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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Storage System to Start Soon

One reader said the storage container should be shown as an object obstructing the ocean view not the way it was shown in last Update.  Many commented that it was prime real estate being used for the homeless.   Last Update showed container positioned in front of LAPD substation.  So new photo.  Container hasn’t moved.

No one knows for sure when the container storage program will begin, only that it will be soon.  Deborah Lashever, volunteer, and Barbara Milliken, volunteer coordinator for Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) will probably be the ones manning it until the volunteers are trained, according to Deborah Lashever.

Deborah mentioned that they may only have it open a couple hours a day instead of in the morning and at night.
One thing they have decided is to allow homeless to keep stuff there during the day (and, hopefully,  off the beach) and for a week, or as long as they continue to go to the shelter every night and show written proof of such.  Each week they would have to check in and prove that they had gone to the shelter each night.

This is “stuff” that hopefully will be put in shelter.  This will leave owner free to look for work during day and go to the shelter at night for a shower, bed, and warm meal.

These forms, along with itemized list of things, have not been established but will before the shelter is opened.  It is a pilot program.

Arturo Pina, from the council office, will be explaining the winter shelter program to residents at the Venice Neighborhood Council Tuesday. The program authorized by the council office and administered by Steve Clare, director of VCHC, bypassed the Venice Neighborhood Council.

Update assumes that both offices felt time was of the essence to get the homeless off the street into a shelter during the cold period. The container is to be there until 1 March.  The contract states 31 March but council office says 1 March.
The shelter provides a bed, a shower, and a hot meal.  Homeless are limited as to how much they can take to the shelter, thus the storage container.

All that being said, many people in Venice are upset with the storage container for the homeless because it means one more attraction or amenity for the homeless, one more reason for homeless to want to be homeless in Venice.  Another reason is that the council office bypassed the VNC.  The VNC is an advisory group for the council office and should reflect the desires of the community.

The administrative committee meeting of the VNC met Monday and discussed the bypassing of the VNC.  Newly elected community officer Tom Elliott, who represents ocean front walk,  had a new motion to present stating he wanted to have the VNC discuss this before installing the container.  Both he and newly elected Erin Sullivan-Ward were very vocal, as were most of the members, of the container being installed without VNC vetting.

Duke Needs a Beer

Friday morning, while walking Ocean Front Walk, I saw this man with the beer sign.  I asked him if I could set down next to him.  He said “yah” and then said:  “It was nice that I would stop and talk with him.”

I introduced myself and Duke put out his hand as quickly as he gave me his name and a big smile.  Asked him how long he’d been here and he said without hesitation “114 days.”  I was amazed that he would pin it down so preciously.

“Yep, caught my friend in bed with my fiancée and that was when I headed south,” he said.  “Use to live in Washington state.  We lived together two years before she became my fiancée and that was for another four years.  So after six years, it was just too much for me when that happened.”

“You haven’t been here the 114 days, have you,” I asked.

“No, I was in Santa Monica before I came to Venice,” he said.  “Santa Monica doesn’t like panhandlers much.  If you are standing up and move one leg toward someone, police say you are aggressive.  If you take your hat off in front of someone to get a coin, you are aggressive.  The ticket is $375.  I know.

“Police are much stricter in Santa Monica than Venice.  Police in Santa Monica tell you to move on.  ‘Go to Venice or downtown.’  They don’t want homeless there but they have them.”

Duke wasn’t sure whether Santa Monica had more or less homeless than Venice.  He said he just didn’t know.
“You can’t drink on the ocean front walk and beach area in Venice,” he said. “I had a bottle open and police asked me to come to the squad car.  They just warned me. So I don’t drink on the boardwalk.

The ticket is community service, I think.”

Looking at the beer sign, I asked: “Well, how many beers do you drink a day?”

Duke said:  “I start the morning with a quart of vodka, and have five or six 40-oz beers during the day and in the evening” he started to say but was distracted.  Duke neither acted like he was drunk nor smelled of alcohol when I sat on bench.

I asked him if he would go to a shelter and once again I heard the emphatic “No way.  I was in prison once and that soured me from ever getting near anything like a shelter.  I sleep down the street in one of the alleys with my 24-year-old niece.”

When asked where she was, he said she was at AA.  So I asked why he didn’t go too and he said “the time was not right yet.”

“I am a landscaper and two places want me to work for them when I get sober.”

One of his friends stopped by and made a comment about his wooden sign.  The friend wanted to know if it helped, if it was better than the cardboard.  Duke volunteered that he made $30 yesterday and that was enough for booze and food for the day.

Guess on left, Duke in middle, and Nate on right.
His friend’s name was Guess and Guess’s dog was named Ditto.  Ditto had two different colored eyes, one blue and one green.  Each eye color could be the envy of any dog.

Guess was from Maine and had been gone from home for over a year. He volunteered that he was nineteen.   I asked him if “Guess” really was his name and he said yes.  He left home for the New York occupy event and never returned.  Assume that he does “occupy” when needed where ever he is.

I asked him what he had to protest in New York at his young age of nineteen.  Guess suddenly changed from a nineteen year old to a louder, older, firmer speaker with a prepared script and spoke as one who wanted to convince a nonbeliever on the other side of the fence.

I listened to what he had to say and was in a total state of silent wonderment.  I started to make a comment about one statement he had made but then thought better.  He had been rehearsed by less knowledgeable people than me. Why interject truth.

My only comment was and which was calmly stated: “I have years on you. You have a lot to learn.”  Guess quieted down and came down from his podium.  At that he rolled up his sleeve and showed me a tattoo of a question mark.

“Always question,” he said and we laughed in agreement.  My thoughts went to his family.

And then there was Nate, who stopped right after Guess. Nate wasn’t much older than Guess.   Nate wouldn’t speak.  Nate was from Nashville, Tennessee, and was attracted to Venice beach because, as he wrote “he reads a lot.”  He had invoked a vow of silence.  I asked him why and he wrote on his note pad something to the effect that he had “things to sort out.”

Duke was getting tired of the notepad delay when he talked to Nate and asked him to get rid of it.  But Nate was insistent.  Guess mentioned that he should probably start a vow of silence too.  I was thinking it would or could be good for all of us occasionally.

I left the three of them bunched together for the photo.  It wasn’t until later I realized I hadn’t asked the two boys if they went to the shelter or if they would.  That was my original purpose … to find out if people used the shelter, or if they would if they had a place to store their “stuff.”

John and Micah Have a Home


Met John (can’t remember his last name) and his dog Micah in front of the weight lifting place on Ocean Front Walk (OFW) last year.
John didn’t drink or do drugs, and he was one of the few homeless who really wanted housing. He had been a minister and came to Venice from Oakland.
I talked with Linda Lucks about him to see if she knew of a place that would take dogs.  I gave his photo and particulars to others who might help.
He had a cell phone at the time and I gave him the number for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless).  PATH does not have places, or didn’t at the time have places, for people with pets.  But Tomasz of PATH gave John the number for a place that did.  John called the place and said guy put down his name and said he would call but that it might take six months. John lost his cell phone.  One time when I talked with him, I mentioned that he should check his messages where he had some kind of service. He indicated he would.
John stayed in front of the same place because occasionally the guy had some work for him to do and John was available for work.  Once I saw John in the alley with his dog and I asked him why he wasn’t in is usual place.  He said dogs aren’t allowed on the OFW during the weekends.   He said “I try to obey the law.”
I remember seeing John in August.  A church had given him a bicycle with a rear carrier that he could put his stuff in and carry Micah.  He was elated. Later in the day he was given a chain to lock his bike (Bike was steal bate.).  It happened to be his birthday.  He was so excited.
After that he had flat tires and was leaving his bike locked somewhere safe.  He seemed to be losing weight and getting discouraged.  He said “$200 a month doesn’t go far.”
I last saw him around Thanksgiving…maybe before.
I looked for him before Christmas and he was gone.  I was almost afraid to ask.
Finally, this week I asked people on the east side of the boardwalk if they had seen John.  One young man came out of his store at the mention of John’s name.  The young man was happy to report that John had a place to live.
John and Micah have a home at last.

Volunteers Needed for Venice Homeless Count

Volunteers are needed for the Venice Homeless Count, 30 January, 8 to midnight.
The four hours include one hour of training, which includes getting supplies, shirts, and hats, approximately two hours of counting and the last hour to return and check out.  Approximately 75 to 100 are needed.
This year the Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) is organizing a complete count for Venice so that, according to Timothy Sweeney, director for VCHC count, “we’ll be able to get real, current data on the homeless population in our community.  This ensures us that our services reflect the true needs of the most vulnerable among us.”
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) coordinates a county-wide homeless count every two years but LASHA does not release detailed numbers for specific areas such as Venice.    If you want to volunteer:      Go to www.theycountwillyou.org
Click on “Volunteer,” then Create Account
1.     Complete Personal Information section
2.     Choose A Team: select Venice Counts
3.     Choose An Area: select West Los Angeles
4.     Choose A Site: select Venice Community Housing
5.     Choose A Role: We need Counters and Volunteer Trainers
VCHC will contact all prospective volunteers closer to the night of the count.

Wilbert Says No

Saturday I met Wilbert.  Wilbert lives on the sidewalk on Venice Blvd west of Abbot Kinney, where Farmer’s market is on Fridays.  I was looking for bundles of stuff to see if they (the bundles) would disappear into the new Venice Beach storage container.
Monday the storage container at the beach opens for homeless people to deposit belongings so they, the homeless, can go to the shelters. Shelters only allow people with belongings approximating the size of a back pack.
And Wilbert was sitting among a long line of stuff.  I had been to Ocean Front Walk to look there but this was the largest grouping of “stuff.”  I took the photo below and then asked the man sitting in the middle his name.