March 2015
Billie Silvey
On the last Wednesday night in January, a
group of members of the
Culver Palms
Church of Christ gathered at the church
building.  But it wasn’t for worship.  It was for
Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Our minister, Mark Manassee, made the
coffee—huge pots of coffee.  Our youth
minister, Zac Luben, coordinated volunteers
from the church.  

The church building served as the staging
area for volunteers to count homeless
people in
Palms, a highly diverse, densely
populated community in the Westside region
of Los Angeles.  Founded in 1886, Palms
was the first neighborhood annexed to the
city of Los Angeles, in 1915.  

Members of the
Palms Neighborhood
Council, a group of volunteers representing
the area to city government, brought snacks.  
It was going to be a long night.

At first, we were concerned that too few
people had signed up for us to be able to
participate.  We needed at least four cars of
four people each—a driver, a navigator and
two people to walk the streets to find people
sleeping outdoors, in tents, in vehicles or
other makeshift shelters.

But at 6 o’clock, people began pouring in
until, finally, we had 55 people—from the
church, the Neighborhood Council,
AmeriCorps, and just area residents.  

Ten cars of four each went out, and a few of
us remained to welcome returning groups
and gather their findings.

Funding from both government and private
agencies serving the homeless is based on
these counts, so it’s important that no one is

And we have to keep working.  Our homeless
problem didn’t arise overnight, and it won’t
be solved quickly, either.  

Homeless people have been traumatized—
by war, illness, catastrophe and loss.  They
may not be easy to identify or reason with.  
But we have to keep trying—for their sake
and our own.  

The first, or even the fifth, thing we try may not
work, but we need to keep trying.  

As God’s people in the world, we need to do
all we can to demonstrate his love and
concern for “the least of these."   “The King
will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for
one of the least of these brothers and sisters
of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

The woman from
LAHSA, the Los Angeles
Homeless Services Authority, who conducted
the training session for our homeless count,
began by pointing out how most of us are
just one emergency or health crisis away
from being homeless ourselves.
Here in Los Angeles, where rents and house
payments are so high and wages so low, it’s
particularly true.  Few of us are totally secure
financially.  The homeless could so easily be

And the homeless are us in another sense of
the word.  More and more often, I see
homeless people coming to church.  There’s
the teenage mother who had left home but
needed to move back with her baby to live
with her family.  But they didn't want her.

And there’s the tiny blond with her tiny dog
who sleeps in her van, then drives it to
worship with us.

The teenage mother now has a home, and
she’s walking the tiny blond through the
steps out of homelessness.

All of us—homeowners, renters, people on
the street—are children of God.  He loves
and cares about us all, and he wants us to
do the same.  How can we help homeless
people find homes?

I made up a list of resources for homeless
people who come to our church.  I started
with Nancy Owens, the member at Culver
Palms who puts together packets of im-
mediately edible food.  It does no good to
hand out canned goods to homeless people
who don’t have can openers!

Since Mark Manassee, our minister, is
available in the office during the week, he
tends to be the person homeless people
come to.  

He prays for them.  Prayer has great power,
and we can use it to help meet community
needs. He counsels them, really listening to
them and their problems and making it clear
that we understand.  It’s too easy to get the
idea that we know what people need and not
pay careful attention to what they say.

Mark also helps them contact agencies that
provide case management, food, clothing,  
medical help (physical and mental),
temporary shelter and other paths out of

To be able to do the same thing, we in the
congregation need to acquaint ourselves
with the resources that are available.

That why, after hosting the Homeless Count,
our next community effort was a Resource
Fair, featuring representatives of various
public and private agencies at tables that are
accessed in order of need.  Ideally, after
completing the tour of the tables, an
individual can share contact information on
first one step and then the next to help others
get out of homelessness.

Other articles in this website include
Why Homeless? and Next Step.  I hope you'll
write me at to share
your thoughts.
Zac Luben (left) youth minister for the
Culver Palms Church of Christ, and Wayne
Byrd of the Palms Neighborhood Council,
coordinator of the Los Angeles Homeless
Count in Palms, discuss plans as
volunteers gather in the church's
Fellowship Hall.
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