Homeless Task Force Community Meeting Emphasizes Commitment

Residents listened as the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH) continued its commitment to this community and to efforts to help the homeless in the town at a Zoom meeting on November 13.

The task force was formed in 2016 and through private donations has worked to services/housing for those who accept it, keeping hillsides safe from transient fires and lobbying to keep a police detail in this area to assist with those tasks. (The meeting can be heard in its entirety at https://palisadeshomeless.org/).

The PPTFH initially worked with the People’s Concern when it was first formed. It eventually formed a nonprofit, when there were enough volunteers to take care of all of the tasks, including a dedicated volunteer, Helga Jessen, who did all of the accounting.

When Jessen retired in 2022, no one from the community stepped up to help with the numerous filings. This year, the Task Force is going back under the People’s Concern umbrella.

The PPTFH still needs donations to help the people here, and all money donated goes directly to Pacific Palisades, including paying for two social workers and a mental health case worker, whose job is solely based here.

One of the featured speakers at the meeting was the People Concern CEO John Maceri. “When I first heard from volunteers [seven years ago], I was very excited,” Maceri said. “I was impressed by the people, who were smart, focused and clear about what they wanted to do to help the unhoused.”

He complimented the community and said, “There’s been a lot of trust and goodwill between volunteers and the ability to move through challenges.”

Current PPTFH co-president Sharon Browning said, “You have 31 projects and we’re one little piece, but you always have time for us.”

It was explained that People’s Concern will take over the financial job. “It’s a full-time job and a lot of work for volunteers,” Maceri said. “We will treat these resources as stewards. We are accountable to all of you.”

Browning and Maceri were complimentary to the outreach team working here, especially since there is a difficulty hiring people throughout the county for those jobs.

Browning asked, “How are you preparing to work with CARE Court?”

CARE Court (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment) is Governor Newsom’s new plan to get help for people with mental health and substance-use disorders. A court-ordered CARE plan could last up to 24 months.

“This will be led by the L.A. County Department of Mental Health,” Maceri said. “I don’t think the infrastructure is in place – the system isn’t prepared, yet. Hopefully, we’ll see a shift.”

Volunteers approach all of the homeless in Pacific Palisades and offer them help. People are not allowed to camp in the hillsides, because of fire danger.

Next, PPTFH co-president Sharon Kilbride interviewed West L.A. LAPD Commander Captain Rich Gabaldon and Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin.

Gabaldon praised Espin’s efforts to organize a Homeless Task Force, which meant enforcement teams meet at least quarterly and included LA Park Rangers, the LAPD Valley Motor Off-Road officers, the LAPD Beach Detail, a Santa Monica Conservancy Ranger, a California State Ranger and local firefighters.

The Captain promised, “We’ll get three to four in the coming year.”

Kilbride pointed out that “arrests and citations have doubled and tripled in the past year because of the beach detail. Will we keep the beach detail?”

Gabaldon said, “Our goal is to have seven-day coverage. That’s key.” He pointed out that “it’s important to keep four officers there, they also provide backup for A-car coverage.”

He did say if there are protests or other emergencies in other parts of the city, officers are pulled out of the Palisades to that area, but “moving forward that’s our plan to keep the beach detail.”

Kilbride asked about the “No bail” policy and if that meant there were no arrests.

Gabaldon said, “There are still arrests. We book them, fingerprint them, and then they are released, and back on the streets.”

Kilbride said, “Before ‘no bail’ those on the hillsides here were arrested for trespassing in the Very High Fire Severity Zone. Will they automatically be taken to the station?”

Espin said, “It is an automatic arrest, generally a citation. If they are taken to jail, then they come out again.”

With the beach detail patrolling the only recent fire reported was behind the wall in the Corona del Mar Bluffs below the Huntington Palisades.

Kilbride asked if the lateral trail along PCH (between Potrero and Temescal Canyons) was completed, would there be a wall or a fence to keep vagrants from leaving the trail and moving into the parkland below Via de las Olas.

(There have been several homeless fires below Via de las Olas. In the fall of 2017 the PPTFH cleared 14 camps from the area. The following spring, an additional 30 abandoned camps were cleaned out with help from the L.A. Conservation Corps.)

“There is no fencing proposed to keep people from going up in the hills. A lateral trail will increase foot traffic,” Espin said. “It will be open for anyone to access that area.”

At this meeting new co-leaders Carmen Kalberg and Cindy Young were introduced. See their message in a separate post.

Led by the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, abandoned homeless campsites, located in high fire severity zones in the brush below Via de las Olas, were cleaned up.

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