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Dolores Huerta Square honors longtime activist

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Civil rights activist and labor union leader Dolores Huerta had her name enshrined at the intersection of East First Street and Chicago Street June 22 during a dedication ceremony by the city of Los Angeles. Huerta, 89, led programs to assist low-income and working families through the Stockton Community Service Organization in Boyle Heights. The intersection was named Dolores Huerta Square.

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Dolores Huerta Square (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)
By Staff and Wire Reports

BOYLE HEIGHTS — Civil rights activist and labor union leader Dolores Huerta had her name enshrined at the intersection of East First Street and Chicago Street June 22 during a dedication ceremony by the city of Los Angeles.

Huerta, 89, led programs to assist low-income and working families through the Stockton Community Service Organization in Boyle Heights. The intersection was named Dolores Huerta Square.

“Dolores Huerta’s name should be on the lips of every child in America, so they can appreciate what true courage in the face of insurmountable odds looks like,” said City Councilman Jose Huizar, who led the effort to name the square. “Working alongside Cesar Chavez, and continuing today, Dolores Huerta didn’t just blaze trails, she torched mountaintops and obliterated glass ceilings to give voice to the voiceless and lift up communities that are too often ignored, dismissed or shunned.”

Huizar was joined by Huerta along with Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, ceremony emcee Josefina Lopez and Emiliana Guereca, the Women’s March Los Angeles foundation executive director.

“Dolores Huerta has dedicated her entire life in service to others through her work advancing the rights of farmworkers, women, and other disadvantaged communities,” Solis said. “Her activism, as cofounder of the UFW with César Chávez, ignited the labor movement in California and the nation, and heightened national awareness of the impoverished conditions of farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Today, we honor Dolores Huerta with the unveiling of the Dolores Huerta Square to ensure that future generations recognize her important place in our collective history.”

The intersection of First Street and Chicago Street was selected to honor Huerta because before she and Chavez founded the United Farm Workers union in 1962, the building on the southwest corner was once home to the Los Angeles chapter of the Stockton Community Service Organization, according to Huizar’s office. Today, the building is the Boyle Heights City Hall, which the city of Los Angeles purchased in 2007.

“Dolores Huerta Square reclaims and reconstructs public history in Boyle Heights and strengthens the role of Dolores Huerta’s larger civil rights activism and historical memory to a new generation of activists, women and artists in Los Angeles,” said Leda Ramos, Cal State L.A. professor, artist and event co-producer. “When I heard legendary Chicana punk musician Alice Bag sing “I want a Dolores Huerta Street,” which was inspired by a Nikki Darling poem, I started organizing and working collectively with Alice Bag, Emiliana Guereca of the Women’s March LA Foundation, and Team Huizar to make Dolores Huerta Square a reality.”

“Dolores Huerta is a feminist warrior and social justice icon and has worked tirelessly for the last 60 years for human rights,” said Emiliana Guereca, executive director of the Women’s March LA Foundation. “The city of Los Angeles has very few streets or public monuments named after women and, in particular, women of color and that needs to change. We are honored to support the Dolores Huerta Square unveiling and commemorate her legacy.”

Huerta has received numerous awards for her work, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Bill Clinton in 1998. In 2012, President Barack Obama presented Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Dolores Huerta Foundation, started in 2002, works on community-based organizing as well as state and national issues.

The dedication featured performances by the Alice Bag Band as well as several other musicians and poetry readings by Nikki Darling.

This article originally appeared in Wave Newspapers. 

Community

Best Buddies offers hope, friendship to those with special needs

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Michelle found Best Buddies International in June 2018 as an intern with high hopes of building skills that would help her transition from the low-paying, temporary positions that gave her lots of anxiety, into a stable, well-paying job. After a few weeks in the program, she secured a position with Silicon Valley Bank and her friendly personality and hard work ethic quickly endured her to her co-workers and managers.

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Best Buddies International (Photo by: bestbuddies.org)

By Angela N. Parker

MAKING A DIFFERENCE:

Michelle found Best Buddies International in June 2018 as an intern with high hopes of building skills that would help her transition from the low-paying, temporary positions that gave her lots of anxiety, into a stable, well-paying job.

After a few weeks in the program, she secured a position with Silicon Valley Bank and her friendly personality and hard work ethic quickly endured her to her co-workers and managers.

For Michelle, who lives with intellectual and developmental disabilities, securing the job has been a turning point in her life, helping her come out of her shell and become the independent woman she always wanted to be. Since starting her job, she has gotten married, and her increase in income has allowed her to move out of her parents’ home into an apartment with her husband.

“Because of my job at Silicon Valley Bank, I was able to move into my own apartment with my husband,” Michelle said. “Having my own home made me feel more independent. Best Buddies is important to me because they helped me get my dream job at SVB.

Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to nearly 2,900 chapters worldwide, positively impacting the lives of more than 1.25 million children and adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies programs engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 54 countries around the world.  The organization is dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement through its four pillars that focus on creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for individuals.

“We are an organization that live out our mission every day,” said Erica Mangham, California state director. “I’m proud about everything we do at Best Buddies. Most recently, we hired a person who has autism as our office assistant in the Los Angeles Office. We are living out our second pillar.”

Mangham has worked in nonprofit spaces for more than 20 years as either an employee, a volunteer, or a member of a board, but working at Best Buddies is a personal and a conscious decision for the mom whose youngest daughter has special needs.

“[Best Buddies works to give participants] a sense of independence, freedom and a feeling of belonging,” Mangham said. “[We want them to] have a friend, a true friend, it’s just that simple. Everyone needs a friend or someone who believes in them and with the help of Best Buddies we make that hope or wish a reality.”

Mangham credits the success of the program to its dedicated and mission-focused staff, volunteers, donors and founder. However, like most nonprofits, the organization is in need of continuous funding to continue the programs that are critical to its mission.

Each year, Best Buddies host a Friendship Walk in May and they also put on an annual gala called Champion of the Year.

“We hope that people reading this will think about supporting us by coming to these events and helping us raise much-needed funds,” Mangham said. “In addition to the funding, we need more employer partnerships and expansion of schools.

Mangham hopes that the support of the community will allow Best Buddies to continue to transform the lives of men and women who want to live full, independent lives. Right now, 84% of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are unemployed, and the organization has made its mission for the future to lower that statistic.

“My wish for Best Buddies is that we continue to be laser focused on the mission to ensure that our participants are living out an inclusive life, in the workforce and in school, in ways that are the norm, not the exception,” Mangham said.

INFORMATION BOX

Name: Erica Mangham

Title: California State Director

Organization: Best Buddies International 

Social Media:  https://www.bestbuddies.org/

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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Community

L.A. City Councilman O’Farrell calls on state for more funds for homeless

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell called on the state to direct $1.2 billion toward the city’s battle against homelessness, matching the amount of a voter-approved municipal bond measure aimed at attacking the problem.

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Los Angeles Councilman Mitch O’Farrell (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)

By Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell called on the state to direct $1.2 billion toward the city’s battle against homelessness, matching the amount of a voter-approved municipal bond measure aimed at attacking the problem.

“We need to augment our programs and go beyond and push for 20,000 [supportive housing] units or more,” O’Farrell said, adding that the city’s current goal of 10,000 units would not be enough to house Los Angeles’ homeless population.

“We need to double or triple that amount if we’re really serious about solving the homelessness crisis,” the councilman said in front of City Hall June 26. “We are working locally to reduce the cost of Proposition HHH housing as well. We want to make more units more quickly without sacrificing the quality of those units.”

Measure HHH was approved by Los Angeles voters in 2016, authorizing $1.2 billion in bonds to fund supportive and affordable housing, along with other measures to address homelessness.

O’Farrell, who chairs the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said Los Angeles is the only city in the state that has taxed itself to build supportive housing. He said 1,400 units will be open by the end of the year and more supportive housing units will be approved for construction soon.

Figures from the most recent Southland homeless count found that more than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles, an increase of 16 percent since last year. Countywide, the homeless population jumped by 12 percent.

“These numbers … are depressing, outrageous, mind-numbing,” O’Farrell said. “What we need is a paradigm shift in our thinking and in our determination across all levels of government. We must create a sustainable and robust system for addressing this crisis. It is the challenge of our day.”

The councilman said the state needs to make changes in the Ellis Act, which allows owners to opt out of the rental market, and the Costa Hawkins Act, which restricts the implementation of rent control ordinances in certain circumstances.

He also said the federal government needs to participate in finding solutions to the problem. O’Farrell said federal funding for homeless issues decreased from $55 million a year in 2008 to $30 million in 2012, when the crisis was expanding. Recently implemented federal tax policy may also be contributing to the city’s increasing population, and officials are analyzing the effects of those policies, the councilman said.

O’Farrell introduced several motions during the June 26 City Council meeting, including a request to hold a homeless and poverty summit, and another calling on the city to coordinate Housing Department resources to find vacant units and house people faster.

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority officials said during the council meeting that based on the 2019 numbers, the county is housing people at a slower rate than people are falling into homelessness.

“The heart of homelessness is the inflow of people,” said Phil Ansell, director of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. “We have doubled the number of people moving into permanent housing, while at the same time we had a 12 percent increase. On average, 133 families escaped homelessness each day, but 150 people became homeless per day.”

Ansell said if the city and county can move people into permanent housing faster, they could rapidly accelerate the process of moving people into interim housing. But he noted that interim housing should not be viewed as the final solution to solving homelessness.

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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Community

City to spend millions on homeless outreach, cleanup

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — The City Council June 28 approved millions of dollars to be spent on an enhanced homeless-outreach and street-cleanup operation recently touted by the mayor as an overhaul of efforts to combat illegal dumping and providing hygiene services for the homeless.

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Sanitation Worker in Los Angeles (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)

By Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The City Council June 28 approved millions of dollars to be spent on an enhanced homeless-outreach and street-cleanup operation recently touted by the mayor as an overhaul of efforts to combat illegal dumping and providing hygiene services for the homeless.

The council allocated more than $6.5 million to the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation to cover costs of hygiene and health services, cleanup teams that will target high-need areas, bathroom and shower stations and more.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week the revamping of trash-cleanup efforts and outreach to homeless communities using “cleaning and rapid engagement (CARE) teams would shift the city from simply reacting to complaints about dumping to pro-actively responding to high-need areas.

Each CARE team will be assigned to a specific location — at least one in each council district — to provide cleanup services and help sanitation workers “build stronger relationships with homeless Angelenos in desperate need,” the mayor said.

The teams will receive specialized mental health training and deliver public health resources, including daily trash collection and mobile restrooms to homeless communities.

The plan will increase the number of city sanitation teams from 20 to 30, creating 47 sanitation jobs. The program will also include training of some homeless people who will be paid for taking part in cleanup efforts.

Illegal dumping in Los Angeles has been linked to more than just homelessness. Earlier this month, 85 businesses in the downtown area were cited by county health inspectors for not having proper waste receptacles in violation of the county’s health code.

While hailed by many for its proactive approach to combating street trash, the program is not without doubters. Some activists said this week they’re concerned about the city’s inclusion of police officers in the CARE teams.

“There is still an intensity and an intentionality around police enforcement connected to the plan,” Pete White, the executive director of Los Angeles Community Action Network, said June 27 at a City Hall news conference.

White was joined by representatives of various groups that make up the Services Not Sweeps coalition, which called for a decrease in the amount of police presence during the scheduled sidewalk and street cleanups, saying it could intimidate some of the homeless.

Enrique Zaldivar, the director of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment, told a City Council committee June 26 that police presence is necessary at times during outreach and cleanup efforts.

“We have had incidents where our workers have been threatened, and in some cases there have been assaults, and we have to be mindful of that,” Zaldivar said.

Jane Nguyen, with the organization KTown For All, said her organization has worked with homeless activists for about a year, observing cleanups and speaking with local leaders. She said she saw one person’s tent removed in the middle of winter during a past cleanup effort.

“I was told that we will not arrest our way out of the homeless crisis, but I can tell you what I’ve witnessed, and people are constantly traumatized by sweeps,” Nguyen said.

Officials with L.A. Sanitation said the goal will be to build trust with the homeless community while providing public health protection services, and the LAPD will be “in the background to provide safety for the team members.”

City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, who sits on the Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee, made his own suggestions for striking a balance between protection and enforcement.

“There are community groups that have street credit with the homeless … and that’s probably a lot cheaper than LAPD’s cost to have them make the distinction of what is trash and what’s not,” Cedillo said. “We should engage and have a constructive conversation with those groups and redeploy LAPD where their presence plays a constructive role and we have not developed, per say, inflammatory relationships.”

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers.

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Law

High court blocks census citizenship question

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — In a ruling by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was joined by the court’s liberals, the court said the Trump administration did not adequately explain its reason for adding the question. The ruling included a direct rebuke to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who last year decided to add a citizenship question to all forms for the first time since 1950.

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Photo by: wavenewspapers.com

By Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Southland elected officials and immigration-rights activists hailed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 27 that blocked a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

“This ruling is a victory for an accurate, comprehensive and complete census count,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said.

“[President Donald] Trump is eager to silence the voices of vulnerable populations in our communities. That’s why he wanted a census citizenship question that will dramatically undercount these populations.

“An accurate and complete 2020 Census is essential to ensuring our communities receive the federal funds we need for countless critical programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, school lunches, highway funding, housing assistance and more,” she said. “While the court’s ruling is a victory for our nation, our House Democratic majority will stay vigilant, and fight any further efforts to sabotage a fair and accurate 2020 Census.”

In a ruling by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was joined by the court’s liberals, the court said the Trump administration did not adequately explain its reason for adding the question. The ruling included a direct rebuke to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who last year decided to add a citizenship question to all forms for the first time since 1950.

“Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the.explanation the secretary gave for his decision,” Roberts said.

The court sent the matter back to a lower court for review.

In January, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York blocked the citizenship question and issued a 277-page opinion describing how Ross had failed to follow the advice of census experts or explain his reasons for making a change that could lead to a severe undercount. Judges in San Francisco and Maryland handed down similar rulings.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the administration’s appeal in the case of Department of Commerce vs. New York on a fast-track basis because the government said it needed to begin printing census forms this summer.

On Twitter, Trump blasted the ruling.

“Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed country, cannot ask a basic question of citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important census, in this case for 2020,” he wrote. “I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter.

“Can anyone really believe that as a great country we are not able to ask whether or not someone is a citizen. Only in America!”

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said that although the Trump administration has the ability to provide in court a more robust reason adding the question, he said he doesn’t think it will convince the court to overturn the ruling.

“This Supreme Court led by its chief justice said … this was, essentially, a contrived rationale, and so it’s been sent back for another rationale,” Feuer said. “But here’s the thing: There is no other rationale. There is nothing else going on here but an attempt to marginalize Latinos throughout the United States to make sure their voices don’t count. That’s what this has been about since the inception of this question.”

Several Los Angeles-area leaders gathered at Grand Park in downtown to hail the ruling.

“Los Angeles County will continue to collaborate with our tribal, city leaders … and especially our school districts and many others to ensure everybody is counted,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

Solis was joined by members of CHIRLA, the NALEO Educational Fund and the Advancement Project California in praising the decision.

“In light of [the] Supreme Court ruling, we all will stay determined and committed to a robust (census) outreach,” Solis said. “This ruling, as you know, will impact the lives of our most vulnerable.”

Solis said undocumented residents without full citizenship have been fearful of answering the question because it would require them to disclose their immigration status. The court’s decision comes just a few days after Trump pulled back the reins on another immigration sweep in major cities.

Without an accurate census, it may be difficult to receive federal funding for programs that can serve the entirety of the need-based population, Solis said.

An undercount in the state could also lead to a loss of representation in Congress.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner called the court’s ruling “the right thing for public education.”

“The census is used to determine the amount of funding Los Angeles Unified receives from federal programs,” he said. “Los Angeles Unified received $328 million in Title I funding and nearly $40 million for other federal education and health programs for the 2017-18 school year. If the question is eventually included, it could lead to a loss of as much as $20 million every year in Title I funding, which would pay for about 200 additional teachers in schools serving students with the highest needs.

“The citizenship question is not some abstract, legal issue. It has real consequences in our schools,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was effusive.

“This is a hopeful day for our democracy. The census is the largest civic exercise in our country — an opportunity to show that everyone belongs here and everybody counts,” he said in a statement. “Instead, the administration tried to change who we are and write millions of people out of America’s story. Fortunately, the Supreme Court stopped this cynical ploy in its tracks, removing a major roadblock to participation in next year’s tally.”

Garcetti said he will work “to ensure that hard-to-count populations — immigrant households, communities of color, low-income residents, and our most vulnerable neighbors — and all Angelenos are counted in the 2020 Census.”

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers. 

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Crime

Wesson seeks to ban private prisons within city

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson started an effort June 29 to prohibit private prisons from being constructed and operating within the city. Wesson’s proposal would zone the city in such a way that it would effectively ban private detention centers.

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Herb Wesson (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)

By Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson started an effort June 29 to prohibit private prisons from being constructed and operating within the city.

Wesson’s proposal would zone the city in such a way that it would effectively ban private detention centers.

“Profiting off of locking people up will not fly in Los Angeles,” Wesson said in a statement. “We call on every city and county to join us in preventing this kind of activity from operating within its borders.”

Wesson said he started the effort because of recent reports that young children, who had been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, were detained in overcrowded areas and kept without basic necessities.

Wesson said private prisons sign contracts with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement worth millions of dollars every year and carry “horrific records regarding human rights and living conditions for detained immigrants.”

The proposal was seconded by Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Gil Cedillo as well as Councilwoman Nury Martinez. The motion by Wesson is scheduled to be discussed by the full council July 3.

The United States incarcerates more people in a year than any other country in the world, and in recent years private prisons have taken on a greater share of the prisoner population, Wesson said, adding “The industry was started at the state level during the height of the war on drugs as governments failed to keep up their capacity with the rising inmate populations.”

Wesson said private detention centers are not subject to the same oversight and scrutiny as public prisons. He cited a U.S. Department of Justice study that found in 2016 that federally contracted private prisons had a significantly higher number of violations per inmate than public prisons.

The proposal also comes after a number of notable politicians pledged to curtail private prisons.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, a presidential candidate, said last week that she would try to ban private prison operations nationally if she’s elected.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom in February also entertained the idea of reeling in the state’s private prison industry.

“Profiting off of locking people up will not fly in Los Angeles.”

This article originally appeared the Wave Newspapers

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Community

Veterans receive free resources at U.S. VETS Inglewood

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Los Angeles County is currently grappling with a homeless crisis and statistics indicate that veterans in the county experience homelessness at a higher rate than the civilian population. Los Angeles County leads the way with the largest population of homeless veterans in the country.

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U.S. VETS Inglewood (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)

By Shirley Hawkins

INGLEWOOD — As the country celebrates Independence Day, thousands of military veterans who fought for their country are living under freeways, seeking refuge in shelters or simply surviving on the streets.

Los Angeles County is currently grappling with a homeless crisis and statistics indicate that veterans in the county experience homelessness at a higher rate than the civilian population. Los Angeles County leads the way with the largest population of homeless veterans in the country.

In January, volunteers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority counted 3,874 veterans living in tents, cars or on the street.Approximately 2,800 veterans received housing last year in Los Angeles, but vets sleeping on the streets or in temporary shelters still increased by 12%.

Due to the extreme housing shortages and high rents in L.A. County, many veterans find themselves losing their residences. Statistics indicate that the same number of vets — 12% — fall into homelessness, many for the first time. The population of former military personnel living on the streets dropped by just 12 individuals between 2018 and 2019.

But the nonprofit U. S. VETS in Inglewood, located at 733 Hindry Ave., is on a mission to assist veterans with free services and to provide housing for as many veterans as possible.

U. S. VETS Inglewood Executive Director Akilah Templeton said she is dedicated to helping vets transition off the streets and move into permanent housing.

“It’s been quite a journey, but every day you have the opportunity to serve,” she said, adding, “Currently, we have 600 vets at the site and 225 of those are in transitional housing.”

U.S Vets opened its doors in 1993 with only five clients. Since then, it has grown to operate more than 600 beds and supplies both transitional and permanent housing. To date, the organization has served more than 10,000 veterans.Funds to run the facility are derived from local and federal funding, including funds from the Veterans Administration, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, several banks as well as individual and corporate donors.

Housed in an eight-story, white brick building, the nonprofit organization provides drug and alcohol counseling and free housing as well as comprehensive supportive services that include individual case management, employment assistance, job placement, psychological counseling and social activities. A workforce program helps more than 100 veterans return to employment each year.

Services include Veterans in Progress, which prepares veterans to obtain and maintain employment while providing comprehensive support including housing, counseling and basic needs.

The Fathers Program helps non-custodial fathers to become more emotionally and financially involved in their children’s lives and helps them find employment along with comprehensive support.

The High Barriers Program works with veterans who have additional obstacles to overcome in seeking employment including advanced age, a history of felonies and incarceration or long periods of unemployment.

The Substance Abuse Services Coordination Agency (SASCA) works in conjunction with a community parolee program to provide case management, substance abuse education and re-entry programs for veterans.

The Long-Term Supportive Housing program provides affordable, sober, service-enriched rental housing for vets with employment or other income such as disability payments.

Workforce Development offers career counseling, training, interviewing skills, job placement services and employment support.

Sixty-four year old Bobby Lee Marshall, a resident at U.S. VETS, said that the organization has been a godsend.

Born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas, Marshall joined the U.S. Army. While traveling with his unit to Beirut, Lebanon, he got hurt and fell off a five-ton trunk.

“When I went home, my mother died and I started drinking,” he recalls. “I turned to alcohol and drugs. I came to California and lived on Skid Row. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and I slept in boxes on the street.

“A friend told me about U.S. VETS. He had been at his lowest ebb, but he had gone from zero to hero. He came back to see me on Skid Row and he looked and smelled good. He was working at the Veteran’s Administration. He said, ‘Hey, I’m at this place called U.S. VETS and you should come and check it out,’” Marshall said.

“I decided to try it too. When I got here, so many powerful things began to take place. I started working on myself, working to receive my benefits and started using the career center here. I started doing gardening on the grounds and that lifted my spirits.

“Now I’m back in touch with my family. It had been eight years since I had seen my family because I was pitying myself feeling ashamed about myself.”

Pausing, he said, “When vets go through these conflicts of war, it does something to the vet. A lot of times they come back home and the family cannot deal with them and they do not understand what happened to the vet.”

Marshall said the help he has received at U.S. VETS has been life transforming.

“It’s like a power touch, there’s something magical about U. S. Vets,” he said. “A vet can come here with zero and he goes to hero. You begin to feel good about yourself because they have powerful case management here.”

Templeton said that any vet can visit and learn about their services.

“A veteran can simply walk into our facility — no appointment is needed,” Templeton said.  “We even provide them with a lunch.

“Then they meet with our outreach counselors for a brief screening and assessment. Once we find out what their needs are, they are placed in an individual treatment program, so they receive supplemental services from day one.  If they need it, we can offer them an emergency shelter bed which allows us to house vets that may not have an honorable discharge, so we cover all the bases.”

Templeton said that U.S. VETS Inglewood is constantly reaching out to the community. Outreach workers take to the streets daily to search for veterans and to inform them about the free programs that are available.

“Many veterans are not aware that they qualify for an array of free services,” Templeton said. “I am shocked that so many veterans don’t know that we can offer them help. Every time I come face to face with a family member, a veteran or even an agency in the community, so many times they have no idea that these services at U.S. VETS exist.”

Templeton said that veterans enrolled in their programs range from young to old.

“We’re seeing a lot of younger guys coming into the program, but our senior population is rising,” she said. “Many have physical or mental health problems. We have a team of people working with them and we’re trying to meet the needs of that population.”

Templeton said the Inglewood community has really embraced U.S. VETS.

“Inglewood’s Mayor [James] Butts has been very supportive and very responsive to our needs. And the Inglewood Police Department has a homeless task force where they refer veterans to us who are living on the streets. They’re on the phone with us all the time and they are always reaching out.”

Pausing, Templeton added, “The Fourth of July is when we can all collectively enjoy our freedom. We have to remember why we are free and that is because of the sacrifices made by our service men and women and our veterans.”

U.S. VETS can be contacted by calling (310) 744-6533.

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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