Q. I know a lady who recently lost her job and became homeless due to the recession. She has been sleeping in other people’s cars (with their permission) for the time being until she can collect Social Security benefits. He owns a car, but it was involved in a hit-and-run accident. Her car is sitting at a body shop but she doesn’t have the money to pay to get it out. The body shop says they own the car now and that she has no right to it. She doesn’t want to contact the police because she’s afraid they’ll treat her differently because she is homeless. I feel sorry for her. Is there anything the police can do to help her out?

A. First, I’d like to address the issue of meeting the woman’s basic needs, including shelter. Anyone can dial 211 from any pay phone to find out what is available for shelter. The call is free and the operator will provide specific information to the caller regarding where to meet and what time to meet. If this person has extended family members but are unable to contact them, then she can contact West Coast Care. West Coast Care is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting homeless looking to reunite with their families. Representatives from West Coast Care can be contacted Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. near the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier at Colorado and Ocean avenues. They meet in Palisades Park near the canon. For more information on West Coast Care, please contact Ron Hooks at (310) 351-2565 or e-mail westcoastcare@gmail.com.

As far as her vehicle is concerned, it sounds like a contractual or civil problem. These types of matters are not handled by local law enforcement personnel. Normally, we advise people to contact or seek legal counsel when these types of matters arise. If she feels her vehicle has been unjustly towed, I would suggest she contact the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit for guidance. They can be contacted at 1685 Main St. room 310 or she can call them at (310) 458-8336.

There are also several city services this person may benefit from during this time of need. The Santa Monica Police Department has a Homeless Liaison Program (H.L.P.) which is made up of six police officers dedicated to assisting members of the Santa Monica community in dealing with homeless related issues. These officers are very knowledgeable in the various resources available throughout Santa Monica. They can be contacted by visiting the Santa Monica Public Safety Facility or by calling them directly at (310) 458-8953.

If you’re able to contact this person, please let her know that the Santa Monica Police Department does not discriminate against a person due to their socioeconomic status. We strive to provide the same level of exemplary service to all members of this community. Our department works closely with the Human Services Division and collaborates on a regular basis with local service providers in a combined effort to help those in need. Homelessness is not a crime, and I really hope the woman you have written about understands that our first concern is to help wherever possible.

I hope this information is very helpful in getting this person the assistance needed to get back on her feet. At the very least, please have her get in contact with me. I will do all that I can to lead her in the right direction. My contact information is listed below.

Q. What is the violation for changing lanes in an intersection? I looked through the California Vehicle Code, and I could not find a section that specifically stated such activity was a violation.

A. There is no section in the California Vehicle Code which specifically addresses changing lanes in an intersection. Changing lanes in an intersection is something most drivers learned not to do during driver’s training. The practice is considered unsafe and may cause confusion to other drivers on the road.

Most intersections do not include any pavement markings (yellow or white lines). As a general rule, it is assumed that when you travel through an intersection, you will stay on the same path as you entered. This is the safest way to proceed.

Here’s a scenario to better explain the theory: In California, a person may make a right turn at an intersection against a red light (as long as there are no signs prohibiting such action). Suppose there’s a car heading east on Colorado Avenue in the no. 1 lane (lanes are numbered from the center) approaching the intersection. This car has a green light. The no. 2 lane is free and clear of any vehicles, so you begin to make your right turn onto Colorado, thinking it’s clear and suddenly, crash! You’ve been hit by the car that was traveling in the no. 1 lane. You assumed that driver was going to stay on the path through the intersection, but that’s not the case here. The driver of that car changed his mind and changed lanes while passing through the intersection.

Regardless of fault, this collision scenario could have been prevented if there was not a lane change in the intersection or you waited until there were no cars approaching the intersection. This is just an example of what can really happen. Please use caution while driving and try to avoid making too many assumptions on what other drivers may do. Be safe!

This column was prepared by NRO Mike Boyd, Beat 8 (Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or michael.boyd@smgov.net.

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