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Tales of Success at Miramar Breakfast:

Anyone who thinks that all homeless aid programs simply mollycoddle shiftless vagrants who are either too lazy or too ornery to hold a job should have been among the 460 people who heard Carleton Griffin talk about the day he decided to break with drugs and 25 years on the streets, and walked from 92nd and Alameda to the V.A. in Brentwood during a bus strike – and found the people at New Directions there to help.

The same audience on Friday, October 6, at 7:30 a.m. heard Sylvia Robinson, a 25-year LAUSD English teacher who was one of the 22,000 rendered homeless by the Northridge earthquake, and who then lived in motels, shelters and her car, until she reached out – and connected with the PATH organization (People Assisting The Homeless) and got the stability to get her feet under herself.

Sponsors, providers and beneficiaries that morning listened to Donna Mendez tell of her mother feeding her drugs at the age of four, and of being homeless for 25 years (“there wasn’t a stretch of beach or a spot in Palisades Park that I hadn’t slept in or around”) – until outreach workers from OPCC developed her trust and introduced her to the unfamiliar wonders of “living indoors.”

Each of these people demonstrated determination and perseverance in response to the work of homeless aid programs. Griffin achieved an education; Robinson achieved steady employment; Mendez achieved self-sufficiency. Each of these people are now formerly homeless – three of the 20 successes honored by the Westside Shelter & Hunger Coalition (WSHC) at its 11th Annual Success Breakfast at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

In honoring their successes, the members of the Coalition (a group of public service nonprofits, church organizations and government agencies) do honor to themselves and demonstrate the real value of their work. A dozen businesses were also honored for their contributions in assisting the homeless achieve their successes.

Ed Edelman, Santa Monica Special Representative for Homeless Initiatives, addressed the breakfast and said that government needs the assistance of private nonprofit organizations, just as those groups need the assistance of government.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes Santa Monica and much of the Westside, was presented with the 2006 Partnership Award for his support and advocacy for the collaborative work of the Coalition’s member agencies. State Senator Sheila Kuehl made the presentation. In accepting the award, Yaroslavsky noted that he was “on the other end of that bus strike” that forced Carleton Griffin to make his way from South Central to Brentwood on foot, since he (Yaroslavsky) had been Chairman of the MTA during that strike. “It is a tribute to the human spirit that he prevailed over us,” the supervisor said.

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