Blog: Town Hall Meeting

Burt Ross

If you are planning to sit home next Tuesday and watch reruns of “Leave it to Beaver,” or anything else for that matter, let me suggest you rise from your couch and attend an upcoming important town hall meeting instead. (My sincerest apologies to anybody who had anything to do with the production of “Leave it to Beaver.”)

The City of Malibu, The Malibu Task Force on Homelessness and The People Concern are co-sponsoring a first-of-its-kind town hall meeting to be held on Tuesday night, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at City Hall. You are not only welcome to come and to learn, but also to ask questions.

It’s obvious to all of us that the number of homeless people in Malibu has been growing, but we probably don’t know why, what is being done to reverse the trend, what we should and should not do when we meet a homeless person, and so forth. This town hall meeting might very well give you the answers.

Homeless people can surprise you. Sure, we are all accustomed to seeing an unshaven man pushing a shopping cart full of belongings, but you might be surprised that the well-groomed person at the library, or the lady shopping at Pavilion’s is also homeless. We have a friend who is perfectly articulate, intelligent and creative, and each night sleeps in her car.

Like everybody else, homeless people come in many varieties. A few might be aggressive, and others kind and generous. One of my friends is a successful movie producer, but doesn’t look the part. On one occasion he was sitting with a homeless person who offered him half of his sandwich. So much for stereotypes on both counts!

I want to share with you an encounter I recently had with a homeless man whom I will call Jonathan to protect the identity of the individual. My wife had baked some brownies and we were bringing them to the Thursday night dinner coordinated by S.O.S. and several church groups. The dinners take place at Malibu’s United Methodist Church. 

We spoke for a few minutes when I asked him whether he was hungry. “Famished,” he replied. He sat down at a table, and my bride and I engaged some other people. Some time passed and when we walked back to our car, there was Jonathan standing next to it.

“Jonathan, how come you didn’t stay for the meal?” I asked.

“I need to get back to the beach,” he responded.

“I thought you were hungry,” which was more a statement than a question.

“I am starved,” he responded, “but I need to get back to the beach.” 

I felt heart broken that I was unable to help Jonathan, but I tried, and I guess that is all any of us can do.

Our City Council and several groups including The Malibu Task Force on Homelessness, CART, S.O.S., and many of our churches have worked to help our homeless population, but only with the understanding and participation of the broader community can we succeed in helping as many people as possible.

And, if you really don’t want to give up your reruns of “Leave it to Beaver,” the good news is the town hall meeting will only last two hours, and with modern technology, you will probably be able to record whatever you missed. See you on the 17th!