Paso Robles, CA – Sept. 2, 2020      The temporary camping facility for homeless residents has been operational at the Borkey Flats site for a few weeks. The site has restrooms, showers, and a safe needle exchange program, and a safe parking area….. The City’s Community Action Team (CAT) has been visiting homeless encampments in the riverbed. They have visited 15-20 camps and informed individuals of the new camping site and of the city’s intent to clean up the riverbed to mitigate fire risk and protect water quality…… To date, three encampments have been cleaned up of all debris and waste products. The camping site has not seen high levels of utilization to date, but the city has seen a drop in fire activity since the CAT team has been active and cleanup has begun….. The city will need to move the Borkey Flats encampment in the winter given that it is in the flood plain, and continues to work with homeless service provider partners to identify long-term solutions…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER    …..     …..
Sacramento, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Gov. Newsom said Wednesday that California is making an “unprecedented” effort to address homelessness, two days after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to massively increase housing production….. The governor said the state has placed more than 22,000 homeless Californians in 16,400 hotel and motel rooms amid the pandemic, and is giving cities and counties $600 million to purchase the rooms and convert them into permanent housing….. Local governments also got another $628 million in emergency homelessness aid….. “It’s self-evident that this has to be our top priority and it is,” said Newsom……   A bill heading to Newsom’s desk would create a state Office to End Homelessness, led by a new “homelessness czar.” But the governor said Wednesday he already has a homelessness czar — a seemingly fluid title, given that he’s used it to refer to six people in the past two years, including himself……      HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..
Stanton, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The County of Orange and Jamboree Housing Corporation submitted three applications as co-applicants and in partnership with the City of Stanton under the State Homekey program, all located in the City of Stanton, for a total request of $28.1 million in funding…..   The County recently received word that the State reserved funding for both The Tahiti Motel and Stanton Inn and Suites applications….. Two of the motels identified for funds in the City of Stanton include The Stanton Inn and Suites, on Katella Avenue and the Tahiti Motel, on Beach Boulevard. A third motel is in negotiation with the motel owner, they say. By the end of the project, 132 new affordable homes will be available for those experiencing homelessness.   Although this does not yet represent an award from the State, it is one step closer to securing funding to make the Homekey program work…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..     …..  
Oxnard, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The Vagabond Inn in Oxnard could soon transition from an affordable hotel option to permanent supportive housing for 70 of the county’s homeless residents, thanks to a state funding effort that aims to house California’s most vulnerable homeless individuals….. The Vagabond Inn is under consideration for funding under Project Homekey, the next phase in the state’s efforts to protect homeless residents who are high-risk for COVID-19. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $600 million in funding for cities and counties to convert motels, hotels and other housing types into permanent housing…..  “This is an opportunity that allows us to both respond to COVID-19 and respond to homelessness and the long-term need to provide housing,” said Oxnard Housing Director Emilio Ramirez…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
San Francisco, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Bay Area universities and homeless advocates released a report on Thursday revealing the various barriers homeless San Franciscans face when accessing housing…..  The report’s authors, the Coalition on Homelessness and researchers with the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University surveyed 600 temporarily housed San Franciscans, with a focus on transgender people …..  Participants revealed inequities that homeless transgender people face to obtain housing, poor shelter conditions, crowded living spaces and strict curfews, created even more barriers to housing. Fifty-eight percent of participants said they would prefer a legal homeless camp with basic amenities like showers and toilets while 34 percent reported having substance abuse issues…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
San Francisco, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Bay Area universities and homeless advocates released a report on Thursday revealing the various barriers homeless San Franciscans face when accessing housing…..  The report’s authors, the Coalition on Homelessness and researchers with the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University surveyed 600 temporarily housed San Franciscans, with a focus on transgender people …..  Participants revealed inequities that homeless transgender people face to obtain housing, poor shelter conditions, crowded living spaces and strict curfews, created even more barriers to housing. Fifty-eight percent of participants said they would prefer a legal homeless camp with basic amenities like showers and toilets while 34 percent reported having substance abuse issues…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
Stanton, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The County of Orange and Jamboree Housing Corporation submitted three applications as co-applicants and in partnership with the City of Stanton under the State Homekey program, all located in the City of Stanton, for a total request of $28.1 million in funding…..   The County recently received word that the State reserved funding for both The Tahiti Motel and Stanton Inn and Suites applications….. Two of the motels identified for funds in the City of Stanton include The Stanton Inn and Suites, on Katella Avenue and the Tahiti Motel, on Beach Boulevard. A third motel is in negotiation with the motel owner, they say. By the end of the project, 132 new affordable homes will be available for those experiencing homelessness.   Although this does not yet represent an award from the State, it is one step closer to securing funding to make the Homekey program work…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..     …..  
Oxnard, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     The Vagabond Inn in Oxnard could soon transition from an affordable hotel option to permanent supportive housing for 70 of the county’s homeless residents, thanks to a state funding effort that aims to house California’s most vulnerable homeless individuals….. The Vagabond Inn is under consideration for funding under Project Homekey, the next phase in the state’s efforts to protect homeless residents who are high-risk for COVID-19. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $600 million in funding for cities and counties to convert motels, hotels and other housing types into permanent housing…..  “This is an opportunity that allows us to both respond to COVID-19 and respond to homelessness and the long-term need to provide housing,” said Oxnard Housing Director Emilio Ramirez…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER     …..     …..
Sacramento, CA – Sept. 3, 2020     Gov. Newsom said Wednesday that California is making an “unprecedented” effort to address homelessness, two days after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to massively increase housing production….. The governor said the state has placed more than 22,000 homeless Californians in 16,400 hotel and motel rooms amid the pandemic, and is giving cities and counties $600 million to purchase the rooms and convert them into permanent housing….. Local governments also got another $628 million in emergency homelessness aid….. “It’s self-evident that this has to be our top priority and it is,” said Newsom……   A bill heading to Newsom’s desk would create a state Office to End Homelessness, led by a new “homelessness czar.” But the governor said Wednesday he already has a homelessness czar — a seemingly fluid title, given that he’s used it to refer to six people in the past two years, including himself……      HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER…..     …..
Paso Robles, CA – Sept. 2, 2020      The temporary camping facility for homeless residents has been operational at the Borkey Flats site for a few weeks. The site has restrooms, showers, and a safe needle exchange program, and a safe parking area….. The City’s Community Action Team (CAT) has been visiting homeless encampments in the riverbed. They have visited 15-20 camps and informed individuals of the new camping site and of the city’s intent to clean up the riverbed to mitigate fire risk and protect water quality…… To date, three encampments have been cleaned up of all debris and waste products. The camping site has not seen high levels of utilization to date, but the city has seen a drop in fire activity since the CAT team has been active and cleanup has begun….. The city will need to move the Borkey Flats encampment in the winter given that it is in the flood plain, and continues to work with homeless service provider partners to identify long-term solutions…..     HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE CALIFORNIA TICKER    …..     …..

Homeless People in L.A. Increasingly Are Taking Their Lives By Hanging

From left, sisters Candice Russaw, Chanel Evans and Brandy Russaw remember their brother, 20-year-old Jacob Russaw, in photo, who died by suicide in 2018. Candice wears Jacob’s T-shirt, and Brandy holds his skateboard and wears one of his shirts. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

By: Gale Holland
August 6, 2020 —

He was a talented skateboarder on the verge of landing a company sponsorship. Dressed in loud Hawaiian shirts or track suits, his shock of hair untamed, skater style, Jacob Glory Russaw practiced ollies and kick flips for hours at the Venice and North Hollywood skate parks or in the streets of east Hollywood. Then he made up his own tricks.

“Skating is my life,” the 20-year-old wrote on his Instagram page. “It’s like breathing it makes me feel like I can do something [in] life.”

But Russaw was also struggling. He was young and Black and living at a homeless housing agency, working his way out of a fractured upbringing. And he had lost his room there, something that even some of his skater friends didn’t realize.

They only learned after he died by hanging.

Candles, a statue of an angel and flowers lay at the base of a tree, a memorial for Robert Fuller whose body was found hanging from a tree in Poncitlan Square in Palmdale on June 10, 2020. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

When two other Black men — Robert Fuller, 24, and Malcolm Harsch, 38 — were found hanging from trees in two Southern California cities this spring, their families disputed suicide findings. Black people are far less likely to end their lives than white people, and the hangings, in the midst of protests against police violence, conjured America’s ugly legacy of lynchings of Black men, which authorities sometimes labeled suicides to cover up for white police and mobs.

But further investigation turned up no foul play. Both men had a history of homelessness: Fuller, who had a previous suicide attempt, had lived on and off at a youth shelter in Las Vegas and was homeless in Reno before coming to Palmdale, where he died. Harsch had been living in a homeless encampment near Victorville.

And their deaths, like that of Russaw in 2018, fit into a surprising pattern. Increasingly, homeless people in Los Angeles and its environs are dying by hanging.

Over 4½ years ending in mid-June, 196 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County took their lives. In 2016, 40% of the suicides were by hanging; so far this year, it’s 55%, according to a Times analysis of coroner’s reports.

Many homeless people hanged themselves in public — on a freeway off-ramp or sidewalk, in an alley, field or vacant lot — but their deaths went largely unremarked.

“Homeless suicides have not been an issue,” said Mike Neely, former Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority commissioner. “I’m not sure people want to have that discussion; it goes to the heart of the neglect of people.”


California Suicide Prevention
Resource Center


No one knows why someone else takes their life, but for many homeless people, a history of trauma is exacerbated by the miseries of homelessness. Authorities struggle to get mental health services into the streets, and culturally competent suicide prevention for homeless people is lacking. A firearm is the leading suicide method for men in the U.S, but homeless people don’t typically have guns.

After Harsch died, his family initially suspected that he had been lynched but eventually came around to believing it was a suicide. But they also expressed disappointment in the lack of services that could have prevented his death. “The [Harsch] family is gratified to have a sense of closure that he wasn’t the victim of a lynching,” said activist Najee Ali, a family spokesman, “but the big question is why his death wasn’t investigated properly to begin with. In retrospect, we all wish there had been more homeless outreach services, especially mental health.”


Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1(800) 273-TALK (8255)


Russaw’s family, too, said he should have received mental health care.

Only 19 of the homeless people in Los Angeles County who took their lives since 2016 were Black, and just a handful of them died by hanging. But suicides are rising among Black youth — from 2.55 per 100,000 in 2007 to 4.82 per 100,000 in 2017, according to a Congressional Black Caucus task force report on Black youth suicide released in December.

“The face of suicide has been older white men, because of the sheer numbers of more white men dying of suicide, but that’s something of a misnomer,” said Michael A. Lindsey, executive director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University and the congressional task force chairman.

Several weeks before Russaw’s death, Covenant House, a youth homeless agency in Hollywood, kicked him out of its housing program. Chief Executive Bill Bedrossian said he couldn’t discuss the reason; family and friends said it was for violating program rules, including breaking curfew.

A spokesman for Covenant House said Thursday that Russaw had been temporarily “restricted” from housing but could have appealed to be allowed to come back to the organization. The spokesman, Mike Stommel, also said that not sleeping at the house, bullying or threatening residents or assaulting them or staff were violations that could result in a housing restriction.

Bedrossian said mental health services were available to Russaw, before and after he left housing. Russaw’s sister said they should have been mandatory.

“If you don’t have mental health issues already, try being homeless,” said Candice Russaw, 33.

Brayan Vargas, an employee at L.A. Skate Co., said Russaw told him Covenant House had bagged his things, stuffed them in a closet and told him they’d given his bed to someone else.

“I found it very foul,” said Conner Nico, another L.A. Skate Co. employee who lived at Covenant House for a time. “It’s a good program in many ways, but you don’t do that to a kid who’s already down and wanted to do good.”

“We don’t see restrictions as the worst things in the world; they’re part of a process to learn you have to be accountable in life,” said Bedrossian, adding that he and the rest of the staff were especially fond of Russaw.

“Jacob was adored here, frankly,” he said.

Russaw did not broadcast his distress, said friends, who described him as fun-loving and joyful. “Anything to not have a moment of silence,” a friend said. “He masked it well.”

Russaw grew up in Watts and Lancaster with his aunt and cousins, whom he considered his mother and sisters (and are described that way here). He was a daredevil who taught himself to ride a unicycle and a ripstick, jump on a pogo stick, launch back flips on the concrete and leap off a roof into a pool. He learned to walk up a wall like a Ninja warrior and tried to prank his sister Brandy Russaw, 34, into believing that he was a space alien. It almost worked, she said.

After a family fight, their mother reported Russaw to juvenile authorities, who placed him in detention, followed by foster care. At age 18, he entered Covenant House, where he earned his high school diploma — the first in his family to do so, Bedrossian said.

At a light on Hollywood Boulevard, he met Hikaru Lee, 33, a foreign student from Japan who taught yoga. They snowboarded, hiked and went to the beach, and Russaw posted that he was going vegan. “Jacob was a real hippie,” said his sister, Chanel Mookie Evans, 28.

He enrolled at Santa Monica College but quit to work a restaurant job. His real calling was skateboarding.

Dave White, owner of L.A. Skate Co. remembers skateboarder Jacob Russaw inside L.A. Skate Co. in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

He wore a skateboard bearing as a ring and sometimes practiced deep into the night. At L.A. Skate Co. on Santa Monica Boulevard, Russaw traded clothes he had thrifted for grip tape and skateboards to replace the ones he split grinding stair rails or performing tre flips.

“I never saw anyone do that before,” said the skate shop owner, Dave White, who videotaped him repeating the trick so he could show potential sponsors. White shot another video of Russaw skating up to the shop with the pieces of a busted board strapped to his feet with turquoise shoelaces.

“He could skate anything with wheels,” White said. “Some of the company people who came in here said, ‘Who’s that kid with the bushy hair? He’s killing it.’ He was on his way. The companies were waiting to see what he could do.”

After his ouster from Covenant House, Russaw slept at the North Hollywood skate park, a small park in Hollywood or under the lights at a Metro station, Vargas said. “The streets here are not the best,” Vargas said.

L.A. Skate Co. employee Carter Nico, 25, stands near a memorial for Jacob Russaw featuring his photo, upper left, and his broken skateboard, upper right, that still hang inside L.A. Skate Co. in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Lee had roommates and didn’t always let him stay. They argued; she said she didn’t understand what he was going through until after he died.

“I don’t know about homeless, but it affected him really bad,” she said. “He told me it’s not easy being a Black man. He felt it was not comfortable looking for a job because of his color.” Russaw hanged himself in March 2018 in Lee’s apartment.

Covenant House paid for a memorial and his funeral at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. Friends covered the slate-blue casket with his favorite skate shop stickers.

Russaw’s skateboard — painted with the insignia “Shred in Paradise Brother” — hangs on L.A. Skate Co.’s wall. At a get-together in Lancaster this summer, Candice and Brandy wore Jacob’s shirts and Evans brought one of his skateboards.

“In foreign countries, they don’t let old people and young people be homeless,” Candice said. “Especially with Black people, the village is broken. Why isn’t our government doing something?”

“He was just a kid,” Brandy said.

This article courtesy of the L.A. Times


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