Category Archives: Venice Beach Organizations

Will You Help Them Find A Safe Haven?

Above: After living on the Venice Boardwalk for three and a half years, former drug addict Carol (right) is now sober and living with her daughter out-of-state thanks to Four Square Church’s Pastor Regina Weller and the Venice Stakeholders Association.

Columnist Mark Ryavec.
Columnist Mark Ryavec.

By Mark Ryavec

The Venice Stakeholders Association has launched a drive to raise $20,000 to support the LAPD Homeless Task Force’s good work in helping those who genuinely want to leave the streets and return home or enter housing or rehab.

The VSA was recruited by former Pacific Division Commander Brian Johnson to fund the HTF and so far has donated $6,500 to support this program.

The HTF is an effective collaboration of the LAPD officers assigned to the Venice Beach Detail and the chaplains of the Four Square Church at Windward and Riviera.

Three afternoons a week the officers and chaplains visit those living on the streets of Venice and offer them hygiene kits, counseling, bus fares to return to family out-of-town, and in some instances the first month’s cost of housing or rehab.

Since the first of the year HTF has placed:

• 27 people into housing (initial housing fees for 12 people paid by VSA)

• 22 people returned home by Greyhound bus (all paid by VSA)

• Four people went into rehab (one paid by VSA)

The Task Force continues to identify candidates who want to return to family out-of- state or move into housing but HTF does not have the funds to pay for bus fares or rent.  The $20,000 budget will fund the program through the end of 2015.

We have approached the Mayor, Councilman Mike Bonin and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl for funding but none have offered financial assistance to the HTF so the VSA is turning to the Venice community to support this very effective program.

As an example of the HTF’s success consider Jake, until recently a homeless alcoholic living on the streets of Venice for years. A regular around the Venice Pier, he was well known to many of the first responders in our area. During the past six months, police and fire personnel were called to Jake’s aid approximately 40 times, with 12 of those times involving transport by ambulance to the hospital. The last time the ambulance came for Jake, it was because he had suffered head trauma from being hit by a car.

After all these contacts with Jake and multiple offers to help him get off the street, Jake finally told the police that he was ready to enter a rehab treatment program and wanted to meet with the Four Square Church’s Chaplain Steve Weller, who had previously offered to place him in substance abuse rehab. Upon completion of a 30-day rehab program, Jake entered a sober residential house in Long Beach. He has put on 33 pounds, is actively attending AA recovery meetings and working with peer support specialists.

The savings in police, paramedic and hospital costs is easily in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the neither the City nor County, which realizes these savings, has donated to help the HTF place the next Jake in rehab.

Carol, an admitted crystal methamphetamine user, lived on the Venice Boardwalk for three and a half years. An LAPD Beach Detail Officer referred her to the HTF out of concern for her well-being. Over two months, Chaplain Weller spoke with Carol about her out-of-state family and more specifically about recovery and being reunited with her 10 year-old daughter. Carol told Weller that she was tired of the danger of living on the street and of sleeping on the ground, and that she missed her daughter terribly but she didn’t know where to start. Weller asked for her family’s phone number and got in touch with her mother, who said she was hopeful for Carol’s recovery and return.

With considerable coaching from Weller and his wife Regina, Carol consented to downsize her belongings, allowed the Wellers to adopt her pet rat, went with Weller to the Venice Family Clinic for a medical examination, and then entered the CLARE Recovery Program; Venice Stakeholders paid the initial rehab fee. That was in April; Carol has since moved out of state to be with her daughter, and is still sober.

Daryl had come out from Michigan in 2011 with the blessing of his family to attend college to advance his career as an artist. He fell short of his goals, went down the wrong path and ended up living on Ocean Front Walk at Park Avenue. Daryl was hard to miss, not only because of his large size, but because he always appeared to be agitated and wild-eyed. Not long after arriving in LA Daryl had experimented with “bath salts,” the latest designer drug on the market, and had become addicted. The symptoms of bath salt abuse are similar to those of cocaine or methamphetamine addiction.
Over five months Chaplain Weller was able to establish a positive relationship with Daryl. The Chaplain continuously encouraged sobriety. Daryl always declined.

However, on one early morning visit this spring, Daryl agreed to have breakfast with Weller and then responded favorably to the idea of changing his life and returning home.  He told Weller that he was very tired of life on the street and that he missed his family, especially his grandmother. Daryl gave Weller permission to contact his sister in Michigan to ensure family support upon his return. Daryl also had to clear up his seven warrants prior to leaving California, so he went to jail for one day. With those cleared up he was able to get permission from his probation officer to return to Michigan.
After 30 days clean from bath salts, Daryl was escorted by LAPD Beach Detail officers and Chaplain Weller to the bus station in Downtown L.A. The fare and a three-day meal ticket were provided by Venice Stakeholders Association. The day Daryl arrived home his grandmother called Weller to thank everyone that helped her grandson. Daryl is now working in his father’s business.

The LAPD Task Force is the most cost effective service helping the homeless in Venice today. The police officers are already here, frequently know the histories of the people who are living on the street, and through the Task Force are actively engaged in getting them off the street, re-uniting them with family or into housing. The chaplains donate their time.

A contribution to the VSA is tax deductible and the VSA assesses no administrative charges. The funds raised will only be spent on bus fares, meal tickets for use while in transit, and fees for first month’s rehab and/or rent.

Hotel Erwin and Carl Lambert, the owner of Venice Suites, have each donated $1,000 to launch the campaign. Only $18,000 to go.
Will you help? You can mail or drop off a check to Venice Stakeholders Association at 1615 Andalusia Avenue, Venice, CA  90291 or make a donation by PayPal through www.venicestakeholdersassociation.org.

Mark Ryavec is president of the non-profit Venice Stakeholders Association.

Fitness Fridays Tomorrow at Penmar Park

The Venice Chamber of Commerce continues it’s Fitness Fridays. Local Venice business owner, Robin Solo of Turning Point Pilates, will be tomorrow’s special guest instructor.

Solo will host a 50 minute  Pilates Mat class  at Penmar Park. The class kicks off at 12 noon.

Now in it’s third week, Fitness Fridays is an 8-week series aimed at all fitness levels, encouraging locals to work out in the afternoon. There is no charge to participate and members are encouraged to invite friends and colleagues.

Chamber members meet at 12:00 noon, at the corner of Rose and Penmar Avenue, for a one-hour exercise session led by personal trainers, yoga instructors and other fitness professionals.

Snapchat - Robin Solo 4
Robin Solo of Turning Point Pilates with client, Thea Drayer of Marina Del Rey

Hosted by a different member studio and trainer every Friday, members attending will experience a variety of practices, such as yoga and pilates, that will help add more diversity to their existing workout or for many, introduce them to ways they can have fun while exercising.

“Fitness Fridays was created in response to members wanting to have a variety of get-togethers beyond the monthly mixers and happy hours,” said Carl Lambert, president of The Venice Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to add another activity that engages local business professionals and the community that, like the Venice Art Crawl and the Holiday Sign Lighting, exemplifies the creative and innovative spirit of Venice.”

Click here for more details.

CrossCut Ventures in Venice raise cool $75 million fund

Above: The CrossCut Ventures team (from left) Brian Garrett, Co-Founder and Managing Director; Clinton Foy, Managing Director; Brett Brewer, Co-Founder and Managing Director; Rick Smith, Co-Founder and Managing Director; and associate Joe Guzel.

A private jet tears out of Santa Monica Airport, shooting up into the sky. As it passes overhead, sitting at the CrossCut Ventures office on 4th and Rose Ave., in Venice, one can’t help but draw a comparison to the soaring plane and the sky-rocketing venture capital firm that recently raised a cool $75 million for a fund targeting Los Angeles start-ups.

Co-founder and managing director Brian Garrett explains how the company, after raising a $5 million fund in 2008, eventually came to find their home in Venice.

“We were kind of running the fund out of coffee shops all over L.A., meeting entrepreneurs, meeting wherever we could as partners to decide what investments we made,” says Garrett. “We raised a $16 million fund in 2012 and still continue to run that. Really it was the tail end of 2014 when we could see that we were about to go raise our third fund and we knew that a critical part of our brand and personality in this ecosystem was to set up permanent offices in Venice. We always talk about catalyzing the ecosystem and so having office space like this building where we can throw events and have people come through with regularity was a critical part of bringing the community together.”

Garrett explains that while Venice has been a good place for the venture capital firm to set up shop, the current tech boom is not a Venice-only phenomenon.

“There’s probably six or seven pockets of innovation across the greater L.A. area everything out to Simi Valley, to Sherman Oaks, to Pasadena, to Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Culver City, Venice, Santa Monica, Playa de Rey, and Manhattan Beach, and we have companies in almost all of those areas,” Garrett says. “The bulk of them happen to be in, what they are calling Silicon Beach, though we don’t really use that phrase. I think we try to blend in as best we can, with a relaxed vibe to our office and how we go about our business.”
The CrossCut Ventures team of managing directors are all formerly entrepreneurs. Garrett says this helps them have a greater understanding of what the entrepreneurs behind the start-ups they choose to invest in are going through.

“We understand that this stuff’s really hard, building these companies you either get extremely lucky and catch lightening in a bottle or you grind it out, day-in-day-out trying to figure out how to bring scale around an idea, a concept, a business and you need as much help as you can get,” says Garrett.

Little, a start-up that makes apps for smartwatches, is one of CrossCut Venture’s portfolio companies. The team works out the first floor space at CrossCut’s Rose Ave. office.

Garrett says their Venice location is convenient to many of the company’s start-ups.

“We’re on the border of Santa Monica and Venice right here on Rose and I joke, but I skateboard or ride a bike to a lot of my meetings,” he says.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Garrett says it’s the work/life balance that Venice has to offer that is attracting the tech entrepreneurs to the beachside community.

“I keep seeing more and more people now from Silicon Valley relocating down here to start their third or fourth company, you ask them why, and they’re doing it for lifestyle reasons,” Garrett says. “I was born and raised here but that’s always what’s attracted me to L.A. is that balance. I got up this morning and I took my son and his friend surfing before I came to the office. You just don’t see that happening in Silicon Valley, it’s sort of a one track mind set on what they do. So people start to realize that quality of life and balance in life is important and this is a pretty good place to find that balance. My partners and I do yoga here in this office and we run across to Yoga Collective when we can, and we take out stand-up paddle boards and we surf at the Venice Breakwater but we also work our butts off and that balance is something that I think this community is very supportive of.”

Could it be, however, that the promise of this kind of work/life balance that is attracting these types of entrepreneurs to Venice, the very thing they’re inadvertently eroding, creating an imbalance?

“Unfortunately or fortunately there are so many compelling characteristics of this coastal lifestyle that there’s less supply than there is demand and so that naturally inflates these types of ecosystems both on real estate, rental rates, you name it,” says Garrett.

“I don’t want Venice to lose its authenticity and the truth is the technology community is not super in line with that original vibe, but I think landlords are opportunist and capitalist and have every right to maximize the dollar they make on their real estate and if you’ve got people that want to pay five to seven bucks a square foot that’s in their right to accept those kinds of offers,” Garrett says.

Unfortunately I don’t think the artist community can support those kinds of rental rates and so there’s obviously tension there on that topic. I don’t have any answers. Can the city get involved in some capacity and maintain, rent control, or whatever it might be so that that balance exists? Right now it seems to be moving in the wrong direction.”

From a commercial property stand point, Garrett says it’s now reaching a point where it’s hard even for the start-ups that have flocked to Venice to stay.

“The rental rates have probably doubled from what we’ve seen in the last two years and you take a company that’s raised a million of seed funding, it’s very hard for them to justify $20,000 a month or even $10,000 a month when that could be another engineering hire,” he says.

Local developer Frank Murphy has conducted an independent study into property trends going back in the past 50 years. He found that while there had been a 100 percent increase in dwelling units across Los Angeles over the last half century, on the Westside that increase was smaller at 20 percent, and in the Venice 90291 zip code there had in fact been a 1 percent decrease in dwelling units over the past 50 years.

Murphy says there has been practically “no housing increase over 50 years in Venice” and this has had a big impact on driving up prices. There simply is an under supply of houses to meet demand.
It’s a demand that is seeing even the tech employees priced out of Silicon Beach.

“The other issue that I think’s popping up, as apartment and house rental rates go up the startup salaries that are being paid do not make it possible to afford to live in Venice so you end up recruiting engineers that are living out in the Valley or living in Downtown LA and they’re commuting which causes more congestion and more traffic and a way to answer that problem is to move a little bit east to put yourself more central so those people can reduce their commute but then you lose some of the cool vibe and edginess of building your startup, like Snapchat did, on the beach in Venice,” Garrett says. “So it’s a constant shuffle back and forth of trying to find the right balance for each company and each company’s culture.”

Garrett explains that for one of his portfolio companies, StyleSaint, an online women’s apparel brand started by entrepreneur Allison Beal, it made more sense to move out of Venice.

“We moved into the arts district because we were recruiting engineering talent and apparel design talent from that side of town and it didn’t make sense for them to commute all the way to Venice,” Garrett says. “We started the company right there on Main and Rose and now it’s in the arts district, and it’s been a lot easier to recruit.”

So it seems that on many levels balance is the key. As companies like CrossCut and the startups they invest in find their own balance so must Venice. Ultimately, just like the jets that shoot up out of Santa Monica Airport, at some point they have to come back down to land.

“We joke that after we finish raising our fund we’d be happy to see a correction we actually think it brings a better balance, better ideas, more long-term consistent investment money as opposed to everybody chasing because it’s a hot, sexy thing to be doing so we like to see those corrections and everything’s on a cycle,” Garrett says. “So we’ve seen three of them in our lifetime as investors, Rick and I. Things will correct.”

In the meantime Garrett says they feel very fortunate to work with a great set of entrepreneurs and they believe there are more and more extremely high quality entrepreneurs popping up in the L.A. tech ecosystem, which is why they feel fortunate to be here with a new fund.

Venice Chamber Launches Fitness Fridays

9:31am

The Venice Chamber of Commerce launches Fitness Fridays, this week. The 8-week series is aimed at all fitness levels, encouraging you to work out in the afternoon.

Beginning this Friday, July 10 at Penmar Park, Chamber members will meet at 12:00 noon, at the corner of Rose and Penmar Avenue, for a one-hour exercise session led by personal trainers, yoga instructors and other fitness professionals.

Kate Willson from exhale/Venice will be the guest instructor for the first class on July 10. Water and snacks will be provided thanks to  Brittany Cook from Allstate Insurance Company/BNC Insurance.

There is no charge to participate and members are encouraged to invite friends and colleagues.

Hosted by a different member studio and trainer every Friday, members attending will experience a variety of practices, such as yoga and pilates, that will help add more diversity to their existing workout or for many, introduce them to ways they can have fun while exercising.

“Fitness Fridays was created in response to members wanting to have a variety of get-togethers beyond the monthly mixers and happy hours,” said Carl Lambert, president of The Venice Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to add another activity that engages local business professionals and the community that, like the Venice Art Crawl and the Holiday Sign Lighting, exemplifies the creative and innovative spirit of Venice.”

How The Teen Project’s Venice PAD Is Helping Mend Youth Homelessness

The Teen Project’s Venice PAD feels like Christmas at your favorite Aunt’s house, albeit with a bit more of an edge. Competing voices rise above the crash of a skateboard and rustle of candy wrappers. Someone opens a packet of Quinoa crisps, another is huddled on the floor, exhausted, he sleeps despite the ruckus.

It’s hectic, but there’s a sense of home here, a sense of family. Above all the racket mother bear Lauri Burns, founder of the Teen Project (pictured above), presses a finger to her outside ear as she talks into the phone.

“There’s two, yep, I need to find something…yes, tonight…”

Burns is arranging emergency housing for young pregnant woman Tina who is in her early 20s. A few days before she had been beaten in Santa Monica. She and her boyfriend had come to Venice after hearing that The Venice PAD was a place they could go to get off the streets.

PAD Manager Timothy Pardue is busy next to Burns, typing on a computer as he looks up, welcoming another wave of homeless kids who have rolled in off the Boardwalk.

Serving the homeless youth of Los Angeles, The Venice PAD (Protection and Direction) is a drop-in center on Windward Ave. in the heart of Venice Beach. Their mission is to get kids off the streets, into housing or rehab, and into a job.

“The minute we opened the door we were housing a ton of kids, this has always been our mission, one of the reasons I even came to Venice is because I went to another homeless organization and I saw all the homeless kids who were just staying on the street,” Burns said. “I was like ‘No, this can’t happen!’ If you really care about the kids, like you care about your own kids, you’d want them off the streets. I wouldn’t feed my kid pizza and send her back to the street. Not going to happen. So I’m like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to start treating these kids like they are our own kids. We need to get them all off the streets and we need to find out what’s going on with them and how we can help them.”

At the risk of sounding superficial, Burns is one glamorous woman. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking she’d come from a privileged background and was perhaps a wealthy socialite who had chosen to give back to society through helping the homeless…until you hear her story.

Burns spent her childhood in foster care until she turned 18. Then, too old for the system, she moved onto the streets, into drugs and prostitution. She was rescued at 23 after two men had taken her to the woods. Burns doesn’t go into details except to say that the men had intended to kill her.

“Because I was a foster kid, and I was a system kid, I know what it’s like to be disconnected, I know what it’s like to be sitting on the street and having people walk by you like you don’t even exist,” Burns said. “They don’t even look at you anymore, you’re just dirt to them. But they don’t understand the story behind it, what got you out there, why you’re out there alone.

“I’m a project manager by trade. When I got off the streets and I got a grant for school, I became a technical person. I was operating computers and doing technical stuff, eventually I made it as a manager and I got certified as a project manager. Project managers are really focused on time and money and what are we getting done, so I don’t like to sit around and chitchat.”

For Burns and Pardue getting things done means getting kids off the streets as quickly as possible. In the past two months alone they have found homes for close to 40 kids.

After the fatal shooting of homeless man Brendon Glenn, long time Teen Project supporter Tami Pardee from Pardee Properties made a generous offer.

“She showed up here, she bought snacks, balloons, and then she said, ‘Anyone who wants to get of the street today, I’ll pay for their housing for two months.’ All of the kids here who got housed in the past two weeks are because of Tami Pardee,” Burns said.

Pardee’s donation has given many homeless kids in Venice a much needed head start in their new life off the street.

Shane, early 20’s, had been homeless in Venice for a month-and-half before he found out about The PAD through word on the street. He was one of many on the list after putting his hand up to Pardee’s offer of housing.

Shane was not only placed in shared housing in Mid City, but Pardue helped him get a job in Venice where he now earns $10 an hour helping promote a business on the Boardwalk.

“The Teen Project helped me get set up and got me in there it took like two days,” he said. “It was ridiculously fast.”

Pardee had first found out about The Teen Project through Venice Beach-based Photographer Laura Doss. Doss had taken Pardee to see The Teen Project’s free rehab facility, Freehab.

“It was really an amazing facility,” Pardee said. “I have four kids; everyone should be able to have a home and the homeless thing is getting worse and worse. This is so needed in Venice.”

“Guess what? Homeless people don’t want to be homeless. Do you guys want to be homeless?” Burns asks Tina and her boyfriend. Sitting huddled on the couch. They shook their heads.

Tina’s boyfriend says, “I’ve actually met people out from where I’m from in North Carolina that have got rid of what they had just to come and be homeless out here in Venice, just to be out here on the beach. To me, I feel like Venice Beach, if there were to be a homeless capital, this would be it.”

Pardue said they encounter homeless kids from across the country.

“They come from all over America with a dream, they want to be a writer, or a rapper, or whatever and they get to LA and it’s not what they think,” Pardue said. “They head Downtown and it’s really dangerous so then they migrate here to the beach because this is where they know to come for all the resources.”

Burns said it wasn’t hard to realize why homeless kids gravitate toward Venice Beach.

“Here’s what I think is going on in Venice, when we met with Councilman (Mike) Bonin a year ago he sat down and asked ‘Why do you think they’re all coming here?’ and we said ‘Are you kidding?!” Burns said. “You’ve got $12 million in donations that people in Venice are giving to charities that support meals or clothes, things that are resources that don’t actually get them off the street.

“If the people understood that the resources on the street are the magnet here, you come to Venice because there’s food, you can get medical stuff, you can get showers, you can get clothes; you can get everything you need to be homeless here. That’s where the money of Venice is going, the resources, the magnet. If they made the magnate the shelters, if you took all the food, and the resources, and you gave all the money to shelters. Instead of doing a feed out on the beach for 100 people, give the shelter enough money for 100 people and have the people come into the shelter. All the people would be drawn to the shelters; they’re just going to where the resources are. You put the candy on the street they’re going to be out on the street. You put the candy in the shelters, they’re going to go to the shelters.

“You could change Venice, just by educating the people to give the money to PATH, The Venice Community Housing Corporation, and SHARE!, and us, if they gave the money to the housing providers people would be off the street.”

Another young woman arrives, crossing the threshold into the safe haven of The PAD. Her name is Lindsay. Mascara smudged across her cheeks. Tears streak her face. Burns and Pardue have been expecting her. Today she’s off to The Teen Project’s Freehab facility.

With Lindsay’s arrival Burns and Pardue are back to getting the job done, no more time for chit chat.

Final Fad is a song written and performed by Shea Harris. Harris was homeless when Lauri Burns from the Teen Project found her and got her off the streets, putting her through school, and helping her develop her passion for music. This song was a birthday present for Burns from Harris. All the stars of the video are young people who had either been homeless and helped by the Teen Project or they are kids currently on the streets. George Harrison is the male singer, he was unfortunately under house arrest when the video was being shot so Josh Lipscomb stepped in to lend a hand lip-synching Harrison’s lyrics. Shout out to all the performers: Shea Harris, Chris, Ransom Goodlight, Brian, Dewayne, Patrick, Vanessa, and Janet. The video is directed by Jamie Mitchell. Dustin Bath, John Velba, and Nelson DeLa Loza are on cameras.