Welcome to the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH) Newsetter
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May 2019 Newsletter
In this issue:
Past Newsletters
Videos of Past Community Meetings
President’s Message
Recently I overheard someone being asked, "What did you gain by helping the homeless?" He replied, "Nothing...but I lost something. I lost a bit of my selfishness." Some ask why the Task Force works so hard at helping the homeless. Others suggest that we should be doing more, since there are still homeless people in the Palisades. It made me ask myself, Are we leaving the Palisades better than we found it? I think so. And we are sharing with others in the region how a private-public partnership can work so effectively. As many of you know, other neighborhoods keep asking us about our approach.
Our efforts benefit indirectly from the high quality of work done by The People Concern. One of its new offerings is a Wellness and Enrichment Program, working with homeless individuals in interim housing to better prepare them—after years being on the streets—for life in permanent supportive housing. For those who need it, the program covers such basic things as budgeting and eating healthily, which people sometimes neglect after years simply struggling to survive.
One of the articles in this issue explains the controversy over legislation to help the gravely disabled. Another article points out some possible tax advantages of donations under the new tax law. Still another is a look at some of the work our volunteers are doing.
Our last community meeting provided a glimpse into how the criminal justice system works for mentally ill homeless individuals, as well as how West Coast Care is reaching out to connect homeless persons with their families. Our next community meeting will feature Elyn Saks, a renowned law professor and expert on schizophrenia who has experienced schizophrenia most of her life. Please join us May 20 to learn more about dealing with this challenge, faced by many homeless individuals.

Doug McCormick
President, PPTFH
Outreach Update
Outreach Team Progress, January 2016 –April 2019
We are pleased to introduce PPTFH’s newly formatted monthly progess chart (above). Since January 2016, when outreach was initiated, we have periodically revised the chart to better reflect the changing circumstances and demands of our work, as well as our progress. Tracking highly mobile individuals experiencing homelessness is a complicated and ever-challenging effort. We continue to refine our methodology to maintain reliability and make it easier to understand.
The new chart reflects cumulative results between January 2016 and April 2, 2019 (the most recent data available). It covers only the first quarter of 2019, so the bars and red line for 2019 will continue to change the rest of this year.
The chart tells us that since 2016 we have helped 104 individuals off our streets into some form of housing. Of those individuals, 72 are in permanent supportive housing and are receiving ongoing casework services from our outreach team to help them remain housed. If our homeless individuals fall out of housing and back onto the street, we have not succeeded in helping them or the community.
Our team is also providing services to 52 individuals (shown by the yellow bar) who continue to live on the street for a variety of reasons. Some are dealing with mental illness and are difficult to help, others are waiting for housing vouchers and suitable housing; still others may be working to obtain required documentation or reunite with their families.
The red line indicates that the outreach team has offered services to a total of 802 persons. This is a significant work effort, made harder by the high mobility of individuals passing through the Palisades.
Let us know your thoughts and questions about our new chart and our work!
Sharon Browning
PPTFH Vice President
Chair, Outreach Oversight Committee
The Criminal Justice System and the Mentally Ill
Veronica Calkins, keynote speaker

PPTFH’s April 2 community meeting asked, What are the options and consequences for mentally ill individuals when they are arrested? Keynote speaker Veronica Calkins, of the LA County Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR), opened with a graphic description of the harsh sights, sounds, and smells of LA county jails. About 30% of their 20,000 inmates are mentally ill. Many are homeless, booked for minor crimes such as sleeping in a park or smoking in Beverly Hills.
Citing especially the dehumanizing conditions of downtown’s Twin Towers (the “mental health jail”), Calkins said, “Anybody who’s sane going in becomes kind of insane coming out.” The effects of this environment on people already mentally ill are worse, sometimes leading to death.
ODR was established in 2015 to assist individuals with mental illness who are booked into jail and declared Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST). According to Calkins, the critical first step is for an attorney or public defender to “declare a doubt” to a judge about an individual’s mental competence. After expert evaluation, this declaration can get the person designated IST, sent to mental health court, and eligible for treatment and ODR services. Those services may include involuntary medication and therapy while in jail, as well as assigned future housing with medication, therapy, and a structured daily routine before release. “This helps the mentally ill to stabilize long-term,” says Calkins. However, the ODR is able to help only a few hundred individuals, a small percentage of those who need their services. Most inmates fall through the cracks and don’t get the treatment they need.
Calkins listed community programs that help the mentally ill homeless before they reach the criminal justice system but also noted their limitations due to our current laws. Only the most severe cases—individuals who are a danger to self or others or gravely disabled—can receive a hold for psychiatric evaluation, or conservatorship. She stressed that involuntary treatment and medication can be important, especially for those suffering schizophrenia, “and people get better.” At the community meeting, LAPD officer Rusty Redican said that he is strictly limited in how he can help mentally ill people: “We do the best we can, but it’s going to take new legislation…” to improve the grim statistics of untreated mentally ill in our county jails.
Heather Keller
Communications Committee
Helping the "Gravely Disabled": A Status Report
Mentally ill homeless person
Over the past year, advocates for the homeless watched the progress of California Assembly Bill 1971 with anticipation. The bill was created by the Steinberg Institute to help California’s mentally ill homeless population get the medical care they need. The Institute’s solution was to expand the legal definition of “gravely disabled” to allow medical treatment for those who don’t realize that they need it because their mental illness is so advanced. But the bill sparked a complex legal and ethical debate over an individual’s civil rights and at what point the county should intervene to detain someone for medical treatment.
Everyone can agree that something must be done. In Los Angeles County alone, around 30% of the over 50,000 homeless people are mentally ill; 38% have two or more major medical illnesses; and in 2017 more than 800 deaths occurred from medical conditions considered treatable. Adriana Ruelas, Legislative Affairs Director at the Steinberg Institute, said they drafted the bill in response to the alarming number of people dying on the streets. “It is such a sad situation,” she said, “because a lot of these deaths could have been prevented quite easily.”
Crisis intervention teams have their hands tied when it comes to medical care. Often a homeless individual’s mental illness has progressed so much that they aren’t aware of the physical danger they’re in, and they refuse treatment. According to Ruelas, if crisis intervention workers saw “someone on the street that was suffering, clearly from a physical ailment, because of the way the LPS Act works, they couldn’t bring them in.”
The LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) Act allows a person with a mental health disorder to be forcibly held only if they are a danger to themselves, a danger to others, or are gravely disabled. By state law, a person is “gravely disabled” when a mental health disorder makes them “unable to provide for…basic personal needs for food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment where the lack or failure of such treatment may result in substantial physical harm or death.” The LPS Act is interpreted differently by different counties, and has been insufficient to treat the medical conditions of homeless individuals who can’t understand that they are ill. By the time a person meets the legal definition of gravely disabled, it is usually too late to help them survive.
AB 1971 sought to expand the definition of gravely disabled to allow detainment of individuals who need urgent medical treatment, not just those in dire, critical condition. According to Ruelas the bill would have permitted “a medical clinician to look at the progression of a person’s physical illness and say, ‘clearly this person is gravely disabled; their mental illness doesn’t allow them to take care of themselves physically.’”
When the bill reached the California Senate Judiciary Committee, it faced resistance from civil rights groups opposed to any change to the LPS Act or erosion of an individual’s civil rights. As a result, revision was limited to a pilot project in LA County and a “Death with Dignity” clause that required a doctor’s acknowledgment that the individual “would die within 6 months.” According to Brittany Weissman, head of the LA chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it would be difficult for any doctor to make that assessment. “[The bill] got so diluted through the legislative process and they put so many pigeonholes in it, that it wasn’t going to be very effective.”

Even then, civil rights groups opposed the bill. The Steinberg Institute believed that the Death with Dignity clause violated the spirit of the LPS, which Ruelas said is “about helping someone live the best life they can…. That was the breaking point for us to drop the legislation.”

But hope springs eternal, and new initiatives are being pursued, including a state audit of the LPS Act by the Steinberg Institute, and a plan in LA County to increase the number of mental health hospital beds. “It’s OK that it failed,” concludes NAMI’s Weissman. “There are other, possibly stronger, things in process.”
Heather Keller
Communications Committee
PPTFH Welcomes Dede Vlietstra to the Board
Dede Vlietstra
Dede Vlietstra recently joined the PPTFH board as a director. Dede is a second-generation Californian.  After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, she worked in the family hotel business.  Dede and her husband have lived in Pacific Palisades for 30 years.  Dede has served on the board of the California Riviera Home Owners Association, as well as Helping Hands, Pastoral Care, and Outreach committees for the Parish of Saint Matthew. She was involved with prison ministry for eight years. Since 2017, Dede has been the St. Matthew’s liaison for PPTFH.
As a member of PPTFH’s law enforcement coordination committee for several years, Dede has regularly walked and biked Palisades beaches and bluffs to offer services to any homeless individuals she encounters. Last December, she received the 2018 Golden Sparkplug Award from the Pacific Palisades Community Council for her exceptional work devising and implementing a plan to monitor dense park areas and bluffs along Temescal Canyon Road and keep them free of homeless camps, trash, and combustibles.
Communications Committee
Enforcement Coordination Update
(L-R) Anthony, Patrick, Chris, and Carmen
Ten volunteers from our committee regularly patrol areas from Santa Monica Canyon through the Palisades to Coastline Drive. They ride bikes, walk, and hike in search of homeless individuals camping on our beaches and hillsides.
From April 2016 to December 2018, this team of volunteers offered services to 1,385 homeless individuals and encouraged them to meet with our outreach workers. The team was also responsible for cleaning up over 85 abandoned camps formerly occupied on our brushy Palisades hillsides.
Since January 1 of this year, our team has offered services to 122 new individuals, located 8 new vehicle dwellers, and identified 11 new camps on our hillsides and beaches. The team also removed debris from all 11 camps after the occupants had left.
At 7:30 am on the morning of April 17, volunteers Carmen Kallberg and Patrick Hart met at Gladstone’s to walk the area from Sunset Blvd. north to Coastline Drive. They encountered Anthony, a young man from Idaho, and an older gentleman named Chris. Carmen and Patrick offered the two men services, and they expressed interest in receiving assistance. This was good news, since most of the folks we engage do not want help. We contacted our outreach team, Glanda Sherman and Jessi Cortez, and within 15 minutes, Anthony and Chris met with caseworkers. This was a feel-good moment for our volunteers, as they succeeded in connecting our homeless residents to services.
We expect a hectic and challenging summer season, with many new homeless people coming into the area. Our volunteers will be busy trying to connect them to services to make a positive difference in their lives.
Sharon Kilbride
Chair, Law Enforcement Coordination Committee
Potential Tax Benefits for Charitable Giving
Now that you have learned how the 2018 federal income tax changes affected your bottom line, you might want to think about a different approach to charitable giving for 2019. Here are a few ideas to explore that may benefit you and the charities to which you donate.
  1. Use qualified charitable distributions (QCD) to manage the required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA. If you have an IRA, you are required to withdraw funds each year after turning 70-1/2. The set amount appears on your brokerage statement each January. You have until December 31 to withdraw the funds, which are reported to the IRS as taxable income. If you do not need the income, you can direct the funds (to allowable limits) to be dispersed to qualified charities, such as PPTFH, rather than to you, potentially avoiding the tax on the extra income. Funds must be transferred directly from your IRA custodian to the qualified charity.
  2. Minimize capital gains. By donating qualified long-term assets that have appreciated significantly directly to a charity, you may potentially avoid paying the capital gains tax. You may also potentially take a tax deduction for the fair-market value of the long-term appreciated securities up to the allowable limits for gifts to qualified charities. You must contact the charity in advance to ensure that it is set up to deal with this (PPTFH is not currently set up for this purpose).
  3. Donor-advised funds. You can set up a dedicated charitable account at your brokerage for the sole purpose of supporting qualified charities. You contribute cash, securities, or other assets to the fund, potentially becoming eligible for an immediate tax deduction for your contribution. You can then recommend grants to charities, such as PPTFH, on your own timetable, as well as make investments of the contributed funds to potentially grow those charitable dollars tax-free over time.
The above statements are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult with your own attorney, tax or financial advisor, and your financial institution or brokerage to determine what is best for your individual needs.
Pat Lorne
PPTFH Fundraising Committee
Join our "Volunteer Village"
Claire Healy and outreach workers Glanda Sherman and Jessi Cortez appreciate the new storage closet, especially when filled!
It takes a village to achieve our mission of helping the homeless, keeping our town safe, and involving the community in addressing issues of homelessness.  If you care about our mission, have some time to help, and would like to join this worthwhile effort, please consider volunteering with us.
How you can help:
  • If you like to hike, walk, or bike in your neighborhood, join our law enforcement coordination committee in engaging our homeless neighbors and connecting them to outreach service workers from The People Concern.
  • If you are a writer, help us prepare articles for our newsletter or write grant proposals.
  • Donate items such as hygiene needs or seasonally appropriate clothing for our outreach workers to distribute, but please donate only items you find on the list.  You can register for SignUpGenius.com at http://tinyurl.com/pptfhgive to find those itemsThanks to volunteers Claire and DeAnn Healy, we have a secure storage closet for our outreach workers to use. All items can be delivered to the office at Community United Methodist Church at 801 Via de la Paz in the Palisades Mon-Fri 8am-2pm.
  • For detailed information on how to register at SignUpGenius click here.
For more information about volunteering, see our website, www.pptfh.org, and click Contribute. We look forward to hearing from you!
Kim Clary
Chair, PPTFH Volunteer Committee
Community Meeting May 20


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President: Doug McCormick; Vice-President: Sharon Browning; Treasurer/Secretary: David Morena

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Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness · PO Box 331 · Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 · USA

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