the final touch.

Sunday, April 22, many friends of Heidi’s were there to make a bed, move utensils to assigned rooms, and various other last minute tasks. The places come totally furnished including silverware and dishes. Each resident even gets a hygiene kit. So there were a lot of last minute touches.

Many Venetians answered Heidi’s call and supplied furniture and other necessities. While walking thru the rooms, Heidi pointed out “this table was from Suzanne Wrede,  this couch was from Aby Myers. Larry Layne was super generous.” Brian Ulf stopped by and said furniture from his parents Palm Springs home was brought over.

Constructed for the Homeles

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Heidi Roberts, Regina Weller, John Betz

These new buildings that Heidi and John Betz constructed are referred to as collaborative housing. They are planned to be a stepping stone for the homeless to become productive, working citizens. These people pay approximately $500 each.

Heidi and John both feel this is the fastest and least expensive way to get homeless off the street and productive. They feel they have the model that works quickly to help the homeless and the two will provide their plan for others, both in California and elsewhere, that will establish the wherewithal to duplicate this plan.

They are in escrow to build another fourplex just like the Weller House.

Labor of Love
One can tell this has been a labor of love for both of them. Heidi, who has worked in Venice in various capacities to help solve the homeless problems, was touched as was her husband by the applicants.

“They actually dressed up to interview for a place,” she said “and they didn’t need to. We told them they had it. One thing we noticed was that they did not consider themselves homeless.”

May 1 and Weller House was Full
“We are already full,” Heidi said. “Many wonderful stories: one woman already has a job, another is exploring x-ray technician school, another is getting dentures so she can smile. All are doing incredibly well and many say they finally feel at home. Lots of people from Venice.”

Each Building Similar

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Each building contains four or three upstairs bedrooms on each side,  complete with a full bathroom for almost each two bedrooms. Downstairs is a large kitchen with a dinning table, a community room to watch TV, and a computer room. Each resident will share a bedroom. Boys are in one area and girls are in the other area. This is dormitory living.

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SHARE Will Supply the Residents with Support
All residents will have a roommate—two to each bedroom. They will be supplied mainly by SHARE (Self-Help And Recovery Exchange), located in Culver City. Heidi said they had about six from Venice.

“The statistics for SHARE are astounding: 40 percent plus of SHARE collaborative housing residents get jobs within three months,” Heidi wrote. “Many will move on to other apartments. Some will stay forever.

“Collaborative Housing is a place for them to re-learn social and emotional skills to be successful. They live as a family and collaborate as a family, complete with the responsibilities of living in a family. Chores are shared, they cook together, socialize together, support one another and share resources.

“So far so good. The places are super clean, the residents are happy and lots of lives are being restarted. John and I are now focused on the building. SHARE provides the social/emotional support for the tenants. And everyone will do well at Weller House.”

Tom Haberkorn of SHARE said a “Peer Bridge” would be provided for Weller House. A peer bridge is a person who has had experience of being a substance abuser plus having been homeless, and of course, totally recovered. Heidi says not all are former substance abusers. In addition, each “peer” gets 21 weeks of training.

The rules for Weller House will be No Alcohol, No Drugs, No Illegal Activity on the premises. The person who acts as the peer bridge will be summoned immediately if there is a problem. They are on call 24 hours and service 30 people.

Their job is to counsel those and hopefully help them become drug and alcohol free and working.

Comments (5)

  1. Lee casey

    Great work. Wonderful to see how much you guys care. Everyone needs love. How can I donate so $. I don’t have much but would like to help. Also if u need any volunteers,I can help in anyway I can.
    Bless you guys.

  2. Regina Weller

    GREAT JOB, HEIDI AND JOHN!
    Less talk, more action, working in agreement, focused, with simple acts of kindness – that’s how you get the job done!

    Chaplain Regina Weller
    Homeless Task Force

  3. heidi

    Here’s the response I posted on Next Door:
    Hi – a little more info…John and I have been keenly interested in SHARE! and the whole concept of collaborative housing for years. And as many know, we’ve been working with the City, against the City, with social services orgs, and against them as well. We’ve tried to unite the organizations to align their resources through Venice Forward and countess other efforts that have led to nothing but frustration and more people on the streets. Finally, we just decided to stop bitching about homelessness and do something. Essentially, we’re just landlords who have created fully furnished units and agreed to rent to formerly homeless people – no credit checks, deposits or other barriers that prohibit most homeless from securing housing. And the people live collaboratively – they share a home, chores, and responsibilities. Sort of like a fraternity or sorority, without the binge drinking ;-)

    Weller House is actually in South LA – not East LA. It’s in a residential neighborhood that is pretty nice. Lots of families around and I feel plenty safe there. During construction, I was there daily and now know all the neighbors. We never had anything stolen from the garage that was never even locked – including tools and the furniture we were storing there during the final stages of construction. (By contrast, all that stuff would have been jacked from my garage in my alley here in Venice within minutes;-)

    We opened nearly two weeks ago and are now almost full. The four townhouses (on one lot) are quite lovely – we took great care to furnish them so people would feel really great about their new homes. We supply all the basics: TP, paper towels, cleaning supplies, washer/dryers in each unit, TVs, computer, internet and cable. Each bedroom has two beds, complete with pretty and comfy bedding, dressers, hangers in the closet, towels and new toiletries. We also cover all utilities. Our tenants pay $500 a month – and that typically comes from their social security and/or disability funds – most people seem to have about $1200 a month. So with no bills, they have plenty of money to start rebuilding their lives. And most important: the homeless phase of their lives is now over. Finished. They are no longer homeless.

    SHARE! has been using this collaborative living model to house the homeless for years – typically, it’s in individual homes. We wanted to try to scale the whole process up so we could house more people, more quickly. And so far so good. It’s a little more work than owning and operating a traditional investment property, but we believe the financials will work out to be similar.

    Two weeks in, we can report that it’s like Melrose Place over there! Our tenants are doing great and they’ve developed a wonderful little community – supporting each other, borrowing, lending and sharing just like a regular community. SHARE! has a Peer Bridger assigned and it seems to be going well. John and I are segueing into a more traditional property management role, with SHARE! taking on the social and emotional support.

    As mentioned – we are feeling really good about this and are already about to break ground on another building and are looking to buy a third. Our goal is have 88 beds by the end of the year.

    As for opening a collaborative property on the Westside – it’s tough to do without supplementation, simply because the property acquisition costs are so high. We have identified some properties that would work and have done the math to see if it would be possible. We presented these as options to Bonin and his team to see if they had any ideas on how to supplement the rent to be able to make it work. Essentially, we’d need to more than double the rent for it to make sense as a private owner. So say the City, County or a social service was able to supplement by about $10K per person, per year, they could be housed this week.

    Regarding donations, we accepted donations of furniture and appliances for Weller House – THANK YOU so much Venice people! We purchased the rest and plan on doing the same for the next few places. So if you have any couches, dining rooms, office furniture, bookshelves, kitchen supplies in great condition, set them aside for us and when we get closer to opening, we’ll schedule a Venice – South LA haul.

    In the meantime, we’re gonna keep at it and try to show – by example – to the City, the Social Service organizations and other real estate investors that it is possible to significantly reduce homelessness in a way that is AFFORDABLE, EFFICIENT and IMMEDIATE.

    To learn more about SHARE!: http://shareselfhelp.org/programs/share-collaborative-housing/

    p.s. I hear there may be an awesome homeowner who’s gonna try this out right here in Venice…stay tuned ;-)

    • Will

      There are way to many people in the town complaining and not enough people actually doing anything. Congrats and thanks to John and Heidi….you’ve both shown incredible leadership through your actions and example. I hope there are more people who follow in your footsteps and create more housing like this. SHARE is just an amazing program.

      Pls let me know if there’s anyway I can help.

  4. Mary-Jane Wagle

    Appreciate this wonderful effort to help house and provide support to our homeless Angelenos. Would love to know more about the economics of this effort to be able to consider what I can do myself at a private level.

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