Brian Ulf’s background in real estate and addiction recovery contributes to his involvement in many organizations, but notably his work with Shares Self-Help and the Recovery Exchange and Share Collaborative Housing programs. The unique approach to both housing and recovery needs connects the unsheltered with single-family homes for housing, along with needed services and peer support groups led by specialized peer bridgers. Peer bridgers help residents resolve conflicts, set long and short-term goals, and work toward the next step in their life. The program is designed to meet people where they are and facilitate their ability to make their own life choices. Experience shows that people thrive when they have a personal connection to their home, where they get peer support and feel loved and connected to their community. From volunteers to financial contributions, there are ways to support these and other programs that help the unsheltered on their way to the success and lives they desire.
Mentioned in this episode
Share Collaborative Housing
Venice Neighborhood Council Homeless Committee
Casa de LA Las Amigas Women Recovery
Hope of the Valley
The Global Bridge Foundation
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast
The Missing Conversation, Episode Eight.
Brian Ulf: (00:04)
Our philosophy is we’re going to help you get the job that you want, not the job that I tell you to go get. And so what are your fingerprints say that you came to be in this world and what are you here to do? And we try to work with them to figure out that goal.
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking. As we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (00:56)
Welcome to The Missing Conversation, where we explore issues on the world stage that have not been brought into the public eye to benefit our planet in the maximum way. Thanks for tuning in to this very important and unique episode that highlights another creative approach dealing with homelessness. That to the best of my knowledge, isn’t duplicated in Los Angeles or even beyond Brian Ulf currently serves as the president and board chair of Shares Self-help and Recovery Exchange and Share Collaborative Housing. Brian is a director on the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles Board, the LAPD Community Police Advisory Board, the UCLA Extension School Advisory Board, the Venice Neighborhood Council Homeless Committee, and the Venice Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Brian served for 11 years on the Weinguard Center on skid row, the Casa de LA Las Amigas Women Recovery in Pasadena, and the Promises Alumni Advisory Board. So Brian welcome. It’s really, really a pleasure and honor to have you with us.
Brian Ulf: (02:18)
Thanks, Robert. It’s a, it’s a great pleasure to be with you. And again, thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your show. And, uh, it’s been a pleasure to get to know you and the work of the Global Bridge Foundation. Your stuff is cutting edge. The papers that I’ve read, the stuff about you, it’s, it’s fascinating and it’s, it’s, uh, you’re going to be a big change in the world. So I appreciate being here.
Robert Strock: (02:38)
Yeah, I, I just can’t wait to highlight the unique and in a certain way, common sense approach, practical nitty-gritty, uh, that really differentiate you from a lot from all the other programs, really in a couple of key ways. So, so Brian, would you tell us about Project Share and how long it’s been going on, how it Works?
Brian Ulf: (03:00)
Uh, sure. Um, I’m happy to, and I’m thrilled and I’m glad that we’re getting a chance to expose a little bit about this program what it’s about, because like you said, it is one of the most unique, uh, situations that I’ve seen as it relates to, uh, solving this problem with calmness, but more importantly, uh, getting people better and, uh, transforming them back into society, but Share, as you said, as the Self-help Recovery Exchange, and it’s basically an evidence-based practice that’s been in effect since 1993. Um, as you know, like, uh, social support is about 40% of, uh, how you determine whether people are okay or not, and Share’s Programs use best practices and self-support groups to increase the social support for people. Um, we also have two recovery communities. One is in downtown LA and the other’s in Culver City, uh, which brings together the members of the community in providing self-help support groups that deal with all sorts of types of trauma issues from physical health to trauma, to mental health and different behavior issues.
Brian Ulf: (04:04)
We also run a peer run respite and Monterey Park. Uh, we, uh, as you mentioned, we do the Share Collaborative Housing, which, uh, basically as a Housing Now model of shared recovery housing. And we can talk obviously more about that, but it’s an approved by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and it’s evidence-based best practices. And, uh, that means a lot when you’re out in the marketplace today, evidence-based best practices. We also provide a training program that’s trained over 500 peer specialists, in peer support positions throughout, uh, many California, uh, communities all across the country.
Robert Strock: (04:43)
I think that is such a key thing to two key things. One is that you’re really using existing real estate rather than having to build these $500,000 units or even the smaller units, but using vacant spaces to create mini communities and training other people to do it generously so that it can be spread in a wide, to a wider, uh, area beyond Los Angeles. So I congratulate that to you and our listeners. I hope they really let in the common sense of looking, at looking for the right kind of vacancies that can create a community. So, so one of the ways that you, uh, deal with this housing and other services in detail?
Brian Ulf: (05:33)
Well, um, you know, my background for almost 40 years has been in real estate. So I understand the components of real estate from residential to industrial, to commercial, to all these other things. So I had a keen sense of what was going on in that. Uh, I also happened to be 18 years sober. So I learned about the recovery world and trying to combine those two is what we did, but the model that Share has, you know, and I read and heard about this model, I just kind of shook my head cause it was unbelievable. You know, right now there’s over 10,000 single family homes available in Los Angeles that are available for rent. Uh, and so what we do is we go in and Share goes and negotiates with the homeowners to move people into these homes and move them in quickly. We then, uh, use the evidence-based practices, uh, to support the people and connect them with self-help support groups and other services so that they can quickly achieve their goals.
Brian Ulf: (06:27)
I mean, it’s, it’s kind of incredible how quickly this all can take place and we’ll get through this and explain more, but you know, the outcomes that we’re seeing compared to others, and, and I don’t really want to bash anybody else that’s providing services or any of that, but our outcomes, you know, I think the difference, uh, that we say our outcomes are who the people become. You know, it’s not how much money did we save getting them off the street. But, you know, we have a huge amount, at least 25 to 30% of our residents with severe mental illnesses get jobs within the first year and that they can then maintain their own dwellings and they can move back into market rate housing. You know, uh, half the people that come to us, believe it, or not have jobs as they’re coming in. You know, they just got on hard luck, they lost their money, they did whatever, and they have jobs, but they couldn’t afford to find a place to live.
Brian Ulf: (07:16)
Um, uh, a lot of our people, once they get on their feet, they reenact with their families, you know, they, uh, you know, very small percentage of people that come into Share need a higher level of care, but I think it’s under 10%. Um, uh, the big key to the secret sauce is our self-help support groups. We have over 90% of our residents attend self-help support groups, uh, and even, you know, 15 to 20% of our people go on and enroll into higher education. So it’s amazing when you sit there and actually look at these outcomes and provide support services that help them get to those and achieve those goals.
Robert Strock: (07:52)
I know that you have, um, one key person in each house that really serves as kind of a master uniter. Now, are they doing more than really creating a sense of community and working with people individually? Are they also working on the next steps?
Brian Ulf: (08:13)
Absolutely. Um, one of the things on my resume is I’m a certified peer specialist, which means I have lived experience in this, uh, in this work. Uh, my 18 years of sobriety, uh, has led me to be able to go back and talk to other people who are experiencing problems and different things that I have. And, uh, and I can come in and help them kind of like a sponsor in an AA program will appear as a certified specialist that has lived experience, like-minded, they might have been homeless before. They might be an AA. They might be domestic abuse victims and all those kinds of things. When we bring those people in and identified that, Hey, we’ve been there, done that. It’s a much different relationship benefits, therapist to person or someone of authority saying, Hey, you’ve got this issue, I’ll fix it. Uh, or whatever.
Brian Ulf: (09:04)
So our peer specialists or people that come into these homes and meet them where they are, they provide a life plan, uh, which they go five years out and work backwards. Uh, they run the houses, everybody that comes into a Share House. These people aren’t told what to do. You tell people on the streets, what to do, you say, Hey, you’re going to do this. What do they do? They do the opposite. And so in this setting of, of, of a collaborative housing home, these peer bridgers sit with them and work through their issues and let them make the decisions. Uh, the house runs based on the house rules that are brought forth by the group that lives there. Uh, there’s a lot of conflict resolution. There’s a lot of things that take place. And I’m sure, uh, if you want to go into more detail on that, whatever you want to.
Robert Strock: (09:49)
Yeah. And, and again, that is such a unique model to have a smaller group. And you have, as you called it a peer bridger, um, could you tell us in an impossible minute, uh, meaning concisely.
Brian Ulf: (10:06)
Am I already, am I already talking too much? I’m sorry. My mother told me not to do that, but sorry about that.
Robert Strock: (10:13)
I didn’t listen to my mother either.
Brian Ulf: (10:14)
Um, in recovery.
Robert Strock: (10:16)
Yeah. So, so how do you, uh, select the peer bridgers, bridgers? And, and can you give us, uh, a one minute course on something that unquestionably could take hours?
Brian Ulf: (10:33)
Well, peer bridgers come to us because it’s a vocation that people come to get a job. I mean, you can come to Share and sign up and take one of these classes. And, uh, it’s, uh, it’s several classes over months to become qualified and it’s basically you’re taught, it’s it’s, it’s, uh, it’s being a sponsor in AA times, you know, 5 or 10 or 15 on top of that, because they have, we’re taught to give them the resources to tell you whether you should be in an AA membership group, because you should be an Overeaters, if you should be in this, you know, they deal with specific traumas and they become extremely, uh, proficient in being able to identify the issues, you know, as a therapist, you come in and you can deal with these people and, and, uh, you know, from your education on how they are. Our peers know from education of lived experience. So it’s a little different, and it’s not to say that Share couldn’t use an oversight or extra additional therapy or a name that you’ve written in some of your white papers that we can talk about when whenever you’d want to.
Robert Strock: (11:32)
That’s great. And once they come to you, I mean, are they actually specifically trained to deal with homelessness? Or is that something you have to add for them.
Brian Ulf: (11:41)
Homelessness? I mean, when you put a tag on somebody, I mean, this is just a snapshot in time. They might be homelessness, but they’re not homelessness once they come into our house. So we’re not even talking to them about homelessness, they’re already in, all right. Now we’re talking about what’s going to happen next. You know, we’re not warehousing people, we’re not part of the existing, permanent supportive housing model. That’s putting people in and having voluntary services. Our small group of people are working together as a unit, a family together, and the peer bridger orchestrates the conversation, provides issue resolution, uh, options, and best practices on how to get there. It’s like refereeing, a family, uh, families disagree, they get in fights. This is what a peer bridger comes in to do.
Robert Strock: (12:25)
Right. But there’s, I would guess there’s nuances in every population that are slightly different, where your experience with working with people, you know, it’s like if you’re dealing with a, with a schizophrenia population or you’re dealing with an abused population, or, you know, um, uh, or vats, it’s gotta be nuances. You, you must give them some tips.
Brian Ulf: (12:48)
Totally. I mean, you can’t send a peer bridger that comes in that’s, uh, that’s got trauma from sexual abuse and all of a sudden putting them in with five Marines that are in a house that are coming back from Iraq and says, Hey, I’m a 26 year old USC graduate student straight on and I’m going to deal with your trauma, your post-traumatic stress. And they all look and go F you, you know, what do you know about that? So we bring in specialized peer bridgers to kind of deal with what’s happening within each house. You know, when women houses, men houses, transgender houses, you know, vets houses, you know, they can be all moved and made up into different, different types of people.
Robert Strock: (13:24)
Can you clarify for us, um, I know you sort of already have it happy you create a vocational plan and also how you deal with food.
Brian Ulf: (13:36)
Um, you know, like I said, we, uh, we develop a plan for success with each residence that basically establishes this five-year goal. And, uh, then it maps out how people can, um, lead their way through to achieving those goals. And many, uh, many of the houses are vocational stuff. You know, I, I, I mentioned to you that between 25 and 30% of the people get jobs within the first year and half, the people already have jobs, but it’s not to say that, uh, that we’re not going to go help them get jobs. It’s just our, our philosophy is we’re going to help you get the job that you want, not the job that I tell you to go get. And so what are your fingerprints say that you came to be in this world and what are you here to do? And we try to work with them to figure out that goal.
Brian Ulf: (14:19)
Um, as far as cooking and food, we don’t provide meals. But what we do is we provide a family that sits there. And let’s say, as an individual, you have $10 a day to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But if you’re in a group with 10 people together, you have a hundred dollars. So if you go out to the market and shop for your 10, you’re going to have a tough time getting three meals. If we put a hundred and we all go shopping together, now we have a breakfast, lunch and a dinner, and we cook together, work together. And guess what? That then works and says, I can do that on my own. When I moved to my own apartment, when I do get better, when my outcome of who I become gets better. When I moved back home with my family, all those things are part of vocational training and how we deal with food.
Robert Strock: (15:00)
Beautiful. And again, I’m visualizing this two-story, uh, four or five bedrooms on each level and kind of, kind of the magic of being able to have a real estate expertise, isolate those properties, and then being able to create that sense of community. So you’ve really isolated the areas that have, uh, facilities that are like that.
Brian Ulf: (15:28)
Well, yeah. What are our traditional go-to? Uh, the has always been the single family home. Okay. It’s just a neighborhood, single family home. Uh, we ran into a developer that was building two story, five bedrooms, three baths, upstairs, five bedrooms, three baths downstairs. We put two people in every room. So that facility would hold 20 people 10, upstairs, 10 downstairs. They all have their separate areas. Everything’s like, I think when you move into our place, I think I might’ve mentioned, it’s like Airbnb, everything’s there for, you know, first and last rent. Um, no security deposit, no background checks. You’re here, here are the rooms, two people, per person, and it, and it seems to work out very well.
Robert Strock: (16:07)
That’s great. Um, again, very, very unique. Uh, what other agencies do you work with to assist your program?
Brian Ulf: (16:16)
That’s been, it’s been interesting because, uh, we, we’ve had at least 180 to 190, uh, agencies across LA bring referrals to Share for housing. And, you know, the reason why they’re doing that because they can’t refer them to anywhere else because the system that they’re in right now can’t produce enough housing. So they come to us, even though we’re not funded in their programs, they bring housing to us cause they know they can move people in, uh, today, at worst case 48 hours from now. Um, uh, we work with academic community partners to incorporate all, uh, our newest and latest, greatest and, and research. Uh, there’s national networks for peer support and practitioners. Uh, there’s other shared housing providers that Shares get involved with, um, you know, we connect, share, uh, residents with various services, you know, and we encourage our, uh, our residents to join community organizations, uh, including faith-based or whatever. There’s all we’re non-denominational, uh, type deal.
Robert Strock: (17:16)
Okay. Well, how do you go about discerning compatible roommates and how often are there openings available these days and through the past? Cause it must be that, you know, you, you, you can’t always have a vacancy because people aren’t holding vacancies for you. So combination of how you discern roommates and you know, how you keep current, you must have somebody out there scouting on a regular basis.
Brian Ulf: (17:43)
We, we do, but you know, you have to understand, again, our program because many people that use Share Collaborative Housing, it’s, it’s more of a launching pad, uh, for them to reach their ultimate success and to move on into other market res housing. Um, and so for every bear, uh, for every bed that Share, uh, has Share houses 1.6 people, so there’s constant vacancies and, uh, and then Share moves in new people. We have software that there’s a vacancy with a landlord. He calls us and we instantly know, and our housing, uh, providers or, or, uh, navigators will come in and immediately, uh, move people in. Um, you know, sheriffs supports the residents and as far as conflicts and stuff, when you’re putting people in, you know, we support the residents, uh, in making choices about roommate, roommates and their situations, um, because it’s better for them to choose and resolve their own issues, uh, with the roommates themselves.
Brian Ulf: (18:39)
Um, and that’s part of what a peer bridger comes in and starts to identify problems that are existing in these says, Hey, it’s just like, you know, I don’t want to, I don’t want to live in the same room with my brother, or why are you putting me in here with my sister, uh, that you fight and scream and do this? No, that’s my bed. This is my bed. You go through these things, but that’s everyday life in learning how to deal with conflict resolution. And so it eventually works out. Uh, and everybody seems to be fine.
Robert Strock: (19:02)
How often do you have to swap people around?
Brian Ulf: (19:05)
You know, you end up swapping people in and out based on, let’s say the group makes the house rules themselves, not, I’m not making the rules. They make the rules like no drinking in the house, no smoking pot in the house, no overnight, there’s rules that they make up within the house. And let’s say somebody, you know, uh, drinking vodka bottles in their room at night and everybody says, Hey, you gotta, you gotta go. And the guy continues to do it, or she, or he and continues to do it. And eventually we go to that person now and say, Hey, it’s not working out. If you want to continue to drink, you know, we got to deal with this issue. If it gets to be too big, an issue, we’ll pick them up and move him to another house. And then if it’s still going on, he moves to another house. And then another house, you know, after about the third or fourth house you get moved to, you might realize that you’re the common denominator in the problem. And so, you know, Share right now has never kicked anybody out of a Share program. And we don’t intend on doing that either. So that, that’s one of the unique things that Share has on their track record. Right?
Robert Strock: (20:00)
That’s a big statement. I mean, that’s a really big statement. And again, it lends itself toward the benefit that you offer that it’s not like you have one building and either make it, or you don’t make it. It’s like, you’re, you’re really able to give the individual enough experience that they really can see. Oh, I guess I am the common denominator, like you said, and, and, and finally become more motivated. And also the other component of that psychologically is they still feel accepted and they are still being accepted.
Brian Ulf: (20:34)
Yeah, we meet you where you are. If you have a problem, that’s cool. You know, and when you join AA, it doesn’t mean you have to be sober. All you have to have is a desire to stop drinking. You know, it doesn’t say you have to be perfect. And so we, we work, uh, you know, when you, the institutional or the, or the funded deals, you know, they put you in a single room by yourself because that’s humane. You know, what, as a person in recovery myself, if you put me in a room by myself, I’m outnumbered, all right. The committee is talking to me when I have a roommate, I can start talking about this stuff. If you get up early and go to an AA meeting, I’m going to go with you. If you’re going to this or that, if you’re getting a job, can I go, if you’re going to the market, let’s go, you start forming family and community, which is the beginning thing we talked about is self-help support. Usually support comes from your family. And most of these people’s cases, families where the trauma started from. So we’re, re-engineering, you know, how they think about being trusted, how they feel about being in a family, how they feel about being accommodated and accountable to their behaviors and it, and it’s just amazing to watch how it happens, Robert.
Robert Strock: (21:37)
Yeah and when you said the word committee for those that can’t see you, but you put your hands around your head and you . . .
Brian Ulf: (21:45)
. . . have us the hamster wheel.
Robert Strock: (21:46)
Yeah, hamster wheel inside your brain, right. Yeah, yeah. Right, right. So what would apartment or owners do and what would they need to do to really let, let you know? And how would they let you know that they want, they want to be part of your program?
Brian Ulf: (22:01)
Yeah, well, again, again, first, as I mentioned to you Share Collaborate Housing traditionally has only used single family homes rather than apartments. Uh, duplexes are something that we’re starting to heavily look at because it houses many more people than a single family house. You’ll, for a three bedroom house, houses six people, a duplex houses, 20, you know, so, uh, the scale can go up much larger, um, you know, in it. And the reason we do housing, uh, uh, in, in single family housing, because you just get more for your money in a single family house, you know, the cost per square foot is lower. Uh, people are ever, the, by, you know, more of a single family home feel, you get your own front yard, you get a backyard, you know, you have a garage, dining room, living rooms, uh, and all these features that apartments don’t typically have.
Brian Ulf: (22:46)
Um, and you know, the, it’s an interesting concept, you know, when people move into, uh, what becomes, what they believe is their white picket fence type home. It changes your mental, uh, thought process. You know, Hey mom, you’re not gonna believe this. I’m living in this unbelievable duplex home with 10 people. It’s amazing. I’m not on the street, blah, blah, blah. Hey, can I come home? I mean, you would just be amazed when you give somebody that, and you can build these homes or have these homes and families. And, and, and you do know that there’s no, um, no requirements, no special use permits or conditional use permits to put the, any of these people that are consumers of mental health services in any neighborhood. So you don’t have the NIMBY issue going on because these people come in and with peer bridging benefits that neighborhood, people see what they’re doing. People who appreciate what they’re doing and had a great activity, but they can always call us if they want to put in their house and, uh, if they go to the shell, sheriff self-help dot org and they can give us a call if they’re interested in putting their home, uh, into our program.
Robert Strock: (23:50)
Great. And of course, when you’re talking about duplexes or single family homes, you’re making the presumption, I think that you got at least five bedrooms. Um . . .
Brian Ulf: (24:01)
Yeah. I mean, that’s the duplex model. I mean, if you come to like a typical house in South Central, it might be a three bedroom house for $1,500. All right. Uh, we’re going to go to that owner and tell him, Hey, look, we’re going to put two people in each one of your rooms and charge 500 each. So we’re going to pay three grand instead of $1,500. It’s a win for the landlord. And all he has to do then is furnish the property A to Z as if it was Airbnb. So paper goods, et cetera, et cetera. And he gets more money for the deal. And the, and the, and the participants get a home to live in, not a single room in a hundred room building that has no rules, no regulations, no accountability by a lot . . .
Robert Strock: (24:42)
So three bedroom is kind of a minimum for all of what works?
Brian Ulf: (24:46)
Yeah. Okay. Well, if a, if a three bedroom and you get three grand and you’re your mortgage is zero now, you know, you’re, you’re doing well. So I just, it’s all, it’s all math, you know, that’s how, how it works, but our math, again, when you look at the big picture of the thing, and there is no cost for housing for our program. Yeah. None whatsoever. And we can talk about that as much as you want, but between no cost for housing, our secret sauce with our peer bridgers and the self-help support groups, that’s our program in a nutshell.
Robert Strock: (25:18)
Yeah. And I think it’s worth highlighting that you, you’ve had vast experience, which I don’t think you need to go into, I’ll say it for you, is that you’ve had vast experience with real estate. So your common sense with real estate has, has been a tremendous contribution to this model and your ability to see that.
Brian Ulf: (25:36)
I think the, the, the big issue that I have vast knowledge is I know when people are cheating on the numbers and that’s the part that’s tough, you know, when you see the exorbitant costs that our city, county, state and basically our taxpayers are paying for the cost of these houses that they’re providing, are single rooms, it’s, uh, it’s atrocious.
Robert Strock: (25:57)
Yeah. Yep. And speaking of that, so how, how are you funded?
Brian Ulf: (26:01)
Uh, it’s a tough question because since we have not really been playing in the permanent supportive housing, uh, sandbox, so to speak, um, we struggle because the housing service providers like Share, the only people getting funded are the ones that are providing services that move people into the permanent supportive housing, and then do the services within the permanent supportive housing. Right? So Share’s concept of, we put everybody in one house in shared rooms, they’ll counter and say, no, you have to be in one room. Uh, they’ll say, no, you have to have a licensed therapist. They’ll say this, they’ll say that, which is kind of always been why we keep pushing aside. But the real issue why we’ve been pushed aside is because there’s no money in our game. And I, and I say that without having to tell names, I mean, it’s, it’s just obvious.
Brian Ulf: (26:50)
If you just look at the economics of our deal and you do the economics of their deal, and that’s why the city and the county and state are being brought forth right now, and the controversy within the city of how much this stuff is costing. And they’re having to look for alternative measures. Judge David Carter, the federal judge, that’s overseeing this case in Los Angeles right now. He’s not kidding around. He’s saying, Hey, let’s get this done. And let’s get this done now, which is, you know, you kind of look at the, the homeless industrial complex that’s in place in Los Angeles right now. It’s, it’s like an aircraft carrier. Okay. And what we’re asking everybody to do is turn that aircraft carrier and say, oh, how about Share? They can help 10,000 people. Well, that’s not what the speech has been for them.
Brian Ulf: (27:29)
They don’t know how to go off script to what they’ve been doing already, because it’s already, you know, it’s government. This is how they do it, you know? And so to come up with a unique situation and, and an unbelievable solution, that’s what we’re working on. You know, the best, if let’s share, let the river take it, you know, and let’s go out and prove it. And which we’ve done. I’ve got a letter of support from Mike Bonin that just came out last week. That just made us look like ice cream. You know, it’s just unbelievable support. And hopefully that’s going to be a letter that will take us and get us back into that game.
Robert Strock: (28:00)
Yeah, I sure hope so.
Brian Ulf: (28:01)
I hope so too.
Robert Strock: (28:04)
You’ve read the white papers and we’ve, we’ve had conversations about it. And some of it has to do with, uh, you know, being on the outside of the communities and isolating communities that really have similar needs for, to really create a sense of therapeutic community where we’re talking about, uh, using regenerative agriculture and solar energy as a mentoring, um, there are a number of components of it. I’m wondering which ones do you feel most aligned with? It can also say which ones you don’t like. Do you want to . . .
Brian Ulf: (28:34)
Um, you know, you’ve done incredible work. I mean, I think you, you sent me an, I, I looked at five or six white papers. You sent me the video of regenerative farming. Um, you know, when I look at that, I just, I tip my hat to everybody for all their ideas. And I think, yeah, they all have merit individually or merged together. Um, and I, and I think it’s important, you know, as you know, uh, homeless and the homeless population is not a one-stop shop deal. So what might be good for one person might not be for the other. And, you know, I might want to have, this person wants to be a ballerina, so he might not go into regenerative farming, but it doesn’t mean everybody else won’t go into regenerative farming. And that whole program is just an incredible, uh, program that you have in Texas there.
Brian Ulf: (29:24)
And, you know, if you, if you want to talk about that, that would be great. But I also, you know, I look at, uh, you know, kind of the recent hot thing on the street right now, or these pallet shelters or small tiny homes and, and Flyaway Homes and the work that people concerned are doing the work that, uh, Hope of the Valley is doing. I think those are all great, especially the Pallet Homes, because what that does, even though off the record, I think it’s kind of a waste of money, uh, because the Pallet Home, they get in, they put two people in a Pallet Shelter and eight by eight, and they have them there until they’re going to move them into permanent supportive housing. Well, for me, it’s Share, it’s much easier for me to go in and convince people to come into, come into a Shared Collaborative House that you share a room, uh, when they’re already sharing a pallet room together.
Brian Ulf: (30:09)
So that, that that’s over, you know, that they don’t have to walk a hundred yards to get to the bathroom they’re living in a home. Um, so I love the Pallet Shelter program versus the main shelter where you build the big membrane tent and have a hundred people in one room. That’s a disaster. All right. It’s just, it’s unregulated, it’s no rules. It’s, it’s a free for all. And it’s a dangerous place. And there’s no trust in the system right now, uh, with the homeless population, uh, for anything that has to do with housing.
Robert Strock: (30:38)
Yeah, and I, and I think one thing that it’s clear from our conversations, that we agree on that the idea of funding, uh, traditional homelessness on sheltered housing, $550,000 a unit is insane. And the idea of being able to use not so much the Pallet Shelters, but the tiny homes that have a bathroom and, and ha, and have a shower and toilet and have an area to sleep and have an area to do a little bit of cooking. It has real potential when you’re doing, when you’re really setting them up with some kind of a vocational program onsite.
Brian Ulf: (31:14)
Sure. It does. And, and, and I think as long as those communities are set up into smaller communities within the community, because again, the self-help support, if it doesn’t work, when you’re meeting with large groups of people, I mean, the collision has to be personal. It has to be together with you. I have to be a roommate we get together. And I know the chores of our 10 tiny homes together, kind of as if you were in a duplex, you have four or five and you create the community within that community. That’s going to work. All right.
Robert Strock: (31:44)
I, yeah, I, I agree. I agree with you completely, that when you have a community, there has to be ongoing groups. There has to be ongoing contact, all kinds of community building, but the idea of having a therapeutic community, which is in many cases, like, like as the case with Community First in Austin, Texas, that you mentioned it, it allows people to feel like, oh my God, I’m finally home. And like, I can live here forever, or I can move out and I’m learning a skill and that’s it.
Brian Ulf: (32:14)
You know, that that’s really it. And then that’s it. They feel at home, they feel loved. They feel responsibility. When people tell them what they’re going to do, they actually do it. You build trust. Again, all those things. Get these people back into the game and allows them to come back to society. Versus the existing situation is let’s just get them off the street and put them up in a room. Because when you’re on the street, that’s costing me $45,000 a year to keep you there. When I put you up, even though you don’t have to use the services, at least you’re off the street and that, and that doesn’t work. And so the whole other system is tied to money. What you’re talking about, what I’m talking about is about outcomes for people and getting them to improve their lives, to get them back into society, not warehouse them in a permanent supportive and say, Hey, good luck. The rest of your lives.
Robert Strock: (33:01)
And yet, at the same time to give them an environment that they can be proud to live in.
Brian Ulf: (33:06)
Totally. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be building a hundred unit permanent supportive housing buildings on skid row. Does that make sense to, you know, what am I going to put them up in a room by themselves and isolate, you can drink in your room. You don’t have to take your bipolar medicine. You can’t make you go to AA. Can’t make you do anything. However, when you walk out the front door, you’re in the middle of skid row where you’re going to be a predator are on you all day long, where where’s that coming from? How did, how does anybody think that makes sense?
Robert Strock: (33:34)
Yeah. And, and even to take it a step further, I don’t think it makes sense anywhere to build $550,000 units, even if it’s not skid row. Yeah.
Brian Ulf: (33:42)
It doesn’t even include that. Doesn’t include land. My friend. Yeah. Yeah. These, these numbers, the one they’re building in Venice, it’s $90 million worth of land for 141 units. Yeah. Add $550, plus the land cost over a million dollars a unit.
Robert Strock: (33:57)
Add a hundred thousand approximate people that, that need help. Uh, it ain’t, it ain’t ever going to happen that way.
Brian Ulf: (34:02)
And you just can’t.
Robert Strock: (34:02)
Brian Ulf: (34:03)
They’re not going to build their way out of this.
Robert Strock: (34:05)
So . . .
Brian Ulf: (34:06)
And even the hotel things they’re buying right now. And, uh, and the numbers that the city talks about, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to swallow. You know, they say they house 20,000 people last year. Well, they only delivered 500 something units. How they house 20,000, well, they put them in a hotel room and they count it as someone we housed, even though they put them in a room for two days, it’s, it’s, it’s tough business.
Robert Strock: (34:27)
And the comprehensive comparisons are either. So . . .
Brian Ulf: (34:30)
It’s babysitting because the care is voluntary. You know, don’t take me wrong. There are case managers and people that work with this population every day that it’s just their hearts. Couldn’t be bigger, their commitment to getting people better. It couldn’t be better. But the problem with the contracts don’t allow them to actually do much better work, because they’re so restricted in what you’re allowed to do with the population. No, you can’t tell them they can’t drink. No, you can’t tell them they can’t do this. No, you can’t touch them. Oh, they have to do this. No, you can’t. Do, you know, the genie is so far out of the bottle, on the street right now as to, there’s just no rules and no accountability for any population. Uh, it’s dangerous for our society.
Robert Strock: (35:13)
And I think that the bottom lines, and maybe you can fill in, if I miss one is you need to have some housing where people can have a period of time where they feel they’re at a home that they’re proud of. They have to have some kind of comprehensive, psychological care. They have to have some kind of plan where they can see how they can move forward, right. From where they are in their own awareness that you guide them to, rather than telling them what to do and, you know, create some kind of, or help support, create some kind of peer relationships for sociability. Yeah. So what appeal would you like to make, uh, to people who care, but don’t know how to dig in to help?
Brian Ulf: (35:58)
Well, the first thing you can do is, uh, go online to share selfhelp.org. Uh, and everything that we do in our program is, is spelled out anything that you want to get into. Uh, we love volunteers. I mean, we are a heart beating pounding unit without self-help support groups. Uh, we had over 12,000 people come into self-help support groups. We had 9,700, I think that was the number I saw on zoom meetings. Um, so it’s an active, living and breathing deal. We have volunteers that come in and, and can help with the buildings. We have volunteers that can help with a lot of stuff. Uh, but what we really need is money. You know, uh, I think we’re this close to being fully funded right now by the government. And I think we’re going to get, and when I say the government, it’s the city council, it’s the mayor.
Brian Ulf: (36:46)
It’s the county. It’s LAHSA. Yeah. Those are the people that control the purse strings. Um, and, uh, it’s difficult because it’s like the scarecrow, you can’t see me cause I’m pointing like the scarecrow, you know, this person says let’s do that, but he can’t make the other person do this and you can’t make the mayor do that. And so this judge, federal Carter, federal Carter, the federal judge, David Carter, he’s, he’s gonna, you’re going to see a lot of things happen in between now and the next couple of months, but there’s nothing better than money. Uh, and, uh, uh, for an agency, I think when you see what we’re charging out there, I mean, uh, I’m not sure if we mentioned or not our programs $8,000 per person, of which $2,500 of that is the housing locator. Okay. The other $4,500 is the peer bridge. Those are our costs. All right. So when we said it’s eight thou . . . I said, Hey, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, uh, this, the city council we put on their desk to house 2,000 people for just under $9 million. I believe it was, uh, three years ago. It’s been sitting on there, on the council desk for, for, since October of 2018. I mean, these numbers are out there. We give them every day. Uh, that’s what it costs us. And we’re not here to make money. We’re here to get people better and love them than anybody. Yeah.
Robert Strock: (38:02)
And I’ll just summarize it, uh, for our audience that is a incredibly low cost program and want to encourage everybody, you know, to really consider, you know, we’re all, we’re all human. We all, we all could be unsheltered and we all, and so many of us are wondering what in the hell can we do? I think giving a donation to a program like yours that is so practical and so rooted in comprehensive care is a dollar well spent. And so many people, I, you know, that, that drives me a bit crazy. You know, they’re, they’re in a line in a stoplight and a per . . . unsheltered person that’s coming up to them and knocking on the window and they’re annoyed. They’re off and don’t want it in their neighborhood. And so what can we do, everybody in Los Angeles could contribute 50 bucks, a hundred bucks, a thousand bucks, whatever they can do. And that’s, what’s going to really make a difference.
Brian Ulf: (38:57)
Or you can do team building, you can have your company come in, we get a duplex and you can bring your company in and decorate it. Right. Welcome notes to everybody. I’ve, we’ve done that in four or five of the duplexes that were done with, uh, uh, Haven, which was one of our other partners that we did business with, uh, uh, was Share. Um, it’s like teaming, you know, you bring your family, we had school kids coming in and writing welcome notes to the homeless. So you can get as much involved in this thing, or you can write a check. Uh, but I think everybody should be part of the solution and, and understand that, you know, we’re here, we’re here to be that solution.
Robert Strock: (39:30)
Yeah. I’m just going to really echo that back. We all need to be part of the solution and that’s to separate ourselves from, from others that are suffering in this way is a certain kind of self-suffering that we’re going to experience inside ourselves, whether we’re aware of it or not. And that, this is solvable. And so everyone, all of us need to be participating. So I just really want to thank you, Brian, for an inspired, uh, practical, comprehensive approach, uh, that anyone listening, I think can hear, uh, the simplicity and comprehensiveness of what you’re doing. So thanks so much.
Brian Ulf: (40:09)
Robert, I really appreciate it. Thank you for having me and to all the listeners out there, uh, you know, uh, housing and homelessness affects everybody. If you can see it, uh, alcoholism, drugs, all the trauma stuff, everybody’s got someone in their family that’s experienced some of this and, uh, you know, go deep into your heart. Don’t drive by people. Let’s let’s take action and be part of the solution. Robert, again, thank you so much for having me.
Robert Strock: (40:33)
Brian Ulf: (40:34)
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