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My Sunday Column: Get up and do something about the homeless — The LA River & The Passion of Robert the Walker

My connection with Robert the Walker started back in March with an emailed copy of his letter to Burbank officials about how much he loves the newly-opened Glendale Narrows portion of the Los Angeles Riverwalk and the sadness he feels seeing homeless people living there.

He didn’t get an answer to his question: “How about a couple of bucks to create a sanctuary for the homeless, vagrant scavengers that are living (on) your streets?” Several dozen emails followed in the ensuing months.

They contained pictures of the beauty of the Narrows and the ugliness of homeless people hidden in the nooks and crannies and the trash they leave around.

His missive at the end of August pushed me to take a greater interest: “Seeing some innocent kids going down to the river at night to have their fun, or a single woman walking her dog. Would these innocent folks represent an opportunity to the homeless who have nothing … this is a disaster waiting to happen.”

So I made a date for Robert the Walker’s Glendale Narrows tour — a date that coincidentally occurred the same morning last week when I got an email from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about the city’s 232nd birthday. (Watch Garcetti’s video up the river with a paddle http://youtu.be/K9RHFMuJu3A)

“The L.A. River is the best-kept secret of Los Angeles! You can bike, kayak, walk and run throughout the 51-mile stretch with great scenery like Glendale Narrows and Atwater Crossing,” Garcetti wrote in explaining it was the public’s choice to use photos of the river to greet tourists arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.

Still, I was not prepared for the beauty, the serenity I encountered when I met up with Robert the Walker or the truly L.A. vista of natural beauty amid two massive freeways and steel-and-glass high-rises — the light and dark of a schizoid place in a single image.

We were at the start of the mile-long first-phase pathway, the exact point where Burbank, Glendale and L.A. meet — a political and law enforcement no-man’s land.

“This is a bird habitat, birds you don’t see every day,” Robert the Walker explained. “That’s a stilt over there. That black bird there, standing on the rock, that’s a cormorant. That channel over there is where the fish all come down, guys are around here all the time with fly rods.”

Before we’ve gone very far, we encounter a guy named John Pearson, who tends the native gardens of succulents and cactuses and who comes regularly to look after what he helped create as the Glendale Parks Department’s project manager for the Narrows.

“This was my baby, still is,” said Pearson, who retired a year ago. “We started this back in the late ’90s. It took a long time to get all the property issues resolved because of the overlapping jurisdictions and the easements we needed from Disney and others. Now I’m just a volunteer helping out.”

We resume our stroll and Robert the Walker points out what he sees in the river. “Look at the cormorant, he’s posing for you. There’s a green heron. A pair of black-hooded mergansers will spend the winter here. Oh, and there, right in the middle, is the common egret and some seagulls,” he said.

“How beautiful is that? That was me standing there at 17 looking at the world in wonder.”

At that point, the story of Robert the Walker starts to tumble out and I learn how, at the age of 68, this retired star salesman, actor, writer and so many other things winds up finding his calling as the self-styled janitor, gardener, photographer and policeman protecting this mile-long trail.

He is the son of a Syrian father and British mother and grew up in Dearborn, Mich., home base for the Ford Motor Company, at a time when Arabs were not very welcome.

At 17, he took his guitar and his Elvis Presley hair on the road, hitchhiking to L.A. in search of fame and fortune.

Half a century later, things didn’t quite work out the way he’d dreamed, but he made good money and got to live in New York and the Bay Area before winding up selling post-production services for TV and film projects in L.A.

His wife died nine years ago, their daughter has grown into womanhood and now he’s writing a book about the moral dilemma of someone happening onto a murder scene where $10 million is lying on the floor and no one is around.

Do you take the money and run or do you call the cops? Interesting guy, this Robert the Walker, who finally tells me his last name is Acey.

He tells me he lives down Riverside Drive in an apartment and how he walked nearly every day along the Equestrian Center trails that run all the way to Warner Bros. studios until the Glendale Narrows became his passion.

“It’s nature in the city, you got a cormorant and a stilt talking to each other,” he said. “This is peace and quiet and love. It’s spiritual. And yet we’ve got a problem waiting to happen. We can’t have crazies living in our park. They’re an intrusion, they don’t fit. We got to deal with it, come up with a solution.”

I run Robert the Walker’s “Get Up and Do Something” philosophy by Glendale Police Lt. Bruce Fox, who has spoken with him many times and who shares his concerns about the homeless problem and the public’s safety.

“He’s a great guy but he might expect a little more out of me than I can perform,” Fox says.

“We will literally drive a homeless guy to a rehab center once he or she says they’ll come. If there’s even a glimmer of hope that they want some service, we’ll get it to them; but these guys are very, very service-resistant, so we’re in maintenance mode, making sure it doesn’t lead to crime,” Fox explained.

The homeless are a big problem with their dysfunction, psychological issues, addictions — problems that defy simple solutions that are humane, problems that can’t be alleviated unless more people adopt Robert the Walker’s “Get Up and Do Something” philosophy. (THIS COLUMN WAS WRITTEN FOR THE GLENDALE NEWS-PRESS)

(PHOTOS OF BIRDS PROVIDED BY ROBERT THE WALKER)

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38 Responses to My Sunday Column: Get up and do something about the homeless — The LA River & The Passion of Robert the Walker

  1. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Vacationing Ron who is also on vacation 09/08/2013 says:

    The homeless go where Liberal-Run cities will TOLERATE

  2. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Vacationing Ron who is also on vacation 09/08/2013 says:

    (from post above, continued)….IT! Cities ran by NON-FOOLS don’t toletate it and thus they don’t have a “problem” with it. L.A. is known as a city who allows the streets to be ran by criminals, prostitutes, drug purveyors, pick-pockets, and others wanted on warrants. Certain parts of L.A., however, will pick up these BUMBS and drive them to Downtown or to Van Nuys and let those non-represented homeowners deal with it. Since the Condos and Hotels went up near L.A. Live, this Downtown-Homeless Dump is getting to be a serious problem for the Cops and the City Hall Mafia. The next solution will be to bus these BUMBS to San-Freak-Sicko or to Oakland where they will be right at home(less.)

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      Wayne — We’re having a HUGE homeless problem w/ the homeless here in Sunland-Tujunga– partially because Richard Alarcon masterminded a dumping plan to help mitigate Jan Perry’s Skid Row population by dumping them here. Now our NEW Mexican-in-Charge, Felipe Fuentes is throwing a gigantic “Homeless Resource Fair” here in Sunland Park on Sept. 23rd, from 9:AM to 1:PM and is even busing in MORE homeless bums from surrounding areas. When I spoke w/ Fuentes’ right-hand man, Wesley Hernandez last week I asked him how he planned to guarantee these imported bums were going to get BACK on their respective buses after the Fair. “W-Well, I HOPE they get back on their buses,” he replied uneasily. “What do you mean, ‘hope?’ MAKE ‘em get back on their buses and get ‘em OUT of here,” I suggested pointedly. “We can’t do that,” Hernandez said sheepishly. “WHY NOT?” I demanded. “They have rights. We can’t force them to go anywhere— that would be KIDNAPPING.”

  3. teddy says:

    Thank you, Ron, for this story about “Acey” and the LA River.
    The first thing for me is prayer for the homeless. The second is a “thank you” to Acey.
    I don’t know what to do, but somebody does and will be able to help because of your story…..

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      “Prayer for the homeless…” (Did you mean “PRAY for the homeless,” possibly?) Oh, PLEASE, Teddy! Spare us your do-nothing, do-gooder sentiments!!

      • LA Moderator says:

        Rita,

        The noun prayer works fine for this sentence, and the sentiment is sincere…that Teddy wouldn’t be the only one.

        The empathy for the homeless, who should never be characterized as broadly negative as even Ron/Robert’s do-gooding portrays them.

        Yes, there are some with problems, and those that would dump downtown – or even out-of-the-way like umder a bridge or along the river – just shift the potential problem, as opposed to solving it. But keep in mind…sometimes the homeless are only so situationally…perfectly functional families who just can’t maintain housing stability for a while. (I can site a wonderful faimily oriented shelter a couple blocks from the river, near Glendale/Atwater village. My old Glendale church did more than engage in prayer for those folks, but volunteered to help run the shelter…and my choir made an annual visit for the holidays for some Christmas Carols and gift-giving!)

        Law enforcement is important…for trespassers, publically intoxicated, and those undocumented immagrantes of whom we’re branded intollerant if we use the ‘I’ word. But empathy for the weak, the innocent, and the unfortunate is fundamental for finding better solutions.

        • Rita-of-Sunland says:

          You can’t solve problems for other people, especially when they don’t want to be helped. These crazies have gone feral and WILL NOT be contained within 4 walls, no matter how much you fools “pray,” or throw social services at their toothless, matted heads. I’m sick of being told I must co-exist with and EMBRACE these bums, most of which are users, criminals and just plain NUTS. They’re building a coupla new permanent housing “facilities” here in S-T– each unit is worth $386,000.00 and yet they’re GIVING them away to the homeless who’ll most likely strip them of their silver faucets, door nobs and sell ‘em out of their shopping carts on the streets. It’s MY tax dollar that pays to have these hell-holes built, it’s MY tax dollar that pays gov’t workers to go out and recruit occupants and it’ll be MY tax dollar that pays to refurbish each apt. after it’s stripped, trashed, and fecal matter is smeared on all the walls. But you want me to PRAY for these creeps?? Frankly, I have better things to do. Hey, why don’t YOU and Teddy just ADOPT a couple of these lovely homeless individuals and have ‘em come live with YOU guys, respectively, if you wanna be so damned supportive of these creeps. Lock up these nutty criminals and give them all lobotomies. That’s the only practical solution. Don’t you feel it’s important to mitigate their impact on productive citizens?

          • LA Moderator says:

            There’s another shelter going in mid-valley, so yes, I know that there’s scrutiny that needs to be done.

            I’m not delusional about the efficacy of certain programs…or the willingness of those who have lost the capability of making decisions that are in their own best interest. I have a friend…who I originally eyed with suspicion as he ranted and raved in my church. Known him now for years now, and while he may waver between appreciating my counsel and yelling at me for setting boundaries of my small ‘loans’ so that he can eat, manage some bus-fare so he can get to treatment (in Ventura County) or get medication, he still is a man with dignity, and worthy of civil treatment. He’s mentioned how some shelters are no better than the stays in jail wards…it can be downright dangerous!

            I’m not asking you to embrace the problems of others…some of which CAN be helped here and there.

            But don’t begrudge those who do.

            Particularly if you want to build consensus for some of the challenges we need to meet together.

          • anonymous says:

            …and exactly where in Mid-Valley
            will this shelter be located…and…
            who are the “community leaders”
            we can “thank”…

          • LA Moderator says:

            2:32…

            I’ll double check the cross streets for you, but I don’t think this exactly hit the radar of local neighborhoods…somwhere near the border of CD3 & CD12.

            I’ll find out.

          • LA Moderator says:

            Conflicting reports as to whether it’s Reseda/Parthenia, or DeSoto Plummer. Supposedly, it was mentioned in Mitch Englander’s weekly email blast…still looking.

  4. Carl Olson says:

    LA River could be a much bigger resource. Right now 2/3 of the water in LA River just flows out to the sea instead of being captured. We should build some check dams so that the water is able to percolate down into the groundwater. Small investment, big return. Who will lead the charge?

    • LA Moderator says:

      Carl,

      Check the LA River Master Plan, and you’ll find dozens of projects.

      DWP has lots of plans for capturing stormwater, and treating it so as to replinish aquafers (if not dilute the polution impacting them).

      Then…check your wallet. Any potential funding source…like the California Bonds passed in 2002, helped fund all kinds of projects…including a few links of our own river. There’s a lot of lovely parks, and bridges, and walkways…but we are still being asked to fund core infrastructure prerogatives: Sacromento River Delta (lest the levies break) is high on the list of what will pass through extra expense from MWD.

      Likewise, if the DWP can raise core rates…or ‘cost adjustment factors’, they will…

      And don’t forget the County level (the state passed a law allowing the County to propose funding for ‘projects’ and standards…in yet another way to get around Proposition 13), which gave us the stormwater parcel fee (they dare not call it a tax) that mass opposition managed to slow down the Supervisors from moving it to ballot.

      And for a little deja vu…the California Water Bond is on again…shooting for the November 4, 2014 ballot, as a legislatively-referred bond act. The measure is known by its supporters as the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act.

      Long story short…they can’t tax the rain, but they can make sure you have to pay interest on whatever mechanism you devise to capture it.

      • Carl Olson says:

        It would seem that every gallon of water that is captured is one less gallon to be bought or otherwise obtained from other sources. There’s got to be a bonanza in here somewhere. The 2/3 of the water in the LA River that is going out to the ocean is NOT doing us any good. The ocean has plenty of water already.

  5. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Vacationing Ron who has returned to L.A. Hellhole from vacation 09/08/2013 says:

    The L.A. River should be dammed up—but the problem is the City is God DAMNED! So the water will be wasted out to sea and the DWP will pump the toxic Valley groundwater and recirculate “Poopy-Water” for the Valley’s Liberal Fools to drink and die from, and pay40% MORE FOR TOO! In the San Gabriel Valley, they are allowing themselves to switch to CLORNATED water vs. Clorinated water! This type of clorine STAYS SOLID WITHIN THE WATER and can kill people on Dialysis–in other words—OLD PEOPLE. You’ll have to find some land with YOUR OWN WATER WELL and PUMP YOUR OWN STASH OF WATER if you plan to live past 55! Can’t do that in L.A. City (DWP won’t ever allow this) so you’ll have to go elsewhere to find this. I went to Arrowhead Lake last month and couldn’t believe the water up there! The DWP and the MWD are pumping in water and chemically killing YOU and your family because the water goes through too many old and contaminated pumping houses and water mains. All these wealthy and powerful Hollywood types go to the hills of Malibu, Ventura, and San Berardoo to live in places where they get FRESH GROUND WATER OFF THEIR OWN WELLS! Then they go on T.V. and tell all of us TO CONSERVE WATER!
    Getting back to Teddy—Rita is correct—what the hell is this Liberal Crap Teddy? Can’t you see Mexican Traitors are running CD 1, CD 14, CD 6 and CD 7 and trying to self-deport Rita and the 10 White Landowners that remain in Shadow Hills??? Have the Clowncil PAY REPARATIONS ($2,000,000.00 per landowner) to get the rest of the White Landowners out of CD7 and prepare it for reconquista! Rita will move for that! Same goes for Sultan BigHead I.—PAY ME TO LEAVE ENCINO—Don’t expect me to just give away the fucking farm and run to the hills! Teddy—the RESPONSIBLE HOMEOWNERS are being shut out of all REPRESENTATION and being feed and taxed TO DEATH to fund this quasi-Leninist Revolution that the City Hall Boneheads have in mind. Unlike Tzarist Russia in 1917, the U.S. Constitution guarantees ALL TAKINGS SHALL BE WITH JUST COMPENSATION!!
    One such class-action should be Detroit’s Homeowners who pay their property tax bills and keep up their homes—they should receive a huge award for having their CITY TAKEN right out from under them, leaving their home values WORTHLESS.
    All this crap in these major cities is this—IT’S TIME FOR RESPONSIBLE HOMEOWNERS TO BE REPARATIONS FOR HAVING THEIR CITIES RAN INTO THE TOILET! It’s not race, politics, or religion—IT’S PLAIN OL’ ECONOMICS.

  6. Scott Zwartz says:

    Affixing a label to a group of people does not describe that group.

    Blacks are often not even Black but 3/4 White, Latinos turn out to be Greeks or Italians, while Whettoes are seen as White. Union members are bashed as greedy horrible people raping the public treasury and not hard working people who keep society functioning. Homeless are the most fearful because we all know that we can become homeless.

  7. teddy says:

    Scott – your last sentence means a lot to some of us. Thank you.

  8. MissAnthrope says:

    L.A. Moderator: Very thoughtful and generous, but don’t set perimeters on small food loans; they don’t work, because you can’t count on what the money will be spend on. In stead, actually buy your friend a Happy Meal. Even then, unless you actually see him eat it, he might sell the meal for a bottle of wine or whatever he fancies. Giving cash donations to these people is a waste of money; like bonds there’s no guarantee they’ll spend it on its designated purpose.

  9. Cary Brazeman says:

    Ron,

    You discovered the L.A. River!

    It can be a magical experience, particularly in the Glendale Narrows and at the Sepulveda Basin … so much hope for recreation opportunity as it is revitalized over the next generation.

    Cary

  10. ex valley says:

    Being charitable and helping less fortunate is important but so is quality of life. I think Rita’s posts are about the diminishing quality of life in the valley.
    Of course that does not get addressed by any of your politicians.

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      @ex valley— You are correct! Here in CD 7 (conveniently re-districted and re-zoned so the city can start building hi-rise tenements and make our community a “transit HUB,”) Councilman FELIPE FUENTES and his City Hall-appointed homeless advocacy group is degrading our quality of life for the sake of his own left-wing, socialistic ambitions. If one complains to his office or to our neighborhood council we are simply told we must learn to live WITH the homeless population and give them all sorts of crap they’ve never earned. And then we get accosted every time we walk into a retail store.

      • scott zwartz says:

        Many politicians pretend to be friends to the homeless, but when you watch their behavior over time, you notice that they do not actually do anything to improve the situation.

        • anonymous says:

          wise up… self-serving political “leaders”
          and “community-based-non-profits”
          are know as “poverty-pimps-welfare-hoes”
          because they thrive and profiteer from
          the suffering of the “oppressed”…understand?

          • Rita-of-Sunland says:

            Yup. If these problems ever actually got SOLVED at least half of all gov’t. workers would be out of a job.

  11. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 09/11/2013 whose posts have to await moderation because he's a weeniee says:

    Yes in CD12 the Little Dwarf has been at it again—this time allowing a HOMELESS SHELTER to be going up in the once great homeowner area of Chatsworth! In Sacramento, the Communists are set to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour Jan 1, 2014, then to $10/hr 1/1/2015!
    Meanwhile, Next Tues, at a cost of MILLIONS we have the special election to fill 2 Job Bob’s old State Assembly seat—with a bunch of pro-EBT/Anti-Homeowner Communists/Dumbocrats spending millions to fill this seat. Why? Out of 80 seats? BECAUSE THE DUMBOCRATS NEED IT TO TRY TO KEEP ITS 2/3 MAJORITY so they can continue their revolution, that’s why.
    You’re all voting away the ability to own a home and live here in this entire state. Did you know that Teddy, Scott, and the rest of you registered Dumbocrats? Do you see what harm you’re causing? OF COURSE NOT—you don’t. This has GOT TO END! Stop voting for these bastards! High Speed Rail, ObamaCare, bond measures, tax increases, fee increases, etc. etc. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Use your minds—you can’t let this pack of human garbage have a 2/3 majority in Sacramento—no party should.

    • LA Moderator says:

      Voted!

      Now let’s see if we get somebody other than the usual clones to pick in the runoff…with 11 candidates, nobody should get a majority.

  12. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 09/15/2013 whose posts have to await moderation because he's a weeniee says:

    Ron’s DEMOCRATS have just passed two “great” laws—one allowing all illegals and any terrorist to get a “driving privilege” and another allowing the same gang to get law licenses to practice in California!!! Now you see why Ron hides away at times—his own party is turning California into “Afghanistan-West!”

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      PLUS another law they passed says ya don’t have to admit you’re a convicted felon on a job application.

    • LA Moderator says:

      There were a handful of close-of-session bills slammed through…including the Drivers License where even the titular author (Luis Alejo) didn’t know it was being pulled out of mothballs…after Kevin DeLeon got Brown to flip-flop his campaign promise in a Capitol hallway….

      Then, he huddled with Ricardo Lara, who said, “we did a little covert operation…”

      http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-legislature-20130914,7274675,705868.story

      • ex valley says:

        It’s good to see from the article that there are numerous champions of immigrant rights. Would be great to have at least one champion of taxpayers citizen rights.
        But you would vote for the other champions anyways. Why do you always vote against your own interests?

        • LA Moderator says:

          Well…there you go again…using the ‘royal you’….

          • ex valley says:

            Am I wrong that most of you (probably all) vote against your own interests? Case in point: Villar was not championing your interests but you (yes even if you sat at home), you reelected him. Need more examples? How about *your* champions like boxer or Feinstein ? Do they work hard for you? Rofl. How about berman/sherman ? Surely you had other choices ? How is that working out for you ?
            And I bet garcetti is working overtime so you can have better roads, less traffic , no graffiti, more jobs (and I don’t mean the ones where condoms are involved). What? Can’t hear?

          • LA Moderator says:

            Nope…not a one of those folks got my votes.

            Ever.

            I realize we need to build pluralities, but as they say…Vive la Résistance!

  13. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 09/18/2013 whose posts have to await moderation because he's a weeniee says:

    Great Posts!!!! Seems Ron may be emerging out of his hiding?

  14. JEAN FLEMING says:

    RON…I LOVE READING YOUR COLUMN …YOU ARE BRIGHT AND HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR

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