Eric Ahlberg

A letter from neighbors complaining about Safe Place For Youth

– The following letter was written in response to last month’s article about Safe Place for Youth (SPY). The author asked for anonymity lest she be shamed for complaining about a social service organization.  Below it you will find a response by Eric Ahlberg

Dear Beachhead,

In the last Beachhead, there was an article written about Safe Place for Youth, which offered a biased opinion of the nonprofit. Neighbors of the author expressed their unhappiness with SPY being located in our neighborhood and offered specific examples of incidents. However, our points of view were censored from the newspaper, even though we gave our opinions before the deadline that was stated to us. It would be an understatement to say that we were extremely disappointed in the article that was published.

Within a block of SPY, there are 14 young children who reside there. SPY is also situated between two schools with hundreds of young children attending each school. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put an organization, that attracts thousands of homeless young adults, in such close proximity to two schools, clearly wasn’t thinking about those children. While we have compassion for these young adults, we are also concerned about the negative impact it is having on our neighborhood. Many people have chosen not to come forward with their complaints of SPY because they feel like they will look like they don’t care. But we can have compassion for these young adults and be concerned about our neighborhood -the two are not mutually exclusive.

*Since SPY moved in to our neighborhood, we have had a big presence of homeless young adults on our street. There have been young adults going up and down our street to get to SPY, even though they are supposed to use Venice Blvd., or Washington Blvd. There was an incident with a group from SPY blocking the driveway to our neighbor’s house, not allowing them to park in their driveway. That neighbor complained to SPY.

*There have been many incidences of young adults doing drugs while sitting on the sidewalk on our street, or in cars on our street. Many of our young children have witnessed this drug use.

*Many of the SPY young adults have older friends who will hang out on our street to wait for their friends to be finished at SPY -there was one fella who sat in a neighbor’s tree, waiting for a group, a few times a week -and we’ve seen many people in cars on our street (sitting in their cars for hours),waiting for groups from SPY. Meanwhile our kids are playing in their front yards while strange people are watching them from their cars for hours.

*Just the other day, one of our neighbors saw a SPY young adult using another neighbor’s front yard as a bathroom.

*A different neighbor saw a SPY young adult at the end of our street (near the SPY alley) with his penis hanging out of his pants.

*Lately there have been large groups hanging out in front of the empty pet shop on the corner of Lincoln.

*There have also been an increase in the number of packages stolen off of front porches.
As you can see, there’s no question that having SPY in our neighborhood has negatively impacted the families and children that live here. Some people may ask, but isn’t it worth it if SPY is helping young adults get off the streets? Good question. Well, according to their own website, in 2015, they had 1,855 connections made by their street outreach teams, and 57 young exited homelessness and entered stable situations -that’s only a 3% success rate. Yet they served nearly 10,000 meals. SPY is more successful as a soup kitchen, than actually helping young people exit homelessness.

SPY may have programs focused on solving the problem, but the numbers on their own website clearly show that they are not very successful. That’s not to say it isn’t a worthy organization, but really they are more about feeding people than actually moving people out of homelessness, which is different than how they are portraying themselves.

If SPY isn’t actually successful in getting these young adults off the streets -then you have to wonder if the negative things happening in the neighborhood outweigh the positives -and in this situation, they definitely do.

Neighbors of Safe Place for Youth
Names withheld by request.


– not-the-editor, aka Eric Ahlberg, responds

Biased! Yes, we are biased in favor of local organizations who help homeless runaways.

Deadlines! We received the letter very late and felt we should discuss it first.

Censorship! We who fund-raise, write and publish the Beachhead are always entertained by this argument. We know that freedom of the press belongs to the owner of the press, and being a free press we can choose to print anything we want, or not. We allow collective members to veto stories. That can make for an interesting meeting. Once a Jason Hill story page about Jules Muck was vetoed because it spoke favorably about Jason Teague, whose developments at 1414 Main St were being actively opposed by the Beachhead in particular. Jason Hill accused us of censorship. Unintended consequence, he started doing his stories about some of our best friends in the Argonaut. A submitted story about Daniela Ardizzone, one of the core artists of the Art Crawl, was vetoed, she is a good person, the writing less so, and the Art Crawl, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, looks a lot like boilerplate gentrification psychological warfare. Some of us have lived here for 45 years and we know a lot of the local artists and many don’t pay much attention to the art crawl but for the occasional interesting happening which may ride its banner. So it was spiked.  Parallel to the Art Crawl, many Venice Artists have lost their studio spaces.  Accusing us of censorship is just entitlement speaking.

Disappointment! I can see your sour face. There there. I’ll let you in on a secret. The Beachhead Collective is really messed. Nobody owns the Beachhead. Yeah we were all just laughing about it.

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). This is the rhetorical poison, full of hearsay and innuendo, slowly dripped into our body politic. Made famous by Donald Rumsfeld with is global defense posture of preparing for the unknown unknown.

Children in the neighborhood. Children seem to be just about everywhere, however they don’t need to be sheltered, they need to understand how to engage and help. Protecting children is unopposable. SPY aims to serve children who were not protected, who have been abused and neglected.

Neighborhood FUD. We are really short on facts here. People piss outside if they don’t have a bathroom. Loitering, indecent exposure, stolen packages, but no one seems to have filed a police report. From January 7 2017 through July 5 LAPD crime maps show no reported street crime at Lincoln and Garfield, nor is there much in the neighborhoods. If you are looking for burglary, and assault, go to Windward and Ocean Front Walk, or Abbot Kinney and California, and all along Rose and along Lincoln.

It can be very hard for service organizations to find welcoming communities. Every community seems to have it’s own set of NIMBYS (Not In My Back Yard), who often engage with FUD and sabotage, toward social service and rehabilitation programs. “What’s gonna happen to the kids?” “What’s gonna happen to the neighborhood?” “This might negatively impact the potential future value of your property.” They are afraid of what they don’t know may happen.  They easily turn into monsters. They have a way of being disruptive at meetings, not so graciously waving their faux entitlement while interrupting and shouting. They show up late to outreach meetings and refuse to sign in, to deflate the headcount. They insinuate the organizations are less than honest, inefficient, or incompetent. They don’t seem to be around for any other issues in the community.  There has to be a set of talking points for this stuff.

Property Value is another big FUD issue often played by interested parties, yet that argument is made ridiculous given the speedy rise of prices and rents for Venice properties.

This is remarkably similar to what Trump activists do, the little Custers and open-carry activists, but it is a odious partisan tactic deployable by anybody.

Kindness, compassion and service to others is the path to reforming this trembling world. Venice has, is, and will be a compassionate community, we are a part of the solution.

We ask our community to provide for the common welfare.

“when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” – Luke 14:12-14

“And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.” – The Quran, Surat Ad-Duhaa 93:8

For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land; therefore I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kin in your land. Deuteronomy 15: 4, 11

The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs. – Karl Marx

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