Giorgio, Village regular, still in need of help

| March 3, 2022 | 0 Comments

“I read your article on Giorgio [the Larchmont Chronicle published articles on Giorgio in February and September 2021] and wondered if you could help me.”

So began the email I received in mid-January from a concerned Larchmont resident who wishes to remain anonymous.

“He has been sleeping in my driveway every night and we cannot back out of our driveway to go to work every day until he moves,” the writer continues. “It is concerning not only for his safety, but ours, as he uses our driveway as a bathroom as well as a sleeping space.” The email ends, “Any advice, resources or thought are appreciated on how we can get him to a better place.”

GIORGIO FINDS COMFORT in a Larchmont Village driveway.

Finding a better place is part of the problem. Housing is expensive and in pitiful supply. Supportive housing, specifically built for homeless individuals and others in need, has interminable waiting lists. Additionally, the underlying causes of homelessness, such as mental illness, drug addiction and economic hardship, have to be addressed.

We see someone like Giorgio pushing his shopping cart, visiting Larchmont Boulevard every day for food, spare change and conversation, wandering the neighborhood and now, apparently, camping out in private driveways, and we wonder, “How on earth can we help?”

The numbing numbers
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s annual homeless count concluded Feb. 24, but the current number of unhoused souls on our streets has not yet been collated.

Last year’s count was cancelled because of safety concerns over COVID-19, so the 2020 count is our most recent on record. In 2020, the unsheltered population in the City of Los Angeles totaled 28,852 — 14,000 of whom are considered chronically homeless.

In Los Angeles City Council District 13, the southern portion of which now includes Larchmont Village and Windsor Square, there were 3,194 unsheltered homeless, including 1,616 chronically so, in 2020. One of them is Giorgio.

It takes a village
This newspaper’s guest columnist Marilyn Wells, co-founder of Stories from the Frontline, enlightened our readers about the issues of homelessness in six columns last year. In her April 2021 “The NIMBY Diaries” column, Wells recounted the efforts of several residents of Sunset Square to help an unhoused man in their neighborhood. Banding together, they located a low-cost apartment for him. Using a well-worn but completely true phrase, Wells wrote regarding their efforts, “It takes a village.”

It seems that the village of Larchmont is poised to take on Giorgio.

Steps to help Giorgio
Due to Wells’ writing and contacts, and the Giorgio articles published in this paper, people started speaking out about their concern for Giorgio, and a connection was made with The Center, a homeless advocacy group. Its outreach team found Giorgio and spoke with him about his needs. But it takes more than one contact to solve the problem, and — with so many homeless in our neighborhood alone — The Center’s resources are stretched thin.

GIORGIO, age 57, has been a fixture of the Larchmont area for nearly a decade.

After receiving the email about Giorgio’s driveway habitation, I contacted The Center’s regional coordinator, Josh Hoffman. Unable to breach client confidentiality, Hoffman nevertheless promised to work with the outreach team to follow up on Giorgio.

I next contacted George Hakopiants, field deputy for 13th District Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. Coincidentally, Hakopiants had been made aware of Giorgio when on a ride-along with LAPD Olympic Division Senior Lead Officer Joe Pelayo. The Council Office staff wanted to get involved and said they appreciated the Larchmont Chronicle’s efforts to bring light to the subject, which could “help move the dial.”

On behalf of Councilmember O’Farrell, Hakopiants in February contacted both The Center and a city department tasked with addressing homelessness concerns. All three are now engaging with one another and have made Giorgio a priority.

Mission accomplished?
Not exactly. When I next saw Giorgio on the Boulevard in front of his usual haunt, Peet’s, last month, he asked me the color of my watch band. I glanced at my wrist. “Brown,” I said. “Hazelnut! It’s hazelnut,” he announces triumphantly. Giorgio has always been proud of his specificity. Then he launches into a political diatribe, starting with President John F. Kennedy and the Cuba missile crisis, President Jimmy Carter and Iran, and then Russia and Ukraine.

During a break in his soliloquy, I brought up the subject of help. “I hear that some people came to talk to you about housing?”
Giorgio was visibly upset with my query, responding, “I don’t want no help! I don’t need no help! I need a check” (referring to the social security check and / or disability check he believes he is owed).

“They can help you with that, too,” I replied.

“I don’t need no help from nobody. Never did. Never will.”

And with that, he got extremely agitated, cursing and yelling about his right to receive his benefits, and then he backed away from me.

It takes a village and a whole lot of patience to build up trust with someone who has had to rely on himself day after day just to stay alive.

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Category: People

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