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