The beaches of Venice are mostly free of tents and people sleeping outside as lots of homeless have been given either bus tickets or housing in cheap hotels, says advocate Mike Ashman.
But meth laced with fentanyl is killing addicts at a quick clip, and getting a roof over their head is only part of the solution, says the man who’s become a fixture now in Venice handing out free food to the needy.
“People are taking methamphetamines cut with fentanyl, and it’s just nasty,” Mike told Patch. “It’s really cooking their brains. They’re walking zombies. They can’t string together a sentence.”
A month ago, Mike greeted one of his regulars, who stared back oddly without saying a word. Mike, who’s used to dealing with addicts, figured the guy would sleep it off. Instead, he watched police putting him, first with convulsions, on a stretcher just hours later via YouTube live stream.
“His body went completely limp. I swore he was dead,” Mike said but saw him again a week-and-a-half later and gave him a big bear hug.
The man considered himself to be lucky: “I’m so mad at myself for doing that stuff,” he reportedly told Mike, who’s been in Venice for three years with his non profit You Matter. “I lived through that one.”
But Mike hasn’t seen the man since. “I’m hoping he’s got some help,” Mike adds.
By Mike’s tally, a homeless person dies every week from overdose. He gets the news from his regulars who come and tell him about so-and-so found dead in a bathroom or on a street, he says.
About once a week, one homeless man or woman dies in Venice, CA.
That’s Michael Ashman’s tally. At least three times a week, Ashman hands out free food, clothes, and Bibles at Muscle Beach, which is often filled with tourists and eclectic street performers.
This area – until recently cleaned up by Sheriff’s deputies – has been thronged with homeless and criminals.
“When people say we have a ‘homeless problem’, that tells me they don’t have a clue; it’s a human problem, not a homelessness problem,” Ashman, 57, told God Reports. “There are all kinds of reasons people are homeless. Then you throw alcohol and drugs into the mix. But Jesus is the answer. He’s the One who’s going to heal their minds and set them free.”
For three years, Michael has ministered to the homeless. Arguably, homeless ministry is prone to burnout because positive results are few and far between, while death and destruction abound. The homeless, he says, have zero self-control and consequently get devastated by addiction, violence and disease.
“Every now and then, someone comes by and says, ‘Do you remember me? You fed me. You helped me,’” Michael says.
One such was Ivan, who once slept on the beach because of Southern California’s year-round temperate climate. One day he arrived cleaned-up and smiling. He had a small place and two jobs. The day he greeted Ashman, he was handing out clothes to his street friends, paying forward the favors.
Native to Southern California, Ashman got to know Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade at age 15. He got off drugs and was attending church but was “too young and not very involved,” he says.
In 1996, he got married and had kids but walked away from church and lost his marriage. He didn’t immediately come back to church because guilt coiled in his heart like a snake.
“I’d gone too far,” he explains. “I looked in the mirror every day and said, ‘God, what am I doing? I’m killing myself.’”
On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Ashman returned to church after “my life pretty much fell apart.”
He sat in the back and wept. He kept going to church “and wept every service for quite a while,” he says. “God was fixing me.”
Eventually, he launched his ministry, a 501c3 titled “You Matter.” He wears “You Matter” T-shirts on outreach, and it’s a good message to people that society has cast aside, fears and finds revolting.
“I just felt like this is what God wanted me to do,” Ashman says. “It was so powerful in me. It was beyond passionate, it was a driving force. I couldn’t not do it. I feel Jesus in me, and He loves people through me.”
For most of his life, Ashman worked as a contractor and a phone and computer communications installer, but as his non-profit has taken off, he’s neglected his business and given himself more and more to ministry.
While politicians promote social theories for dealing with the homeless, Ashman says only Jesus can truly change them.
Recently, the L.A. Sheriff ignited a spat with the mayor’s office by publicly accusing politicians of being incompetent and making an incursion into Venice to get the homeless off the streets. As a result, fewer homeless are coming to Ashman’s ministry. He fears that… Read the rest: homeless in Venice
Boonk Gang — who garnered five million followers on Instagram filming himself steal stuff — has apparently come to Christ and repented of his antics.
“I know better than that, I know why I’m still standing here,” he narrates through tears in an emotional Dec. 14th video on Facebook. “Father, I just want to stand in front of You. I bow down in front of You. I wanna ask that You forgive me. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
His real name is John Robert Hill Jr. and his new online moniker is John Gabbana. The 24-year-old was in foster care and got kicked out of his house at age 17, at which time he resorted to dumpster diving and shoplifting to eat, he says on a Facebook video.
At the same time, he launched a hip hop career. To get attention to his emerging music, he started filming himself stealing from people and uploaded the videos to Instagram. In one, he offers to sell a Rolex watch to a man, receives $1,000 cash and makes a dash.
In another, he gets a tattoo and moves towards the door “to see it better in the sunlight” and takes to flight without paying the $50. In all of his getaways, he hurls expletives at his pursuer.
His illegal antics got him into trouble with the law. For climbing over the counter, grabbing a whole tray of Dunkin Donuts and running off, he was arrested in May 2017. In 2018, he was arrested in his Calabasas, CA, home on charges of illegal possession of weapons.
It was in the Los Angeles County Jail that he came to know about God. His cellmate witnessed to him continually about the Bible, and Boonk Gang reports on the Facebook video that he felt mysteriously touched.
“It was a humbling experience because me learning about the power of Jesus and how humble he was with how much power he had really made me humble myself knowing how much fame I had and how I carried myself,” he narrates. “It was evil. I had wickedness in me.” Read the rest: Boonk Gang Christian now
Andy Bales’ leg was amputated in 2016 after he contracted an infection related to homeless people defecating on LA’s Skid Row.
“I’d give my other leg if they would actually do something” to get people off the streets, he declares.
While politicians dicker about who’s to blame for the city’s acute homelessness crisis, Andy, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, believes they have the answer that manifests Christ’s love in a pragmatic way. It’s called a Sprung Structure, a cheap and durable fabric tent that can house 120 people.
“The answer is IMMEDIATELY getting people off the streets so they are not continuing to be devastated,” he says. “The longer we leave so many people on the streets, the worse it gets for them and for all of us.”
In 2014, Andy participated in a triathlon and scraped open a sore on his foot. He was wearing a “wound boot” when he walked around with staff handing out bottled water and invited people to take advantage of Union Rescue Mission’s services.
“I got an infection from human waste outside on the sidewalk on Skid Row,” he says.
Right now, there are only nine public toilets to service 2,800 people on Skid Row. The numbers don’t add up and actually fall short of toilets available for refugee camps in Syria (the refugees have it better). He calculates 184 toilets would be needed to keep the homeless from defecating and urinating on the sidewalk.
He describes a dangerous situation with grave infections happening to people all the time. Aside from cleaning the street every two weeks, the City hasn’t done much, he says.
Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is worse than New York’s or San Francisco’s. Last year, there were 41,000 on the streets. This year, there are 44,000, Andy says.
Andy, 61, is no Ivory Tower theorist. He’s a man of the trenches.
To remind himself and draw attention to the plight of the homeless, Andy spends New Year’s Eve on the streets every year. He denies himself his bed, his warm room, his shower, his bathroom, and his dinner. He spends the entire night outside, with whoever volunteers to help him, on the streets.
The first time he did it many years ago, he did it alone. Throughout the night, he broke up fights and fought off rapists — five physical altercations in total, he says. Never again would he brave the streets alone. Sometimes he’s accompanied by Bible college students, sometimes by staff.
So he experiences firsthand the horrors of homelessness. When the news reports of violence and even murder perpetrated by the homeless, Andy knows what goes wrong.
“I don’t know how anyone continues to sleep on the streets night after night without beginning to think in a wrong way,” he says. “I’m still recovering two days later. You can see I have a shake in my hands. And that was just one night. I can’t survive one night on the streets. How can I survive two. Or how could I survive weeks or months or decades on the streets?” Read the rest: Homelessness Los Angeles.