by Amelia Anderson
Friday night, about 50 folks sang a “welcome home” to Verdugo Hills teacher Julie Cuddihy and her son and daughters who fled the horror of the Las Vegas massacre and fortunately returned home intact into the warm bosom of our community at Sunland Park. In the chaos of the festival, Julie suffered a mind-numbing separation from her son while helping others. Pastor John Candler’s guitar and all the soothing voices, however, helped assimilate her back into the calming tempo of the town.
On Wednesday, September 27, Mayor Garcetti and his lovely wife graciously hosted a sunny afternoon garden party at the Getty House grounds in Hancock Park, where they reside. His purpose was to address the 97 homeless advocates of his Homeless Committee, one selected from each of our 97 Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils who were seated under the canvas canopy. Mobile trucks filled the drive, displaying 501(c)3 services such as showers, medical, dental and optometry care. Card tables were set along sides of the back tennis court displaying government and privately funded programs and services available to the homeless.
Young, bright and erudite, Mayor Garcetti took the stage. He had grown up in the San Fernando Valley. When he was 14 years old, he had volunteered to help with Skid Row efforts. Little did he know that he would still be doing this 31 years later!
The development of the 1990s bothered him: first the inclusion of women, then children and now families have joined the homeless ranks. Meeting a fellow from his old neighborhood brought to mind similarities of family and sports. “Are we not so different?” He asks. Yet, by a difference made in choices, one is now homeless and the other is Mayor.
Garcetti’s humanity brought another story to mind. Two Viet Nam soldiers shared a fox-hole under withering fire. One man turned to the other and said, “If I don’t get out of here alive, will you take care of my daughter?” His buddy solemnly promised. Luck turned and both escaped the offensive and the army. The father later died. Down the road, Buddy fell into homelessness. He befriended a woman on the street. They banded together for survival, she calling him “Dad.” One day he realized she was the daughter of his army friend, and he was able to keep his promise to help! S
o, that’s Garcetti’s message. Get in the trenches to help! We face extraordinary crisis. He finds it often difficult to sleep knowing that he has a bed and others do not. That’s why he has tackled such a herculean problem. His administration has cleared inroads of lethargy over previous administration somnambulance. Refusing to kick the can down the road, his administration has planned, organized and implemented federal, state, county and city services while the public has responded voting in Measure HHH and Ballot H to hold and stem the tide.
The best answer, however, is outreach: to our neighborhood councils, to our clubs, to our churches, to our schools and businesses. To our neighborhood leaders and to our neighbors and to our needy on the streets.
We’re all in this together. We’re all our brother’s keeper. Some neighbor, somewhere, is asking you, “Won’t you please take care of my daughter?”
This community, one of the oldest in the neighborhood council system, can be proud of their help used in piloting the current outreach system when Day Street, the Louis Roth-managed care apartments, were built. Four homeless advocates were selected and mentored by social workers and administrators and invited into monthly meetings to identify those in greatest crisis, and to prepare paperwork making them camera-ready for housing.
The results took a many-years backlog of folks needing both health and mental issues into “housing first,” where they could get services and keep them off the streets. The new computer, the Coordinated Entry System (CES), was rolled out, connecting all government throughout city and county offices. The program was so successful that monies were found to hire many more social workers called.
CES navigators to GPS the remaining folks on the street with case managers. So, we know who they are, but we don’t have enough housing to get them all in: only one out of four. But educational programs have enlisted greater help from the city and police and we are working with apartment owners and builders to increase Section 8 Units, etc.
I am embarking to form a Homeless Committee within the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council with membership of five and a quorum of three, to be ancillary to Mayor Garcetti’s program to eradicate homelessness; to meet the second Saturday of the month 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. with the purpose to inform, educate and innovate within the boundaries and resources of our community. We’ll network problems and solutions with the other 96 councils. We’ll attend Pattee Colvin’s Christmas Gifts forDisadvantaged Children, Count the Homeless on the streets with LAHSA at the end of January, and help staff their spring Homeless Connect Day in Spring or Summer.
You are invited to attend our next neighborhood council meeting at 6:30 p.m. at city hall to sign up,call me at: (747) 218-1070 or e-mail me at Sparcky33@gmail.com.