Each October, the Westside Coalition highlights success stories of remarkable people who have overcome great barriers to go from homeless to housed during its Celebrating Success Breakfast. These stories are an important look into the causes of homelessness and how individuals get back on their feet. They are often heartbreaking and difficult to imagine, but the collaborative efforts of the agencies involved shed light on the everyday heroes working in our community. Nancy, one recipient of these collaborative services, bravely shared her story.

Nancy had a longtime habit of taking a drive whenever she needed to think or became depressed. On May 31, 2014, she left Malibu on such a ride after the unexpected death of her 19-year-old rescue cat. Animals were always the anchor in her life. Driving back from Santa Barbara she heard an “explosion” and awoke one week later from a coma. 

She was told she was in a wreck after hitting loose rocks on the canyon side. The injuries to her left side were severe including TBI and compound fractures up and down her side. Nancy remembered nothing of the accident.

Six weeks later, she was told that her Medicare had expired and she would be taken to a local homeless shelter. Instead, she rented a car and returned to Malibu, still unable to walk. Soon after, her doctor noticed a brain irregularity. She had emergency brain surgery to keep her eyesight. 

While later back in the hospital, Budget Rent-a-car reported Nancy’s rental vehicle stolen. She was arrested and charged with three felony counts of Grand Theft Auto and sent to a Correctional Facility for 50 days. She was eventually released with a misdemeanor. Carless, Nancy had to walk everywhere on a still healing pelvis. 

A new group called Community Assistance Resource Team (CART), one of the Westside Coalition’s newest members in Malibu became her anchor. C.A.R.T. is a community-based team of volunteers helping the homeless and those in need, which provides what we often take for granted – clean bodies, clean clothes, food, shelter, and eye-to-eye contact with a helping hand and an open heart.

From there, through the help of former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich, Nancy was introduced to Edelman. Edelman is a part of the County of Los Angeles’ Department of Mental Health. They provide community outreach, clinical services, mental health services, case management and much more for community members, including those experiencing homelessness. 

These organizations came together to advocate for Nancy to receive stable housing near Marina del Rey in a PATH building. 

P.A.T.H. (People Assisting The Homeless) is ending homelessness for individuals, families, and communities. Nancy now lives at PATH Villas at Del Rey, a supportive housing community reserved for individuals with a mental health disability who have experienced homelessness. Full-time on-site case management engages and connects residents with services that promote health, stability, and quality of life.

We hope to bring many more stories of success highlighting extraordinary people overcoming great barriers with the help of a network of social service and community organizations working arm in arm to address the very complex crisis of homelessness. 

Ultimately, without a coalition of organizations to address the compounded needs of individuals like Nancy, many more people would fall through the cracks. It takes a combination of service providers to communicate and forge these connections for these individuals for their services to be most effective. 

Darci Niva is the Director of the Westside Coalition