”Not My Favorite Subject” by Annie Stein

Homeless Connect Day Registration 2015

Not My Favorite Subject.


Hello Readers, Let me say right off the bat that I am grateful for anyone who wants to read what I have to write. During an existential moment this morning I was examining why I do what I do and what the point of it was anyway. Anyone been there? Asked recently what my goal is with this blogging… “game plan” was the phrase, my response was, “Huhhhhhhhhh?

Today I am writing about homelessness. Oh come on, stay here! Keep reading please. I hate it too. It being the subject, the reality, the “situation.” I’m tired of being sad looking at it and reading about it. Truth is it’s really hard for me to come face to face with it. Up close and personal. It scares me on so many levels. So using the word “It ” de-personalizes what is in fact about a person. Many persons. It doesn’t lessen or alter my fear. Nothing but confronting, getting personal with the fear will do that.
Who says it could never happen to me or my loved ones? For so many reasons beyond my control it could. Yes that scares me.

But so does the idea of getting involved with a homeless person. Opening up. If I allow a homeless person into my heart, how do I go home to my nice house, my super high thread count cotton sheets and memory foam pillow knowing that person will be sleeping in a park or if lucky in a shelter? That being on familiar terms with a homeless woman, man, and family, would leave me feeling not overwhelmed with gratitude…that’s Ok…it’s the guilt for having so much and what the hell makes me more deserving than the hungry soul in front of me, a factor that would claw at me. That I don’t have a way to fix all of the broken parts of the system that has played into all this homelessness, that fills me with dread as well.

So now you know. Although it breaks my heart, I’ve shied away from “it”.
Give me foster youth. That I’m good at. There my passion overrules my fear.
But we can’t escape what we fear.
Not even here in Paradise.

The other day I was invited to volunteer at a “homeless Event” held at Malibu’s City Hall by an 85 year old self proclaimed “BuJu” ( Buddhist /Jewish ) who is a political force around here. Interested in her social activism and the Buddhist meditation she leads every Thursday night, (for 15 years!) I contacted her. The way she invited me I could’ve said no. (Her invite being more Bu than Jew…as in Jewish mother!) Thankfully I didn’t. If she could do it at 85 with such gusto in her voice…I wasn’t going to wimp.

Rev.Sandy Liddlee of Malibu Methodist Church and Carol Moss Malibu C.A.R.T. Organizer

Rev.Sandy Liddlee of Malibu Methodist Church and Carol Moss Malibu C.A.R.T. Organizer

Sandly Liddlle, Malibu Methodist Church and Carol Moss of CART (Community Assistance Resource Team) Learn more about CART: http://www.malibusurfsidenews.com/malibu-cart-aims-help-homeless-resource-fair

The not so odd thing is that for days after I accepted her invitation the discussion seemed to be in my face non-stop. Friends over for dinner who live in Santa Monica brought it up. The sea of tents dotting the beach in Santa Monica early in the mornings. Then there are the Syrian refugee faces on every news feed. The guys with backpacks outside of CVS I need to walk around to get to the market. There is no escaping it.

The consensus from my comfy white folk dinner; There are 3 categories that the homeless fit into. The people too damaged from the get go to be or do anything else with their lives than be lazy grifters, crooks and petty thieves. Long using drug addicts can fall into this category.
Then there are the ones with mental diseases, issues that should put them in hospitals or in halfway houses with supervision. These people can be violent or timid pussycats who are too bat-shit to make a life. None of it through their own fault. My husband says there is another group in this column who didn’t start out crazy but were driven so by life on the streets. Hello… that would, God pray never, be my category as I was terrified staying in our canyon house alone. I’d have sleep deprivation insanity after 2 nights on the street.

The next category is the one closest to home for a lot of us. The ones who got wiped out when a family member got a major illness or was in a heinous accident and the after insurance care wiped them out. OR …2008 wiped them out. OR …baby boomers with low functioning special needs kids who need life long care or parents who need assisted living care and financial help. This list goes on and on. And on.
People fall off the tight wire daily.

How do you know who belongs in which category. Well that’s the problem. Unless it’s obvious sometimes you don’t without getting in there and interacting. So, I tucked my fear under my hat, showed up at the Malibu Court House and this is what I learned. The only way to get around the fear of engagement with homeless people is to see each as a human being. One of God’s children, if you will. A child of the Universe. An individual soul in big trouble, who, as a human being, deserves a chance. Deserves kindness. This “BuJu woman,” Carol Moss, knows that though.

People lined up to go inside the courthouse where 13 booths had been set up by different service providers. The volunteers were to greet and escort each homeless person for the few hours of the event. Directing them to one table to get a hair cut, another table to have their eyes checked. Some were walked over to the DMV booth to get IDs. One man was like a kid on Christmas morning! He hadn’t had an ID in several years. Now he was a person again! There were representatives from several social service offices, Chrysalis, St Josephs Shelter in Venice, Shelia Kuehl’s office . There were housing services and a group for homeless youth.
Since there seem to be many services to help the homeless, one would think that all they need to do is to go and apply. Right? Wrong. I saw first hand that for many homeless it’s the researching, then the traveling, the filling out paper work that can be overwhelming or too much either physically or mentally. But if the help is reachable, and if some human kindness and guidance comes with it, most people want help to better their situation.

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It was revelatory spending time talking with some of the homeless “guests” as the people who came to Malibu Courthouse Wednesday were referred to. Deep and dignified that word “guest.” They were our guests as they had been invited to come learn about the different avenues of help available to them. That one word, “guest,” was the key. As a guest and not as a “homeless person” or a situation or a problem, each person was treated with respect. The respect due to a human being. When you treat a person with respect you mirror back to that person their innate human dignity. Why or how that person lost it to begin with doesn’t matter in the moment. All that matters in that moment is that moment.
Yes, asking a person if they would like to stay for lunch as opposed to handing them a sandwich can make all the difference in the world.

Mind set is everything isn’t it? Looking at the small sea of “guests” made me feel a part of a community. Not mine, not theirs, but ours. The community of man, the community of people helping one another. Hey and when I got home and took off my hat, my fear was no longer hiding …it was gone!
Oh and shout out here:
Not all cops are bad-ass mean mothers. We are constantly inundated with stories of the bad ones, and God knows they are out there and a nightmare. Here is another picture though. The Malibu Sheriff was there. A friend to the homeless, he spent time handing out flyers in Spanish as well as English to the “guests.” He also gave several people rides to the event. I watched him interacting. He treated the people with dignity and authentic kindness. That is what I witnessed. It’s the dignity factor that promotes healing, whatever our situation or pain. Treating a person with dignity is the first step in helping anyone heal.

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I’m not going to ask anyone to take up the cause of helping with homeless people. By now my thinking is we all do what we can…maybe should or could do a bit more, maybe not, who knows? But I think we all try to help organizations or causes close to our heart that hit home and often have affected us personally.

And that, my friend, is what my take-away from Wednesday was. To make people living in the streets, in parks, in cars, personal to me by interacting and allowing myself to engage and therefore risk caring. Nothing to fear. I don’t need to fix their situation, I don’t need to feel guilty I have good food and a pretty house. I don’t need to bring anyone home to my pretty house and raise their kids. But I do have to make it personal.
So …in closing, a big shout out to Malibu Sheriff Mike Treinen. So happy to see the good guys at work, heartwarming to say the least. And to Carol Moss for starting a little group out here in Malibu called CART ( Malibu Community Response Team) to be of service to people in need. Inquires email Carol Moss: greenlotus@earthlink.net

AND…in a whole other area here is my fun share for this edition of What-the-Hell’-She’s-Thinking-About-Now…

Judi Sadowsky is doing another reading from her book, Things My Mother Never Told Me, one night only, fresh from three weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at the Rogue Machine Theater, 5401 Pico Blvd. 8:00 November 18th. If you haven’t yet seen her reading some of her very funny, very witty, and very relatable stories, Go!

Next time I want to be funny. Short too. Short and funny. (Oy…the pressure!) 
As usual with love
A.S.