Editorial: Don’t Stop at Being Thankful

Posted November 24, 2015 by The Argonaut in Columns
Any way you slice it, most of us have reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Those of us on the Westside live in a place that attracts people from around the world to vacation in our backyard.

If you’re here chasing some kind of crazy dream, you’ve made it this far. Keep going!

If your job is wearing you down, your commute is wearing you out and making rent looms heavy on your mind, this means you have a job, a car, and a place to call home.

With costs going up and wages flat, we know the struggle is real — but we also know there are many among us who aren’t even scraping by. They have no job, no way to get around or no home, and they need help.

As our cover story about this year’s class of Local Heroes proves (see page 12), busy people who are not wealthy can still make strides for a better world by carving out space in their lives to accomplish some altruistic activity in our community.

In the face of ISIS violence abroad and the resulting Syrian refugee crisis, it’s become painfully apparent that the world is facing a shortage of compassion.

This, unfortunately, has been a chronic condition. Overwhelmed by the constant presence of extraordinary human need, we Angelenos have learned over the years to turn a blind eye to our own domestic refugees — the homeless, the poor, the marginalized.

And the result has been more of the same:

•    More than 44,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County (up from 39,000 in 2013), with the ranks of the chronically (continuously) homeless swelling 55% to 12,500 in that time, according to HUD.

•    A single-day Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority count in Venice this year found 387 people sleeping on the streets, 101 occupied tents or other encampments, and at least 118 people living in their cars.

•    Nearly one in five (18.7%) of L.A. County residents lived in poverty last year, up from 17.5% in 2010, according to a U.S. census estimate this year.

•    Despite the state’s lowest unemployment rate since 2007 (5.8%), median wages have declined 6.2% in that time, according to the California Budget & Policy Center.

•    1.5 million L.A. County residents can’t buy enough food, according to the nonprofit Feeding America.

•    In the first half of 2015, the LAPD took reports for 400 violent crimes in the patrol area that includes Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice as well as Palms and Manchester Square — up a whopping 47% from 272 the previous year, The Argonaut reported in August.

L.A is a city where NIMBY ideology reigns supreme. We tend to support affordable housing creation unless higher density means less street parking for us; we believe in helping the homeless as long as it takes them away from our doorsteps; and we call for a cleaner environment unless it means we have to go around the Ballona Wetlands picking up trash ourselves.

In this enlightened age of disruptive economies, doing the same things as in the past is no longer an option. We need more people to become part of the solution.

Not all of us have the time and skills to run a homeless services center, lead a science-based teen activism group, coordinate indigent medical care or rescue hundreds of sea mammals, as a few of our Local Heroes have done this year. But everyone can do something to help. Write a letter, donate a dollar, volunteer an hour; it all matters.

The following is a tiny sample of volunteer opportunities open now and throughout the year:

•    Mentor homeless teens at Safe Place For Youth, (310) 902-2283

•    Help people find jobs at JVS West L.A. WorkSource Center, (310) 309-6000

•    Bring hygiene kits to the homeless with The Giving Spirit, (310) 442-9489

•    Keep local teens out of trouble at Venice Youthbuild, (310) 399-4100

•    Encourage a homeless family at the St. Joseph Center, (310) 396-6468

Visit argonautnews.com/volunteering-101 for more ideas.


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