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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.