Why doesn't everybody do it?
It started out as a crazy idea. I found this guy living in a tent behind an old trailer I had been renting out on my Malibu ranch. I queried the lady tenant and she said she found the man living in the bushes behind the Malibu library. Soon he introduced himself, said he could pay me $50 a month to have the tent there, and he would clean up after my horses. Said he was a painter, and assured me his works of art would soon be selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Showed me his paintings, right there leaning against a tree by his tent. Yeah, right, I said. You could be the next Pablo Picasso. Soon he comes to me and says if I could make a room available for him, the County would pay me $1,100 a month. That got my interest. Naturally I figured it was a scam; the County has never given me money, they are always taking it. But I went along with the idea, figuring if it WAS a scam I would still end up with a room to rent anyhow. But turned out it was true, there is such a program for just such a person and, after the apartment was inspected, "Richie" moved in and the County started paying me. That was six months ago and, as it turns out I am the ONLY Malibu resident who has taken in a homeless member of a population that is growing on the beach in alarming proportions. But as it turned out Richie is a gift. He paints ten hours a day and his work is getting much attention. He is a delightful tenant, keeps to himself, and his rent arrives in my bank account right on time each month. Today I have only one question: why doesn't everybody do this? This solution to the homeless problem is a win-win. There is a place for everybody on the planet and the reality is, that place is forever changing. A person who is homeless today was not always that way. And if YOU have a home today, you might not always have one either. Every single person on the planet has the potential to be homeless. But it does not have to be such a desperate situation if and when it happens. Helping one homeless person turned out to be a gift -- for me. Anyhow, this is how the New York Times saw the story.
In Los Angeles, Where the Rich and the Destitute Cross Paths
By Tim Arango July 2, 2018
For over a century, Skid Row was the center of homeless life in Los Angeles. Its old nickname, “Hobo Corner,” conveyed a sense of geographical limit.
In recent years, homelessness has leapt beyond its old boundaries, with more than 53,000 people living without homes this year. This means that Angelenos are encountering homeless people in places they never did before. I drove around the city to see what that change looks like.
Tim Arango is a New York
based in Los Angeles.
Photographs by Philip Cheung
for The New York Times.
Produced by MORRIGAN MCCARTHY and ANDREW ROSSBACK
BUT IT DIDN'T STOP THERE......................
after the article was published in the NY Times I was contacted by KCRW, the local PBS radio affiliate, and they did another story.
To listen to the audio broadcast or read the article go to:
For many in Los Angeles, the spread of homelessness is a challenge to their identities as political progressives. Some are angered by the presence of the homeless and some communities have mobilized to keep shelters out of their neighborhoods.
One setting for this clash is public libraries. The homeless come to charge their phones and catch up on the news, but sometimes their behavior alienates others.
The homeless are especially visible when they stake a claim on tourist-heavy venues. On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, glitz and squalor collide.
In Santa Monica, case workers and doctors visit the streets every day, offering medical aid and guidance on how to get help. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has called homelessness the “moral crisis of our time,” and voters have approved millions of dollars to tackle the issue.
As I walked around with outreach workers, passers-by often stopped, seemingly surprised to see someone talking to the homeless. City officials recently urged residents to make “casual eye contact” with the homeless and say hello, or at least smile.
Kaitlynn Park, 18, and Aramis Mobley, 19, a homeless couple, were getting clothing and food at a public beach in the Pacific Palisades, which is held up as a model of success for a community helping the homeless.
After a fire was set off in a homeless camp, the community helped dozens find homes, and its homeless population has decreased. “We think a great deal about them as human beings,” said Sharon McBride, a resident.
Colin Dangaard, 76, a Malibu resident, decided to build an apartment on his ranch for a man who was once homeless. The city pays him $1,100 a month. “I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it,” Mr. Dangaard says.
Rigo Veloso, 47, who had been living in a tent behind the Malibu library, moved into the apartment recently. It offers not just shelter, but a safe space for him to paint. “I finally found my sanctuary,” he said.
“I was living day to day and was thinking of committing suicide,” Mr. Veloso said. Living on the streets, he said, “takes your dignity away.”
City parks are another place where the homeless and the affluent intersect, testing the limits of empathy for young parents playing with their kids in the parks.
In Santa Monica, the homeless in Reed Park share space with young families. Parents worry the park is no longer a safe place. “There have to be limits to compassion,” said Phil Brock, a local official. “For a lot of our residents, they have reached that limit.”
“The same neighbors who scream about homeless encampments on the block will oppose affordable housing,” said John Maceri, executive director of The People Concern, a social services agency. “You can’t have it both ways.”
Across Los Angeles communities oppose new housing for the homeless. “It’s fear of the other,” Mr. Maceri said. “It’s ‘those people.’ It’s ‘them.’”
Being on radio again after two decades gives power to chuckles, that is for sure. My interview on public radio 89.9 out of Santa Monica, is receiving such heavy reaction that I am stunned radio is still such a powerful force, given the fact newspaper circulations are now so low they produce barely enough paper to wrap fish and chips.
Four decades ago I was the American voice for Derryn Hinch on 3AW out of Melbourne, Australia, back in the days when I broadcast from payphones in whatever country I was covering stories. This did produce some interesting situations when I was covering some story in Southern Africa and I was using a "party line" with about ten farmers hooked up on it. When I said something somebody didn't agree with, they would just chip in with "That's bullshit!"
I would broadcast mostly late on Sunday afternoon, West coast American time, which meant I was almost always in my jacuzzi buzzed and drinking beer after a hard day's ride in the Santa Monica Mountains. My producer said I "had a good face for radio." Anyhow, I must have done something right because Derryn Hinch went on to an enormous career in television, and then used his fan base to run as an Independent and is now the most powerful Senator in Australia. Good on ya Derryn. You talked up such a storm you made wood pecker lips look like they work in slow motion! Sorry for more than once dropping the phone in the jacuzzi!!
Malibu is known for ultra luxury housing, like celebrity beach mansions and hidden canyon estates. But one homeowner recently began renting a back house to the city’s first-ever Section 8 tenant.
It all started one day roughly a year ago, when 76-year-old Colin Dangaard looked out the window of his home on a sprawling Malibu ranch and saw that someone had erected a camping tent outside.
“So I see a guy put his head out the tent,” Dangaard recalled, “and I think, that’s interesting.”
The man in the tent was Rigo Veloso, 47. Veloso had been living behind the Malibu Library until one of Dangaard’s other tenants, a woman who rented a trailer from him, invited Veloso to Dangaard’s property.
He’d ended up behind the library after bouncing around a few Westside neighborhoods. “Everybody looks down on you when you’re homeless,” Veloso said of the experience. “They don’t see you as human.”
That changed, however, when he ended up at Dangaard’s ranch.
Dangaard has an unusual background himself. Originally from Australia, he moved to California in the 1970s to report on Hollywood gossip for Star magazine. When he was in his 40s, he reinvented himself as maker of custom saddles and a sort of beachy cowboy (complete with the hat and a horse). He still runs his saddle business today, and also works as a landlord, renting out the trailer and various back houses on his property.
Veloso has had different jobs in the past, including as a chef and in sales, but severe anxiety and depression make it hard for him to function.
“There was a time that I used to work in an office around the people and that’s something I can’t do anymore,” he said. “I get real anxious when I’m in big crowds and stuff like that, so I wouldn’t last very long.”
Through a social worker, Veloso acquired a Section 8 voucher, a rent subsidy for low-income people. Because of that, he was able to offer Dangaard $1,100 a month in rent if Dangaard could provide him with a proper living space.
“I think, well, this is a scam,” Dangaard recalled. “But I thought to myself, if it doesn’t work then I still have a place to rent anyhow. And maybe I’m helping a homeless person, wouldn’t that be nice? That’s one of my thoughts but it wasn’t my main driving thought, I’ll be honest about that.”
So over the course of a few months Dangaard renovated an old saddle storage space into a studio apartment for Veloso. After a few rounds of County inspections, it was finally move-in ready.
Today, the walls inside are covered with Veloso’s paintings. Rendered in dark, vivid colors, they’re surreal and slightly abstract looking portraits and patterns.
“Who knows,” said Dangaard, “He might be the next Picasso.”
For Veloso, this small space to live and paint has been a lifesaver. On the streets, he says, he became suicidal. Having a stable home allows him to keep up with the medications he takes for his mental health issues, organize appointments and generally find a semblance of order.
“When you’re out there, it’s like you’re always trying to survive,” he said. “You never have time to do these things. Homelessness does make you crazy.”
For Dangaard, the pleasure he got from helping a fellow citizen surprised him. “The joy of that was so wonderful,” he said. “It turns out I get more out of this than [Rigo] does, if you ask me.”
Los Angeles County officials are trying to get more people to do exactly what Dangaard’s done. They’re running a pilot program offering homeowners financial aid and construction help to build or fix up back houses and rent them to formerly homeless tenants with Section 8 vouchers.
The county’s program is tiny, however, with only enough funds to help six people. None of them have renters yet. The city is studying something similar, but that’s also only in the earliest stages.
Dangaard and Veloso may not represent the next big wave of homeless housing, but they do offer one small example of how this type of solution could work in a best case scenario: two men, chipping away at a huge crisis in their own small way.