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Preserving Our Diversity (P.O.D) Program Offers Economic Assistance to Seniors in Santa Monica
February 27, 2020
by Barbara Collins
This article originally appeared in the January/February edition of Seascape.
"I can breathe and live and pay my rent and eat decently… Without that, it’s very difficult to maintain your dignity or your spirit,” artist and longtime Santa Monica resident Pierre says of his financial position two years ago. Faced with the rising cost of living in California, Pierre questioned whether he could continue to stay in his apartment of 25 years, an apartment that doubles as his studio.
Pierre is a participant in Santa Monica’s Preserving Our Diversity (P.O.D.) program, instituted in 2017 as an effort to enable senior residents in Santa Monica to stay in our community through a needs based cash assistance program.
The life of an artist like Pierre is one of perpetual seeking: for beauty, inspiration, and — more pragmatically — for financial security. The latter becomes an even greater challenge in a city like Santa Monica where the high cost of living can paint a daunting picture for everyone, but especially for senior citizens.
There was a time when uprooting was second nature to Pierre. Born in Beirut, he spent the early years of his youth traveling between Nice, Paris, London, Brussels, Lebanon, and Luxembourg. The self-proclaimed “international” had dedicated his life to the violin until a motorcycle accident at age 21; the damage severely impaired the entire left side of his body, suddenly rendering his dream null.
It was after the accident that he took up painting as a career path and he eventually found his way to Santa Monica in the 1980s, where he settled in a rent-controlled apartment above a close friend. He feels a sense of belonging here, and consistent inspiration courtesy of his favorite artist — “Mother Earth”. Driven by nature’s beauty and an ever-present reckoning with the accident at 21, Pierre creates modern contemporary pieces made with acrylic, sand, metal, and photography
The City of Santa Monica believes it’s all of our responsibility to make sure we don’t leave our longtime community members behind, a value which led to the creation of the Preserving Our Diversity program.
When asked how he felt after learning he was accepted into the P.O.D. program, Pierre lets out a big breath. The assistance makes it possible for him to remain in his centrally located apartment in a walkable neighborhood, an important factor as Pierre no longer drives, and he also gets to stay near his dear friend who — 30 years later — still lives in the apartment below him.
When asked for any last thoughts, Pierre gave a thoughtful, articulate reflection on the values of altruism, gratitude, taking care of each other, and belonging. And he offered this final hope, “I really wish that all cities in the United States could take Santa Monica’s example and do something for the elderly people. I hope every city will follow this example. I’m extremely grateful and thankful to the Mayor and former Mayors of Santa Monica and to each and every member of the city council that help make programs like this possible.”
To find out if you or someone you know is eligible for P.O.D., visit santamonica.gov/pod.