By Holly Mosher
In response to “Transient-related crime is no exaggeration,” Power to Speak, Feb. 19.
I read Mark Ryavec’s column about homelessness and the break-ins in Venice and felt compelled to respond. Of course it is upsetting for the families who had their homes broken into, but we should also look at the people who are behaving like this and ask: why?
And not just why they would do something like that, but why they’re sleeping on the street in the first place and why they aren’t getting the services they need to get off the street.
If it’s teens we’re talking about, perhaps physical or sexual abuse drove them from home. For older people, the economy has been really bad the past five years. I’ve seen many people living in their cars, and maybe some of those sleeping outdoors lost their cars over a parking ticket or some other small problem that they can’t handle because they don’t have a place to shower or otherwise prepare themselves for a job.
We must also consider that this is a national problem, with people coming from across the country to be in sunny Southern California. I know if I didn’t have a house, I’d come here too. We should be getting federal money to help solve a national problem that we struggle to handle on a local level.
More police is not the answer. It’s a Band-Aid that sweeps the problem under the rug. We have to remember that these are people who need a hand up to get back on their feet and services to turn their lives around.
I spent five years making a film on Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and his amazing work to help people in extreme poverty in Bangladesh. His solutions are revolutionary: always about empowering the poor and offering them access to the things that they lack but which we take for granted. He calls impoverished people “bonsai people” because there is nothing wrong with them — simply their roots have been potted, not allowing them to reach their full potential. We need to consider how we can help the bonsai people in our community reach their potential and thrive.
Recently there was a contest run by a group called Northern Rift that was working with the Venice chamber’s young professionals group to ask the community for ideas about how to make Venice a better place. One of the winning ideas looked at implementing something similar to a program in Costa Mesa that provides homeless people with showers and laundry room access in addition to a storage facility where they can safely keep their belongings. That could be a huge help for people trying to get their lives back together. Let’s implement that here.
There is a group in San Francisco called HandUp.org, which just got a $500,000 grant from Google to expand. It’s a crowdfunding website, like Kickstarter, that connects people with the homeless in their community and helps the homeless get back on their feet. It also puts a face to the issue, deepening people’s connection to their less-fortunate neighbors. With Google already here and soon to expand, let’s ask that they also help HandUp.org serve Los Angeles. That’s one way Google can be a good neighbor.
We could look to Salt Lake City, which has dramatically cut their unhoused population by providing nice permanent homes with a lot of on-site counseling.
Here’s a guess about why that guy chose to have a meltdown in the bathroom: He’s used to looking for one all the time.
Holly Mosher is a Venice filmmaker. Find out more about her films at filmmakerforchange.com.