Homeless Cleared from Below Huntington Neighborhood in Pacific Palisades

By Sue Pascoe

The Huntington Homeowners Association hired Brian Walsh Brush Clearance to clean the hilly land between Pacific Coast Highway and the Huntington Palisades. In recent years, three hillside fires started by homeless encampments and swept up the hillside, threatening various multi-million-dollar homes.

Sharon Kilbride, a member of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH), and one of three members who tracks local homeless camps, showed Walsh the three sites at 7 a.m. on Oct. 6.

“A year ago, we took out two dumpsters of brush and trash in this area,” said Walsh, whose crew was part of a group that cleared out the encampment of the “Beast.” The man known as the Beast had spent time in prison for manslaughter, was released, lived below the Huntington area, and more recently was incarcerated, again, for wielding a knife.

Kilbride said an ongoing challenge is that after an encampment is cleared, other homeless simply move in, unless the PPTFH is vigilant.

This man, smoking a joint, was found in the brush below the Huntington Palisades. Photo: Sharon Kilbride
This man, smoking a joint, was found in the brush below the Huntington Palisades.
Photo: Sharon Kilbride

Walsh and Kilbride spoke about doing additional clearances, because once an area is no longer hidden by brush, transients are less likely to move in.

“Clearance needs to be expanded,” Walsh agreed.

Close to Potrero Canyon, the first site was filled with trash—sleeping bags, shoes, old clothing, empty food cans, paper, cigarette butts and lighters.

At the next site—a little farther over, hidden behind trees—a man was found bedded down.

Kilbride recognized him as a transient the PPTFH had been tracking around town. “We’ve tried to get him into services,” Kilbride said, noting that the man is known for his heavy drug use.

That morning, when the transient was told he was on private property and needed to leave, he took his new bike, and with a joint in his mouth, went onto PCH. Cars braked hastily, narrowly avoiding hitting the man as he headed towards the beach.

LAPD Officer John “Rusty” Redican soon joined Walsh and Kilbride to visit another site carved into the hillside. The view from the encampment was enticing, as dolphins could be seen playing in the ocean near lifeguard tower 15.

The visitors found Shanna, a transsexual, who at first was cooperative when they told her there was no trespassing/camping, but once she realized that they were going to clear out her stuff, she threatened, “If you take my stuff. . .” She had a hard time understanding why she couldn’t leave it and come back for it.

Redican explained again that the area was being cleared and she needed to take her stuff.

She started back to get it, then turned around and replied, “Take it all, it can be replaced.” With a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in her backpack, she walked off, saying she had a job interview.

Redican said the PPTFH, in combination with LAPD, is making a difference. “The more we reinforce [the message that] they can’t stay on the bluffs, the more go into services.”

“I agree,” Kilbride said, noting that the homeless get tired of the attention from law enforcement and task force members, and say “I give up. I’ll go in.”

Lighting and cooking equipment was found in various transient campsites. Photo: Sharon Kilbride
Lighting and cooking equipment was found in various transient campsites.
Photo: Sharon Kilbride

Caltrans sent a crew on Oct. 7 to clean up the tons of accumulated trash, and biohazardous wastes, behind the wall that runs along PCH from near Potrero to Chautauqua. There was too much trash to remove in a single day and Caltrans had to return the following week to finish removal.

One of the transients displayed artistic tal- ent. This drawing was found in his camp- site. Photo: Sharon Kilbride
One of the transients displayed artistic talent. This drawing was found in his campsite. Photo: Sharon Kilbride

At a PPTFH community meeting on, Sept. 15 a check for $5,346 was presented to the task force, raised from the production of the one-act play, The Liar’s Punishment, as a weekend fundraiser organized by Nina Kidd at Theatre Palisades in May.

At that meeting, the PPTFH announced that 26 homeless individuals had come off the streets since January, with the assistance of the two OPCC social workers, Maureen Rivas and Glanda Sherman, hired by the task force. Some of the transients are in housing; others, such as Robbie, have gone back to their families. Robbie was a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas before making his way to Pacific Palisades as a transient.

Zena Kuwa, a former Palisades transient, was introduced and she explained how she ended up on the streets.

“I was born in Ethopia, and then lived eight years in Kenya,” she said. After her family relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska, Kuwa moved to New Mexico. She ended up in California, but because her paperwork expired, she couldn’t get a job and couldn’t get help.

“When I was in the Palisades, I was trying to think ‘Where can I go? How am I going to do it?’” she said.

Kuwa spoke about how Kilbride had come up to her and said, “We can help you,” which turned her life around.

“In this country, people are helping—it shocked me,” Kuwa said, praising Rivas and Sherman for helping her get general relief and complete her paperwork so she could get her green card. “They’re helping me with a program to get me housed,” she said.

The social workers said, “When a homeless person is on the street, they’re isolated. We can offer therapy, group support and housing.”

If you see a homeless individual, instead of giving him/her money, call (310) 460-2630. Leave a message for Rivas and Sherman, detailing the location of the transient, the best time to find him/her, a brief description and a name if you have it. The social workers will then try to get in touch with the individual to offer them services.

The PPTFH has raised the funds needed to pay for the social work outreach team for 2016; however, it still needs to raise $20,000 to pay for 2017, and $125,000 for 2018. To make a donation, go to opcc.net, use the dropdown box under “Choose a donation type” and indicate the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homeless or gofundme.com/Palisadeshomeless or send a check to OPCC with PPTFH written on the memo line. Send to PPTFH, P.O. Box 331, Pacific Palisades 90272.

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