Malibu City staff spread the holiday spirit this year by donating their time and money toward assembling 60 care packages for distribution to the homeless in Malibu in the days leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah.
The idea all started when Solid Waste Services, Inc., a city contractor, offered to donate $500 to a community charitable effort needing support during the holidays. City Manager Reva Feldman decided to put that money toward holiday care packages for the homeless in Malibu. The 60-to-70 members of city staff then donated additional money and items, and assembled the care packages during their holiday lunch.
When Council Member Laura Rosenthal announced the project at the Dec. 12 council meeting, local developer Norm Haynie approached the council members and staff and also donated $500. His contribution was used to purchase a small blanket to put in each care package.
Each of the care packages includes socks, toiletries, snacks (such as granola bars, beef jerky and protein bars), a small blanket, other essentials and information about taking LA County’s daily shuttle van from Malibu to the West LA winter shelter — which offers a place to sleep, showers, dinner and breakfast — and back.
Mayor Lou La Monte was on hand at City Hall last Thursday when Alex Michel, a member of the homeless outreach team from The People Concern, came with the van to accept the care packages and make her weekly pick-up from the special donation bins placed in City Hall a few weeks ago.
The donation bins, which were co-sponsored by the Malibu Task Force on Homelessness, the City of Malibu and The People Concern, were filled to capacity with winter clothing, socks, snacks, toiletries and even a few nice sleeping bags.
“The bins have been filling up every week,” Michel said. “And we’ll keep collecting the donations at least until the first of the year. We have people that are so, so grateful.”
All of the donated items stay in Malibu. Michel keeps the coats and other warm items in the van and hands them out as needed in the course of her outreach efforts to the estimated 160 homeless individuals in town.
She related a recent story about a homeless family of four here in Malibu — two parents and two teenagers. The People Concern was able to give the 16-year-old the money to take the GED (the high school equivalency exam), and “the mother started crying,” Michel said. A high school diploma or GED is often a requirement for employment.
“Malibu has an incredibly big heart,” La Monte said of the overflowing bins. “Ordinary citizens chipping in really make a difference.”
La Monte added that the government is also working to help homeless populations on a larger scale.
“Homeless issues have been a large part of the legislative packages being offered by California Contract Cities Association (CCCA),” La Monte said. The CCCA is group of 70 cities that unite for common causes and keep a constant presence at the Sacramento legislature. La Monte is currently president of that organization, and observed that most of its member communities are dealing with homeless issues — not just Malibu.
The care packages will be distributed to people experiencing homelessness in Malibu by the People Concern outreach team as part of their regular outreach and assistance efforts.
Elizabeth Shavelson, assistant to the city manager said, “I think the care packages should really help their outreach efforts, and help build trusting relationships with our local homeless.”