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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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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

Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Community

Marin County Sheriff Sued for Illegally Sharing Drivers’ License Plate Data

This practice has violated two California laws, endangers the safety and privacy of local immigrant communities, and facilitates location tracking by police.

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An example of ALPRs (www.pasadenanow.org)

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle has been sued for illegally sharing millions of local drivers’ license plates and location data, captured by a network of cameras his office uses, with hundreds of federal and out-of-state agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), over a dozen other federal law enforcement agencies, and more than 400 out-of-state law enforcement agencies.

This practice has violated two California laws, endangers the safety and privacy of local immigrant communities, and facilitates location tracking by police.

The suit seeks to end the sheriff’s illegal practice of giving hundreds of agencies outside California access to a database of license plate scans used to identify and track people, revealing where they live and work, when they visit friends or drop their kids at school, and when they attend religious services or protests.

The lawsuit was filed in Marin County Superior Court by the ACLU Foundations of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and attorney Michael T. Risher representing community activists Lisa Bennett, Cesar S. Lagleva, and Tara Evans, who are longtime Marin community members.

License plate scans occur through Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs): high-speed cameras mounted in a fixed location or atop police cars moving through the community that automatically capture all license plates that come into view, recording the exact location, date, and time that the vehicle passes by.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office scans tens of thousands of license plates each month with its ALPR system. That sensitive personal information, which includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers, is stored in a database.

The sheriff permits hundreds of out-of-state agencies and several federal entities, including the Department of Homeland Security, to run queries of a license plate against information the sheriff has collected. The agencies are also able to compare their own bulk lists of vehicle license plates of interest, known as “hot lists,” against the ALPR information collected by the sheriff’s office. 

“In the hands of police, the use of ALPR technology is a threat to privacy and civil liberties, especially for immigrants. Federal immigration agencies routinely access and use ALPR information to locate, detain, and deport immigrants. The sheriff’s own records show that Sheriff Doyle is sharing ALPR information with two of the most rogue agencies in the federal government: ICE and CBP,” said Vasudha Talla, immigrants’ rights program director at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “Police should not be purchasing surveillance technology, let alone facilitating the deportation and incarceration of our immigrant communities.”

California’s S.B. 34, enacted in 2015, bars this practice. The law requires agencies that use ALPR technology to implement policies to protect privacy and civil liberties, and specifically prohibits police from sharing ALPR data with entities outside of California. 

The sheriff also violates the California Values Act (S.B. 54), also known as California’s “sanctuary” law. Enacted in 2018, the law limits the use of local resources to assist federal immigration enforcement.

“The information unveiled through this lawsuit shows that the freedoms that people think they possess in Marin County are a mirage: people cannot move about freely without being surveilled,” said Bennett. “Our county sheriff, who has sworn to uphold the law, is in fact violating it by sharing peoples’ private information with outside agencies. This has especially alarming implications for immigrants and people of color: two communities that are traditionally the targets of excessive policing, surveillance, and separation from loved ones and community through incarceration or deportation.”

The Marin County Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

The 157th Session of the AME Church’s California Annual Conference: Not Just Business as Usual

For the 157th time in history, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in California met to report at the call of their bishop, the Right Reverend Clement W. Fugh, which, for the first time was held both on-line and in person from Bethel AME Church at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. 

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Bishop Clement W. Fugh, Presiding Prelate of the 5th Episcopal District, ready for the 157th Session of the California Annual Conference

For the 157th time in history, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in California met to report at the call of their bishop, the Right Reverend Clement W. Fugh, which, for the first time was held both on-line and in person from Bethel AME Church at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. 

The renowned presiding elders, Rev. Dr. Harold R. Mayberry and Rev. Dr. Vernon S. Burroughs, middle managers of this portion of Bishop Fugh’s charge, shared the accounts of their respective territories at the AME Church’s California Annual Conference via prerecorded videos at the meeting hosted by Churches of the Sacramento Valley. 

The lead congregation from the valley was Murph-Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in North Highlands, CA, which is pastored by Rev. Dr. Carieta Cain Grizzell, whose spouse Rev. Martin Grizzell is also known for his past ministry in the Bay Area. The venue church is served by the pastoral team of Rev. Robert R. Shaw and his partner, Assistant Pastor, Rev. Ann Champion Shaw. Murph-Emmanuel and Bethel A.M.E. Church were acclaimed by Bishop Fugh for their cooperation in this session of the California Annual Conference.  

Bethel A.M.E San Francisco looked like a television set had grown into the sanctuary, complete with multiple lights and cameras. There was a technical team (in person and on-line) primarily made up of young adult members of AME churches under the purview of the bishop. The meeting was a clear, joint effort of both clergy and lay people, more than in past years. Though the California Annual Conference has long made a point of including non-cleric church members, young and old, the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances have clearly advanced the Conference’s inclusivity.  

“The Word of God is Colorblind,” said Bishop Fugh during the retirement portion of the Annual Conference which honored the retirement of the host pastor. The diversity within churches of the California Annual Conference was on display at this 157th session of this historic meeting and it was clear that the leadership encourages the welcoming of all who would like to join with the church. 

There was an apparent focus on meeting safely, with limitations on those allowed to join in person. Attestations related to COVID-19 were required of registrants and a screening process was administered at the venue. The bishop commended the venue leadership and church for the dignity that was maintained during the process. 

Registration for Zoom attendance was also a painless process and open to whomever desired to attend the Webinar. The conference was accessible on Facebook as well as YouTube. The bishop also encouraged churches to make attendance as safe as possible while keeping the process simple and focusing on a quality worship experience. Bishop Fugh set a goal for represented churches to reopen their sanctuaries by the first Sunday of November. 

This session of the California Annual Conference carried with it the long-standing traditions of the first Christian denomination founded in response to social injustice over 200 years ago. The ministries reported primarily using pre-recorded videos this year as it all followed through decently and in order. Indeed, there was a genuine spirit of love during the conference.

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