Things That Matter

He Didn’t Make The Debate Stage But Julián Castro Was On The Streets Of LA Talking Homelessness And How To Fix It

Although rules and performance requirement prevented him from joining seven other Democratic candidates on the debate stage, Julian Castro was still out delivering his message. This time he was in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood to discuss with residents how he, as President, could work to improve the nation’s housing crisis.

The homelessness crisis facing most California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, was once again a national story this week, with the Supreme Court agreeing to pass on hearing arguments in an appeal of Martin vs. Boise, a case concerned with the criminalization of the homeless. That decision leaves the ruling of the 9th Circuit of Appeals, which includes California, in place, which argues that cities can’t criminalize the homeless unless they provide adequate shelter

So it made sense for Castro to use the opportunity to introduce the groundwork for a housing plan that his administration would put forward should he win the 2020 election.

Julián Castro met with residents of LA’s Skid Row to discuss housing issues and the growing homelessness crisis.

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

Castro said he had visited previously as housing secretary, and believes that the Trump administration — which is considering using law enforcement to clear homeless encampments as part of a federal plan — has taken a hostile stance against the homeless population. As president, Castro said, he would work to reverse the administration’s decisions.

Castro is the third presidential candidate who has publicly toured skid row this year, said Lisa Marlow, communications coordinator of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a nonprofit that is tracking the candidates’ statements on housing. Vermont Sen. Sanders toured in August and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the presidential race last month, visited in September.

LA’s Skid Row neighborhood has one of the country’s highest concentrations of people experiencing homelessness.

While walking along the neighborhood, which has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary spoke with individuals about his housing plans.

One man, who recognized the candidate and yelled out “Castro,” asked him, “What are you going to do differently than anybody else?”

The Mexican-American contender replied, according to the Los Angeles Times: “I actually put out the boldest housing plan to try and end homelessness by 2028, by creating a lot more housing opportunities for everyone.”

The former San Antonio mayor’s plan, People First Housing, declares that housing is a human right and aims to end chronic homelessness.

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

His detailed plan addresses the following issues that are contributing to the growing homelessness crisis:

  • Making rents more affordable through a renter’s tax credit, increased rental vouchers for at-risk and low-income people, while increasing the availability of adorable housing through new land use and zoning policies.
  • Increase homeownership through additional government programs, increased federal lending and by holding Wall Street accountable in relation to responsible lending.

Through these two approaches, Castro hopes to put an end to the nation’s homelessness crisis by the year 2028. It’s an ambitious goal but one that many say is attainable with clear and concise tools.

Other candidates also have put out housing policy plans.

Amy Klobuchar’s “Housing First Plan” pledges a trillion dollars toward improving housing and poverty reduction. Klobuchar is calling to fund the Housing Trust Fund at a minimum of $40 billion per year. The money would go toward building, fixing and operating homes for low-income families. 

Additionally, Klobuchar calls for limiting wait times for housing assistance to three months, down from the nearly two to three years her campaign said Americans may wait on a list. The plan also calls for a new grant program for states to provide temporary support for those at risk of homelessness while they wait for housing assistance. 

The senator also proposes creating a federal grant program to help states increase outreach to low-income renters and make them aware of resources available to them. To ease issues connecting low-income renters to affordable housing, Klobuchar also calls for reducing associated fees and streamlining the application process. 

California, and Los Angeles in particular, are ground zero for the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

California’s housing crisis continues to swell, fueled by rising rents. This year, L.A. County saw a surge in the number of people sleeping on the streets, in shelters or in their cars, rising to nearly 59,000. More than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles. On skid row, tents and blue tarps line the sidewalks and shopping carts overflow with items.

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This Man Raised Thousands of Dollars For His Former Teacher Who Was Left Homeless From the Pandemic

Things That Matter

This Man Raised Thousands of Dollars For His Former Teacher Who Was Left Homeless From the Pandemic

Photo via Steven Nava

At this point, it’s common knowledge that the pandemic has had a negative financial impact on many Americans. When the pandemic hit, many people lost their jobs. Some people dealt with food and housing insecurity. And this homeless teacher experienced exactly that.

But if there’s one positive thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that there are tons of amazing humans out there who are willing to lend a hand when they see a fellow human suffering.

Recently, a homeless teacher named José Villaruel, received help from a former student who discovered him sleeping in his car.

The former student’s name is Steven Nava and he ran into Villaruel, purely by coincidence. “Every morning/night I’ve always noticed this older man that would stay out in his car constantly at this parking lot near my house, even when the weather was bad,” wrote Nava on Twitter. “He looked familiar…”

Nava ended up approaching the older man. That is when he discovered that the man was him former teacher José Villaruel, whom Nava affectionately calls “Mr. V”.

“Turns out he’s gone homeless since the whole pandemic hit and he’s been struggling getting back to his feet,” wrote Nava. “His car is really old and that’s where he’s been staying for the past year.”

Apparently, the homeless teacher had only one source of income–a monthly social security check. He sent most of the money to his sick wife in Mexico.

Nava gave Mr. V $300 to get a hotel for the night. Meanwhile, he got to work to try and fix the homeless teacher’s situation more permanently. “I had a mission to help the teacher who was going through a difficult time during the pandemic,” Nava told TODAY.

José Villaruel’s former student took to Twitter to inform his followers of Mr. V’s situation and ask for additional help.

“I come to the Twitter community and ask for help in raising money to help him out,” Nava wrote. “I know if we can all pitch in even $1 it will go a long way.” Nava shared a link to a GoFundMe for Mr. V. And to his surprise, the donations began to roll in.

By the end of the fundraising period, Nava had raised over $27,000 for the homeless teacher–far surpassing his original fundraising goal of $15,000.

Donations flooded in both from Villaruel’s former students and from concerned citizens who were happy to help the older gentleman get back on his feet.

“[Mr. Villaruel] was always so sweet when I had him as a sub 🙁 Thank you so much for looking out for him I hope you reach your goal for him!!!” wrote one Twitter user.

As a final gift, Steven Nava planned a surprise party for Mr. Villaruel 77th birthday that happened to be that week.

Former students of Mr. V gathered to pay tribute to the teacher who had touched their lives years before. When Mr. V showed up, they all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Then, Nava gifted a stunned Mr. V with a $27,000 check.

José Villaruel told media outlets that the experience touched him deeply.

“It is an experience of my life that will be kept for the rest of my life. I carry it in my heart,” he said. “I felt that something was going to happen, that things were going to change, and it happened suddenly when I least expected it.

Since then, Steven Nava has continued to fundraise for Mr. V. Altogether, he has raised over $50,000 for his former teacher–and counting. You can visit the GoFundMe page here.

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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