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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Downtown Homeless Complex Draws Mention from Joe Murphy

1506-Star-Apartments-Michael-Maltzan-Architecture-2

Joe Murphy, member of the Venice Neighborhood Council and head of Vision Committee, brought this complex to the attention of many. What the statement is is uncertain. This is a stunning complex that cost 40 million for 100 units, $400K per unit. Is that cheap or expensive?

“During World War II and after, there was a really big housing crunch,” said Reta Moser. “Many citizens displaced by the war, both during and after, lived in barracks-like structures that had only the bare necessities. Colleges also absorbed the influx of GI vets, following WWII and Korea, by providing similar housing for residents and even class rooms. It just seems more humane to house these people with the bare necessities until permanent housing can be obtained than leave them on the streets. These people do not have to live at the beach. Find land and put these structures up and get these people off the streets.

“How about an old, large building. Set up partitions, have large rest room, shower facilities. Get these people sheltered.

“It is just so sad to see these people who are really homeless suffering as they do. Waiting two to three years for possible housing doesn’t help.”

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.

News About Town …

Sidewalk Sales
http://www.latimes.com/local/cityhall/la-me-sidewalk-vending-dilemma-20151102-story.html

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-adv-street-vendors-20151104-story.html

Short-Term Rentals
Airbnb wins in San Francisco. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-airbnb-analysis-20151105-story.html

Homeless Vets Get Help
http://www.latimes.com/local/westside/la-me-va-stand-down-20151105-story.html

Court Rejects City and County Motions for Summary Judgement; Venice Beach Public Nuisance Case Heads to Trial

(Venice, CA/10/21/15) This morning Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon denied motions by the City and County of Los Angeles to dismiss the Venice Stakeholders Association lawsuit which alleges that the City and County have maintained a public nuisance on their park land, parking lots and the Boardwalk at Venice Beach.

In the decision the Court cited legal authority which included:

“Government liability under Government Code section 815 et seq. may be nuisances per se,… Such an action would not force the City to prosecute others for nuisance on private property, but rather require the City to take action as is necessary so that it no longer suffers a nuisance on its own property.”

Today’s Court decision was applauded by the Venice Stakeholders group:

“We are heartened by the Court’s support of our position that the City and County have a legal responsibility to abate the nuisance which they are allowing to exist in the Venice Beach Recreation Area (VBRA),” said Mark Ryavec, president of the Stakeholders. “Just like all other owners who are responsible for their property, the City and County need to be held responsible to residents for the harm we experience.”

Ryavec noted that an award of monetary damages could even be used to allow residents to hire private security to protect themselves and their families from assaults, break-ins, trespass and defecation and urination on their private property which result from people illegally living in or storing their possessions on public land.

First Homeless Court Clinic, 20 October

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The first Homeless Court Clinic will be held Tuesday, 20 October from 10 am to 2 pm, Oakwood Recreation Center, 767 California Ave., 90291

City Attorney Mike Feuer announced earlier this year that many homeless violations would be forgiven in exchange for a homeless person accepting assistance. This is the system he proposed and the first time in operation.

Violations affect homeless obtaining work and housing.

Sign Up for LAHSA 2016 Homeless Count

Sign up now for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) 2016 homeless count. Count will take place 26-28 January 2016.
Go to www.theycountwillyou.org to sign up.

“Homeless on the Westside” Forum, Tuesday

A public forum regarding “Homelessness on the Westside” will be held Tuesday from 7 to 9 pm at the Peace Center West, 3916 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City 90230.

“Poverty, unemployment, mental illness and lack of affordable housing have boosted Los Angeles’ homeless population,” according to Miguel Cruz, chapter manager of ACLU of Southern California. “And many people remain homeless because they cannot access permanent supportive housing, medical care or benefits.”

“Homeless individuals forced to live in public spaces or in their cars, in neighborhoods where they are unwelcome, often face criminal penalties for engaging in necessary activities that are a direct result of their homeless status. Adding to the crisis is the lack of housing for L.A. County’s growing homeless veteran population, the largest in the US.”

RSVP on Eventbrite and join our own Heather Maria Johnson and Eve Garrow as well as partners L.A. Community Action Network and attorney Carol Sobel for this free and public discussion.

LAHSA Up and Working

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is back in full operation at the 811 Wilshire location.

The building reopened Wednesday (21 September). We can be contacted through our LAHSA email and phones. All upcoming meetings will be held at the 811 building.

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.