A Thanksgiving State of Mind in Malibu: A Time to Give Thanks, Help and Love

The week before Thanksgiving is usually filled with planning for a big Turkey dinner. Not this year.

This week, the only thing I am concerned about is living in a state of Grace.

I will be thankful for fresh air, clean water, family, friends and the chance to live out another day. I will check in with loved ones and give those I encounter a smile today. I will chose to live with compassion for those who have lost homes and family treasures. I will stay connected with my community and get curious and continue to ask “How can I help protect my community better in the future?” I will be courageous to question authority when necessary and have the confidence to bring truth to power. I will ask for clarity to identify how we can win battles in the future.

In the past, we could rely on others to protect our lives and homes from destruction, but the paradigm has shifted. With climate change, drought and resources being stretched to the limit, we must reflect. We must be disrupters who think differently. We need to practice self-reliance and responsibility. We can no longer think we are going to be ok because someone will save us.

Most of the us are out of touch with nature. We forget the natural ebb and flow of life. We don’t have to go to bed after the sun sets because we have electricity. We don’t have to notice which way the wind is blowing because we can shut our windows and close our doors and not have to worry.

Not in Malibu. In Malibu, we live a “way of life” that is far different. In Malibu, yo-yo! This means “you are on your own”. We live with nature, we try to protect our homes fiercely with all our hearts, but we know that we are at the mercy of the wind and of nature.

My heart aches for so many friends who have lost everything. The devastation is horrible. I have heard reports that nearly 600 homes are gone near Malibu. Point Dume and Malibu west were hit hard.

Today, I thank God however for the many lives saved. The first responders put their lives on the line and I am grateful. I am also so grateful for the many Malibu locals who took a “calculated risk” and protected their neighborhoods armed with mighty hearts, garden hoses, shovels, and wet rags. I am grateful for the way our community and many others around the country have come together to help those in need.

I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, but I know in my heart it’s going to take a community and collective action to save homes and lives in the future. It may take years for us to heal and recover, but no matter what, we will stay #malibustrong!

Success Is Turning Off A Burner or Two

Imagine your life is a stove with four burners for a second. According to a New Yorker article written by David Sedaris in 2009, “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/08/24/laugh-kookaburra

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (ranked #17 in Amazon list this week), also wrote an article espousing the four burner theory. James Clear elucidates this theory further and explains, “The importance of your burners may change throughout life. When you are in your 20s or 30s and you don’t have children, it can be easier to get to the gym and chase career ambitions. The health and work burners are on full blast. A few years later, you might start a family and suddenly the health burner dips down to a slow simmer while your family burner gets more gas. Another decade passes and you might revive relationships with old friends or pursue that business idea you had been putting off.”

“You don’t have to give up on your dreams forever, but life rarely allows you to keep all four burners going at once. Maybe you need to let go of something for this season. You can do it all in a lifetime, but not at the same damn time. In the words of Nathan Barry, “Commit to your goal with everything you have—for a season.” https://jamesclear.com/four-burners-theory

I experienced four burner “burn out” first hand, and wish I had heard about this theory way back in 2001. I had a demanding career as litigation supervisor at The Screen Actors Guild, was trying to raise a my 2 year old daughter and was pregnant with my second child and working on trying to stay healthy after weighing in at over 200 pounds. I had not seen many of my friends and had to repeatedly pass on many reunions over the years – so my friends burner was indeed out for all intensive purposes.

I struggled to keep my career on high, raise my children and keep my husband happy and to keep healthy, but I physically and mentally was exhausted and knew deep down I could not keep burning these three burners on high.  

I asked to turn down the career burning by gong Part-time, but the Union refused saying it was a “dangerous precedent” to let me go part-time so I had to make a choice.  My family or my career.  I took the leap into the unknown and chose my family (and community) and my health burner and have kept those two burners on high for the past 17 or so years.

In retrospect, I am still trying to come to terms with giving up my career as a lawyer.   I wrote a book, which is really more like a love letter to my children, outlining my struggles with going from a working mom to a stay at home mom.  It needs more editing, but at least it’s done.  

Transitioning from Working to Stay At Home Mom

In 2013, I read, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” which calls for women to “lean in” to their careers. I felt bad about my decision to lower my career burner.  After I watched Serena William’s new HBO series which also shows a full burner career, full burner health and fully burner family dance of Serena Williams, I also felt bad about turning down my career burner.   https://www.hbo.com/being-serena

Today is different.  Why?  The Four Burner Theory makes me feel a bit better.   I now try to look at as my career as a “season in my life” that was great, but that was turned off so I could devote my time and energy fully to my family (and community) and to being healthy (competing in over 13 triathlons, 2 1/2 Marathons, 1 Marathon and working out with a Tribe of warriors three days a week for many years.) 

My daughter is now in college and my son is a Junior in High School.  I am feeling the urge to reignite my third burner again and find myself writing this today.  I am hopeful that this article will promote more dialogue and reflection.  What’s on your stove?

Wisdom, Courage, Serenity and the 2018 Senate Hearing

What will you take away from the 9/27/18 Senate Hearing regarding the appointment of the next US Supreme Court Nominee?

I will remember the wisdom from Judge Kavanaugh’s 10-year-old daughter, who said her family should pray for Dr. Ford - the woman who accused her father of sexual assault.

The courage of Dr. Ford, her request for caffeine and her trembling voice.

The tears and the beer remarks and the anger and fury of Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

The furious red-faced screamer Senator Graham.

I must breathe. I must turn off the talking heads on Fox, CNN and NBC who keep rehashing the testimony and now the one-week FBI investigation.

Instead of watching our democracy crumble into negativity and despair, I will walk the dog today. I will read. I will write. I will say my prayers. I will let go let God, and ask God for serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, the wisdom to know the difference and the grace to judge less and to love more.

Break Records Not Racquets!

A Letter To Serena Williams From A Tennis Mom

Dear Serena:

When your baby was born, just like all moms, I knew the world and your life was forever changed – for the better.

You are blessing to the world and to all you meet. You are kind, intelligent, compassionate, caring, curious, and simply one of strongest women the world has ever witnessed.

We are all proud of you, and that you chose not just to serve big, but to serve your daughter and all children and to help them transform – so that they can believe they can accomplish anything if they put their mind, body and soul into a dream.

This past week, we witnessed what appeared to be a referee treating you differently than others. The ref rebuked you and warned you against being “coached” during the US Open Finals Match. Do other coaches coach? I think there is a consensus that many do; however, players are rarely, if ever, penalized for it.

You had every right to feel angry that you, and not male counterparts, were penalized for this. Your anger, like a fire, grew and festered. It did not serve you. It’s hard to get over unfair treatment. This is not the first time that referees interfered and inserted themselves into matches while you played on the court. You have every right to feel angry about unequal treatment, and many other Moms and women and others, especially in these times, feel angry and upset when we witness prejudice and inequality.

Did this anger serve you? It appears that it may have triggered the rage we witnessed when you later violently broke your racquet. As a tennis mom, unfortunately I have witnessed many 14 year olds break racquets and/or throw them over fences. It hurts me to see this, and it is simply not acceptable behavior. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should break things in fits of rage. I hope you can make a vow to yes continue to break records, but never another racquet no matter how angry you feel (this includes during practice). This action alone would give us Mom’s another argument when trying to convince our own children that breaking rackets is bad.

I am sorry that the ref treated your badly. I am also sorry that he denied Naomi, you and the tennis world of the joy of watching just one more game at the 2018 US Open Women’s Final.  I hope you find comfort in realizing that the ref, like so many others who get in the way of justice, will not be remembered.

I will remember the way you stood up for Osaka during the awards presentation. I also hope that because of that day, you will take an oath to never let your anger get the best of you or another racquet.

May you continue to break records, not racquets, and may your savor every second of being a mom – explore nature, help others, soak in the sun shine and remember the world is full of goodness and grace. Lastly, I hope that you will always remember you are loved and are truly magnificent and that you have the power to inspire others to simply be their best. You are a fine young mom and you can be and do anything your heart desires. You will bring so much light to those you help in your life.

Love and gratitude, A Tennis Mom

“From what we get, we can make a living. What we give; however, makes a life.” 
― Arthur Ashe

T

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Regardless of whether you are in jail, homeless or the subject of a search warrant, you deserve to be treated with dignity in my humble opinion.

It is tragic to see people tossed aside and treated poorly, and if we stay silent, then are we complicit?

I just read a local paper and was horrified to read the first-hand account of what happened to Zuma Jay earlier this week. If it is true that Zuma Jay was handcuffed and put on display outside of his home with no socks, shoes or shirt and only a pair of jeans, then I am deeply disappointed and sad that our justice system did not treat him with dignity, and perhaps forgot that he is innocent until proven guilty.

I served with Zuma Jay on the Malibu City Council for four years from 2008-2012. We didn’t always agree, but he was always agreeable, decent and treated others with dignity.

I remember my first impression of Zuma Jay way back around 2000. He sent a hand-written note to me thanking me for my legal help on a case I worked on at the Screen Actors Guild. In the many years I served as counsel, thank you notes were not common. Gratitude and grace are in Jay’s DNA.

In the coming days, weeks and years, I hope that Zuma Jay and his family will be treated with dignity and that truth and justice will prevail.

Is it Time for Guild Member’s to Find Their Own Super Powers – The Case for Guild Inclusion Riders

Brava to Frances McDormand who left with her Oscar and two words: Inclusion Rider. Do we need a take 2? Should the phrase include the Guilds?

The “Inclusion Rider” concept was originally suggested by Stacey Smith in a 2014 Hollywood Reporter article and is a great start, but with all due respect, I ask that you also consider including one additional word – Guild.

Yes – A list talent should demand an inclusion rider, but let’s face reality. In this day and age, even A listers can and will be replaced by an up and coming person who is hungry to work and will not make any demands. There are many instances where producers have put A list talent on “ice” when they ask for more or stand up to producers. Why were the Guild’s born in the first place? Because the is real power is in a Union.

Don’t understand the power of a Union or solidarity? The next time you are in Starbucks, take a wooden coffee stirrer and try to break it. (It’s pretty easy to do). Now grab a hand full of those pieces of wood and try to break it. I bet you can’t – or at least it is very difficult to break.

There are big 3 Unions in this town, Director’s Guild, the Writer’s Guild and Screen Actors Guild/AFTRA. Why can’t all three Hollywood Guilds – DGA, SAG/AFTRA and WGA, stand up and demand inclusion riders for all productions?

How can they do this? Currently the Guilds require Security Agreements to insure payment of residuals prior to the commencement of production. They could also require Inclusion Riders if they had the leadership in the Guild that demands this.

Indeed, SAG/AFTRA already contains an example of a rider in it’s collective bargaining agreement. Paragraph 43 of the agreement with Producer’s requires a “The Nudity Rider” when any nudity or sex acts are required of a performer in the role they are playing.

There is one small issue – the Guild Collective Bargaining Agreements with major Hollywood producers will not expire until July 2020. What does this mean?

Until 2020, the Guild leaders and executives will be able to say that they can’t do much to change the rules and the burden will rest on the shoulder’s of the A list talent to make changes.

What can be done in the meantime? Members of the Guild also have a major role to play in turning around Hollywood. They have the power to elect Guild President’s and Board members (who will hire Executive Directors) who can insist that the Inclusion Rider be included in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

To date, no major Hollywood Union has ever had a women Executive Director. The DGA had one women President, SAG/AFTRA has had 4 women Presidents including President Gabrielle Carteris, and WGA has had one female President.

The power is in the vote and hands of the Guild members who can decide who will represent them and whether an inclusion rider will be on the table in the next round of negotiations. Let’s hope the #metoo momentum is still a force in 2020; otherwise, it may be business as usual in Hollywood.

Malibu – Is it Time to Give a Dam?

I am grateful the City of Malibu will be considering issues surrounding the removal of the Rindge Dam on Monday, February 26, 2018. The million dollar plus plus public project appears to be on the track to approval by the California Coastal Commission.

“Although this project would restore approximately 8.5 miles of aquatic habitat connectivity between the Pacific Ocean and Rindge Dam in Malibu Creek, there are potentially serious environmental issues that have yet to be resolved.” See Malibu City Staff Report at: https://www.malibucity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/3126?fileID=3867

I agree with the Malibu City Staff report. I am concerned that the removal of the Rindge Dam will be a man-made disaster. I hope everyone will consider this issue now and join me in taking a stand to protect Malibu.

I am not a scientist, but common sense tells me that if you remove the 100 or so foot dam, more than a foot of water will be allowed to submerge parts of Malibu- including Cross Creek area and Serra Retreat. Yes, the steel head trout may be able to swim a few more miles up stream, and I am all for swimming up stream, but we must consider safer alternatives to protect the people who live and visit Malibu.

I have witnessed the flooding in and around Malibu at the foot of the creek in the past, and I can’t even imagine the damage that will follow when the dam in removed. In addition, the trucks going up and down our one of our only ways in and out of Malibu are certain to cause problems for residents and visitors alike. Remember it will take YEARS, if not a decade, to haul out the tons of debris. Try to imagine the hundreds of thousands of trucks and trips added to our only arteries in and out of Malibu. Is this cost worth the benefit of a few extra miles to swim?

Here are some humble thoughts:

1) There are more pressing issues that should be addressed and better ways to use tax payor money – like fixing the dam up north. Why not use our resources to address those more pressing issues?

2) Why aren’t alternatives being considered? Why can’t the government consider fish ladders or other cheaper and effective ways to allow the trout to keep going up stream a few more miles?

3) I can almost guarantee an earthquake will happen, and with that mother nature may surely find it in her power to remove the dam at no cost to the tax payor. What’s the rush? Who is pushing for this issue, and how will they benefit from the project?

If you want to read the California Coastal Commission (“CCC”) Report for the February 7, 2018 agenda, it can be found here: https://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2018/2/w11b/w11b-2-2018-report.pdf.l Please note: the California Coastal Commission hearing on February 7, 2018 was postponed. Based on the information in the report, it appears the CCC staff are backing the project.

“The project’s two primary objectives, restoration of steelhead habitat in Malibu Creek and its tributaries and restoration of sediment supply to downcast beaches, are both consistent with the intent of these Coastal Act policies.” CCC Staff Report at p. 35.

“The project holds the potential to create two types of geologic hazards: slope instability during and after excavation of the impounded sediments behind Rindge Dam, and increased downstream flood risks after removal of the dam and impounded sediment.” CCC report at p. 38.

“The Commission agrees with the Corps’ conclusion that the proposed project would not lead to a significant increase in slope stability hazards adjacent to the impounded sediment reservoir with implementation of slope stabilization measures; or (2) increased flood hazards downstream along Malibu Creek over the flood hazard that currently exists with the dam in place” at p. 42.

Please consider this issue now, before you are scratching your head and asking how did this happen in the years ahead.

If you are inspired to take action please:

1) Email Malibu City Councilmembers asking that they send letter to CCC outlining concerns.

Mayor Mullen: RMullen@malibucity.org
Mayor Pro Tem Wagner: JWagner@malibucity.org
Councilmember La Monte: LLamonte@malibucity.org
Councilmember Peak: SPeak@malibucity.org
Councilmember Rosenthal: LRosenthal@malibucity.org

2) Attend the Meeting on Monday February 26, 2018 and speak on the item.

Malibu City Council – If Not You, then Who?

I was fortunate enough to be able to see Malibu City Hall at work this week, and I am happy to report the state of the City is more than strong, it is also great in my humble opinion.

On Tuesday, I participated in Library task force meeting and was happy to see that the City will be working with LA County to do another needs assessment to insure community needs and wants are being met. I believe there is great news on the horizon and that we will have the funds necessary to have cutting edge services and opportunities to learn and grow. (If you are interested in getting involved on the library, please email the city and let them know so you can attend the next meeting.)

On Wednesday, I heard from a friend that the Malibu Library Speaker series featuring local Director Rory Kennedy and surfer Laird Hamilton was incredible, and that they were so impressed with the speaker series. (I was simply blown away when I got to hear Glass Castle author Jeannette Walls a couple of months ago).

On Friday afternoon, I was in City Hall working with staff to get neighborhood watch signs designed after the City Council approved the signs on January 22, 2018. The staff was friendly and professional. While I was there, I asked a staff member why the City seems to losing many employees from the planning department? The staff member replied, “Three reasons – commute, pay and work load.” Los Angeles traffic has gone from bad, to unbearable for many. Most staff can not afford to live in Malibu, so they are forced to commute literally hours for work. Life is about balance and I respect that some people may value their family so much that they want to have some quality time to have dinner etc.

Later Friday night, I stopped by the incredible Dan Eldon art exhibit opening at City Hall. I was so grateful to see many friends, neighbors and our community there to celebrate the life, and the art of an extraordinary citizen who is an inspiration, along with his mother local Kathy Eldon. I would urge everyone to stop by your City Hall to take in this moving exhibit. Both Dan and Kathy are the ultimate positive artist activists who ask questions, not just throw stones.

This morning, I just read another scathing commentary by a Malibu citizen who is known for throwing the proverbial stones at our elected City Council and staff. This inspired me to write about what I saw this week and also to ask that everyone who is questioning the City of Malibu, to get involved –
to step up and participate.

It’s easy to write and complain, but hard to roll up your sleeves and come up with solutions to the problems we all encounter on a daily basis in our lives – and in the City of Malibu.

This November, two seats are wide-open for the Malibu City Council. Will you roll up your sleeves and run? If not you, then who?

How Can the City of Malibu Step Up to Address Our Homeless Crisis?

SOS Response to City of Malibu

In life, the only thing that matters are people – those you hurt, and those you help.

I was sad to hear about an alleged request from Malibu City Council members that a local church stop feeding homeless, and that crime relating to homeless has gone up. The City of Malibu will be addressing homeless issues on Monday, November 13, 2017. The Malibu City report can be viewed here: Malibu City Agenda Report

I respectfully urge the Malibu Mayor and City Council City to step up in the following ways:

1) Contract with The People Concern to deliver services that will insure homeless are given help to get off the streets. MTFH entered into letter of commitment with The People Concern that runs through 2018. I believe it is the responsibility of City, not volunteers to insure this is done correctly. Indeed, I believe it is just as important as paying for Sheriff services, and the homeless efforts done by City need to have transparency and accountability – these are things that volunteers simply can not provide.

2) Expand the duties of the Emergency Services Department to oversee, to coordinate local entities who provide homeless services and to report back to Council and public efforts to address both homeless and community safety concerns. I commend the City of Malibu for addressing this issue in public today, but hope it will hold another Town Hall meeting on homeless. I also believe a roundtable with stakeholders from non-profits, sheriff and concerned citizens could be coordinated and hosted at Malibu City Hall at least once a month.

3) Provide a permanent location for food distribution and services. The City of Malibu is well equipped to coordinate with LA County to open up the old Court House to give local churches and non-profits a safe place to serve food and to have a place to meet with clients to provide services. Shuttle bus times to shelters can be coordinated with food distribution. Please note, City of Malibu has already used Library set-aside Funds to hire a public safety officer at the library. Please understand, this is not a permanent solutions, but it is a good short term solution, until another safe location can be identified.

4) Create merchandising program to help fund efforts to address homeless and other city priorities (e.g. public safety and the arts). Under the Malibu Lumber Lease, the City is entitled to pop shop which has never been opened for various reasons (no staff, merchandise). I respectfully request City of Malibu again consider working with Artifact Tree and/or Arts Commission to raise additional funds to support City priorities through merchandising.

My experience with Malibu Homeless began in October 2015. As I was dropping my kids off at a school bus stop next to Point Dume elementary school playground, I noticed a van with out of state plates and drawn curtains. My Momma bear instinct kicked in, and I took a picture of license plate with another concerned mom, just in case a child was abducted from the playing ground later that day. The homeless woman who was sleeping in the van woke up. Our hearts melt when we heard her story – from Colt’s cheerleader to homeless with mental health issues and a simple dream to live in California.

A short time later, local heroes and community activists Carol Moss and Sandy Liddell began meeting at Malibu Methodist to discuss homeless issues and CART (Community Assistance and Resource Team) was born. CART first looked at hiring professionals to help on the street, but also had many other goals like delivering food, and providing services such has eye clinics.

The Malibu Task Force on Homelessness (MTFH) was formed in January 2016 with volunteers who had one goal – to raise money and to enter into contract with professionals who could help Malibu’s homeless. Thanks to support from community, the Hilton Foundation, and the City of Malibu, MTFH raised money to hire 2 full time workers which has grown to team includes doctors to address needs of community and to provide housing and wrap around services for homeless.

I am grateful to see that so many in our community care and whole heartedly believe we can find a path forward together.

Down and Kicked Out in Malibu?

Malibu Church Must Stop Feeding Homeless

CBS reports that a Malibu church must stop feeding the homeless after Thanksgiving?

Is this true?

On Monday, November 13, 2017 the City of Malibu will receive an update on “efforts to address issues related to homeless individuals” from Malibu Public Safety Manager Duenas according to item 6A of the Malibu City Council agenda. See: https://www.malibucity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/2965?fileID=3663

Do you want to learn more about what the City of Malibu is doing? Go to City Hall this Monday call (310)456-CITY to confirm time.

Do you want to know what you can do to help? Visit www.malibucart.org; or www.malibutaskforce.org or www.thepeopleconcern.org.

Do you want to connect a Malibu homeless person with professional outreach and help? Share the Malibu Outreach Team phone number (310)460-2638 or email malibuoutreach@opcc.net.

Many have asked how I got involved with the homeless issue in Malibu. It started on my birthday back in 2014. Here is my story:

The Homeless – no one wants to see it, or talk about it. Most of us simply feel guilty. We think, but for the grace of God, there goes I.

I am the daughter of a man who grew up in an orphanage in New York.

My family is no stranger to being poor. My father was one of 13 children and was sent to live in an orphanage in New York after his father died. When I look into the eyes of a homeless person I search for a piece of my own family. I try not to judge, but to help when I can.

I am also the mother of two children.

If I see a possible threat to my children or my community, my protective instincts kick in, and I go “Mama Bear”. This is what happened early on the morning of October 28, 2014. It was 7:07 a.m. on a crisp fall day, and I had just walked my junior high school kids to the school bus at the corner of Grayfox and Fernhill adjacent to the Point Dume Elementary School playground.

After the kids got on the bus, I noticed a white beat up Van with curtains drawn closed and an out-of-state license plate parked adjacent to the playground. Something in me felt uneasy. Another mother who had dropped of her son walked over to look at the out of place vehicle too. We started a conversation and both agreed that it would be a good idea to stay vigilant just in case a child gets abducted from the school. I took out my cell phone and took a picture of the van and the license plate – – – just in case.

We started to walk away from the van when I heard the door open. All of the sudden a young woman about 30 or so years old burst out and screeched “My name is Nicole. I am not a child abductor, I am just homeless looking for a safe place to sleep. This is why I slept here next to the elementary school in my van.” Her hair was red and unkempt. Her eyes were blue and filled with pain.

Our mother hearts melted, and we walked over and to ask how we could help. We managed to help her get a shower and some gas money, and the other mother did an amazing job of helping her with clothes and even helped her get a job as a waitress and mental health services over the course of the next several months.

We thought we could help. We thought Nicole would do great. She got on meds, she got the job and she seemed to be on her way.

About a month or so after this incident, I got a call from Carol Moss who was meeting with Sandy Liddel at Malibu Methodist church to discuss homeless issues. I went to the meeting and we formed the Community Assistance and Resource Team (CART) to help people like Nicole.

During the CART meetings we met with Pacific Palisades Task Force members and other organizations like PATH. We wanted to learn more about how we could stem the growing homeless crisis. Many homeless neighbors joined CART and we got a better understanding of many of the issues they faced: from lack of warm showers to no affordable housing to losing everything after one horrific auto accident.

CART collaborated with the City of Malibu, LA County, and numerous other homeless providers to do our first “Homeless Connect Day” in the fall of 2015. The Connect Day took place at the old LA County Court House building next to the Library. In essence, it was a a one-stop-shop where homeless could meet various providers – from DMV ID issued cards, to mental health providers, to job training programs, to free hair cuts and foot massages. The event gave homeless opportunity to get help, and gave our community the opportunity to see lives transformed from the event.

One year later on the exact same day, October 28, 2015, as fate would have it, I saw Nicole again at the Homeless Connect Day in Malibu. She had lost her job, had gone off the medicine for the mental health issue and was again disheveled and distraught, and nearly in tears.

I asked how I could help. I tried to introduce her to some of the service providers, but what she really wanted was a ride to the local pot dispensary. She explained the marijuana simply helped her function.

I gave her a ride, but it broke my heart to see this young woman suffering. At that moment, I realized I was not equipped to give her the help she desperately needed, and any money I gave might be enabling her to simply tread water instead of getting out of the deep end.

In January 2016, I helped start the The Malibu Task Force on Homeless with other concerned locals. We focussed on one task – raising the funds to hire professionals social workers in Malibu whose helping people like Nicole on a full-time basis. The outreach team approach is novel, but has been shown to be effective in the Pacific Palisades.

On February 23, 2017, a coalition of concerned citizens including the Malibu Democratic Club, Community Assistance and Resource Team, and the Malibu Task Force on Homeless hosted a community forum on Measure H, the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative that was on the the March 7, 2017 ballot. Measure H is a quarter-cent sales tax increase in Los Angeles County to fund anti-homelessness for 10 years.

On March 7, 2017, over 2/3 of Voters in LA County approved Measure H. “Measure H is expected to generate an estimated $355 million annually for services to combat homelessness. After months of planning, Measure H funding recommendations were developed for the Board of Supervisors to consider for implementation. On June 13, 2017, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a spending package to deploy more than $1 billion in Measure H funds into local communities over the next three years—a key milestone in the county’s ambitious commitment to combating homelessness.” See http://homeless.lacounty.gov/

The Malibu Task Force on Homeless was able to raise funds from the community and the City of Malibu to hire two professional outreach workers under an agreement with The People Concern (a 501C3 non-profit devoted to homeless issues). The Malibu City Council approved $76,000 to fund the 2 positions at The People Concern on June 26, 2017.

The 2 person team is dedicated to helping get homeless off the street and getting them connected with housing and wrap around services. To date, team has helped many homeless Malibu residents move into permanent housing. According to the MTFH website, as of May, 2017, 51 homeless Malibu residents have now “enrolled” as clients (meaning they have consented to services, are involved in ongoing case management, and have completed a goal plan). A total of 63 individuals are now considered “engaged” with the Outreach Team.)

Nevertheless, the Outreach Team was unable to help Nicole – became pregnant and lived in a tent next to Pepperdine University.

On Mother’s Day, Sunday May 14, 2017, after going to Mass and Ollo’s for breakfast with my children, I thought it might be nice to wish Nicole a happy Mother’s day and to surprise her with some nice pan cakes and fruit.

As we turned into the path leading up to the area next to Pepperdine where she was camping we saw Nicole. She was pushing an empty shopping cart. Her red hair was unkempt , her skin was dirty, her clothes were ripped and he belly was bulging. I waved to her and said, “Hi Nicole. We brought you some breakfast. Happy Mother’s day!” Before I reached her, she looked down and shouted – “No. Go away.” She couldn’t look me in the eyes. My kids appeared to be afraid.

I got back in our car and drove away. My son pleaded that I stay away because she looked like she could harm someone or even herself, and he feared for my safety. I couldn’t help but feel sad, for both Nicole and her unborn baby. I wanted to try to help, but deep down I knew Nicole was the only one who could help both herself and the baby. I knew then, that without a miracle, Nicole and her baby could end up dead in the near future.

On Thursday June 29, 2017, I stopped by another Malibu Connect day at the Library to again see if I could be of service. I ran into Nancy Rosenquist, a long-time Malibu resident, who was now happily housed in Marina Del Rey, and Carol Moss the beloved founder of CART and the Reverend Paul Elder who was still washing the feet of many homeless.

Just as the Connect event came to a close, one additional woman came to the foot washing station. I could tell that Reverend Paul Elder was exhausted from working and serving all day so I asked if I could help wash the feet of this final client. Reverend Paul Elder smiled and said – yes.

As the homeless client took off her shoes, I saw about 50 or so red boils on her feet that appeared to be red and oozing. I put on some protective gloves and covered her feet with soap and water. I asked her if her feet hurt and she said just a little and that they were much better than before. I was next to Linda Gibbs a local Point Dume mom who had been working for hours washing and massaging feet and asked her if she had any type of medicine to help. She jumped to her feet and took out tea tree oil and began to help.

Reverend Paul Elder suggested I try to speak to the doctor to see if we could get some medicine for her condition. I was able to catch the Doctor as he was walking out to the parking lot and asked if he could come take a look. The kind Doctor came back and examined her feet. He then reached in his oversized back pack some anti-fungal medicine which I helped put on. Luckily, there were lots of new clean socks so she was able to put her new socks on over her medicine.

As I was cleaning up the station and speaking with Reverend Elder I asked if had heard what happened to Nicole and her baby.

I was in shock to learn that on June 4, 2017, Nicole’s water broke as she was walking along PCH near the Animal Hospital. Someone called 911 and Firestation 88 answered the call. According to first hand accounts, Nicole originally resisted getting any help and asked to be left alone – asserting her rights under the Constitution to be free.

Veteran Firefighter Gene Rink got on his knees, and looked Nicole in the eyes and explained – with all due respect this isn’t about you – it’s about doing what’s best for the baby now. By some miracle, Nicole listened to Gene and got in the ambulance. As it turned out, her baby was breached and both Nicole and her baby could have died but for the valiant efforts of Malibu Station 88 Firefighter Gene Rink. I went to directly to Firestation 88 to thank Gene in person.

I don’t know what will happen with that baby girl or Nicole, but I do know that every day I notice more and more homeless in Malibu. Indeed, the LA County Homeless count shows there is a 25% increase in LA County.

Nancy Rosenquist is an example of how we are criminalizing and failing to offer help to homeless individuals in my humble opinion. I had known Nancy when she was a writer for Surfside News and ran into her at a CART meeting at Malibu Methodist.

In 2015, Nancy was arrested for sleeping in a rental car and was originally charged with 3 felony counts and served time in jail. The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. Nancy was released from jail after being incarcerated for many weeks and came back to Malibu with no place to stay. Many people tried to help her in many ways, but she kept falling through the cracks.

On January 16, 2016, on my way home from my child’s soccer game, I saw Nancy sitting at the bus stop on PCH near Kanan in the rain. I stopped to see if she needed a ride. Nancy said yes and that she was going to Malibu Methodist. After I gave her a ride there, I saw Kay Gabbard and she let Nancy in. I gave her my leftovers from dinner and Nancy was able to eat dinner there. (Thank you Malibu Methodist!) I called the LAHSA Crisis number to try to get her help and a place to stay and eventually got help and a new home.

On October 25, 2017, I was privileged and honored to witness our homeless brothers and sisters succeed in living a life full of meaning at the Westside Coalition celebration event. I was in awe listening to stories of how many homeless overcame the most difficult days and were able to find the courage to keep going. I also learned that many homeless hunger not just for food, but for a purpose just like all of us. Nancy Rosenquist was honored at this event. She has been able to who overcome many hurdles and still keeping love and light in her life. Nancy is now finding her way of life off the streets and seems happy. To learn more about Nancy visit: http://www.malibutimes.com/malibu_life/article_0167a2bc-14bd-11e7-b56f-3f85792986fe.html

I don’t have the answers, but I do believe we are all connected. I hope and pray that maybe our collective little acts of kindness and tolerance balanced with safety, can make Malibu and our community better for all.