Last Thursday, the annual Homeless Connect Day returned to the Malibu Courthouse to offer those experiencing homelessness free one-stop-shop government and nonprofit services. Over 50 unhoused individuals showed up to take advantage of having 27 county agencies and local nonprofits all in one place — which can be very difficult for them to get to otherwise.
Much of the heavy lifting required to put on the event was done by Tessa Charnofsky, the district director for LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s Calabasas office. Much work is also put in by Malibu’s own “C.A.R.T.” nonprofit, St. Joseph Center of Venice and the Venice Family Clinic.
Although the majority of attendees consisted of homeless people from in and around Malibu, the unhoused in adjacent towns were also invited.
“We spread the word throughout all areas of SPA 5, through outreach and flyers,” said Evert Cordova, SPA 5 outreach coordinator. Service Planning Area (SPA) 5 is one of eight regions served by the LA County Department of Public Health, which includes not only Malibu, but communities like Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, and West LA.
Accompanying several of the homeless “guests” through the maze of services and agencies gives a glimpse into what their biggest needs are, and the kind of Catch-22s and bureaucracy they face in trying to get back on their feet.
Here are three cases:
“Hal” is already being helped by one of Malibu’s two full-time homeless outreach workers. An older man, he was very excited and relieved when they recently located a permanent home for him in Koreatown, which he expected to move into in just a few days. Hal had been on the streets for 20 years — the last 10 years in Malibu. He had experienced some mental health issues, but was being helped by one of the outreach psychiatrists that visits Malibu a couple times a month, and now has a regular supply of meds that he takes.
However, Hal wasn’t going to be allowed to move into his permanent home/apartment until he obtained an official Income Verification statement /document from LA County. He’d been putting this off because it meant taking a bus from Malibu to downtown LA, finding and walking to the right office building and office, waiting in line, etc. At Homeless Connect Day, he was thrilled to get the document he needed almost instantly — which he very carefully folded up and put it in his wallet to give his caseworker.
Case #2, which we’ll call “Steve,” was a relatively recent arrival to Santa Monica from Arizona. A middle-aged man with a ponytail, he identified his race to one agency as both African American and Native American (Apache). He said he had gotten “jumped” by several men in Santa Monica, and lost the very few possessions he had.
At Homeless Connect, he was able to get a new backpack, some clothes — including socks and underwear, both breakfast and lunch, a shower, and a bag of toiletries that included a razor and deodorant.
He went to the LA County Public Defender booth, and an attorney took down the information needed to dismiss a ticket Steve received for some minor offense in Santa Monica. The “Homeless Unit for Record Clearing” helps the unhoused clear their criminal records, which better enables them to obtain housing and jobs.
Steve wasn’t so lucky in obtaining help in other areas, because he had just come in from out-of-state. He couldn’t sign up for food stamps here until he officially cancelled his Arizona food stamps — which is hard to do with no phone or computer access. He couldn’t get a free ID unless he had a birth certificate, and LA County doesn’t get birth certificates from other states. He went to the medical clinic and asked to get some ibuprofen, but there was a surprising amount of red tape he would have had to go through, taking multiple days, just to get this aspirin substitute.
Case #3, which we’ll call “John,” had just gotten out of jail a short time ago and was trying to get back on his feet. He took the opportunity to get a shower, bag of toiletries, and clothing. He also was not able to get anywhere in terms of getting a free ID or various services because he didn’t have his birth certificate. He was born in Florida, and LA County doesn’t help get birth certificates from out-of-state. For him to get the birth certificate by mail would cost $15, and he doesn’t have $15.
There were certain other documents he needed, but getting them requires a mailing address. A homeless person doesn’t have a mailing address. John was able to get a mailing address through a member of Malibu’s CART working in cooperation with the Malibu Labor Exchange.