Andy Neal Lived in Pacific Palisades Alleys

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

He was sleeping in the alleyway behind Il Piccolo Ritrovo, off Sunset, when Palisadian Jimmy Dunne found him in the early summer of 2016. Dunne took Andy Neal, 22, to the Bel Air Bay Club and the youth was hired as summer help.

By early winter, the job was over and Andy found himself on the street, again. He made a sign, “I need a job” and attached his resume to it.

A Palisadian met Andy at the corner of Via de la Paz and Sunset one morning, talked to him, then brought him to the nearby Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce office, hoping someone might know of a job. He told Andy, “You’re too young to be on the street.”

Sharon Kilbride, an active member of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH), was contacted and she quickly drove to the chamber office and met Andy. On the spot, she hired him to weed the Marquez Cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon, and for the next two days, he worked. Kilbride posted a notice on Nextdoor Palisades, which yielded three more small jobs from locals.

Sharon Kilbride helped Andy Neal find real work.

Sharon Kilbride helped Andy Neal find real work.

Kilbride then introduced Andy to the PPTFH social worker Glanda Sherman and the two spoke to Vons store manager Ian Mooney and service operating manager Celeste Hayeck about the possibility of hiring homeless individuals who were in need of work. They agreed, as long as the person could pass the background check.

In March, Hayeck hired Andy as a courtesy clerk at Vons, on Sunset at Pacific Coast Highway.

“He really needed a job,” said Hayeck, who also hired a homeless woman, Maya, who had been living near Vons in her car with her mom.

“I really love the job,” Andy said. “I love meeting the people who saw me on the street, who know me from being homeless.”

Born in Plantation, Florida, on March 25, 1994, blind in one eye, Andy had a life that was fairly stable until his parents divorced when he was nine. He lived with his mom for a while, but when she remarried five years later, his stepdad padlocked the refrigerator and told Andy,“You’re not my kid.”

He went to stay with his dad in New Jersey, but when his dad “headbutted” him and Andy ended up with bruises, the school reported it to authorities and he was sent back to his mom. At 18, after graduating from Palm Bay High School (Melbourne, Florida), he was kicked out of the house by his stepfather.

“I went to see my dad and he gave me a job washing cars, but it wasn’t paying much,” Andy said and when he tried to talk to his dad about it, “My dad told me to f**k off.”

Andy next went to live with his grandfather in Louisiana and stayed with his uncle in a trailer. But there was flooding in June 2015 in the Shreveport area. “It washed the trailer away,” Andy said.

“My uncle took off with the FEMA money and my grandfather had to shut his business down [in 2016],” Andy said.

Then he made a decision. “To heck with this. I have to be independent.”

His car wasn’t working, but he jerry-rigged a necessary part and it got him across the country to Pacific Palisades, where the car broke down for good.

Once he started working at the Bay Club, Andy saved money and bought a van, which is where he now lives. Until he can find housing, he said it would be nice to have “a driveway, a small place where I could park.” Showers? A place to clean up? Kilbride has been allowing him to use her bathroom.

If he could have a dream job, he would be working as a transmission mechanic. “Life is getting better,” Andy said.

Vons’ Celeste Hayeck Speaks About Hiring

“Andy’s doing a great job,” Hayeck said. He’s been one of our best. He’s worked so hard.” She said he has been working a 40-hour week since he came aboard in March. In order to get a job, applicants must apply online. Hayeck was asked about one of the most important qualifications she seeks when hiring for this store. “Availability to work here [Pacific Palisades],” said Hayeck who has been with Vons for 21 years and rarely has applicants from the Palisades. “It’s hard for people who live in other areas to get here.” Hayeck, the mother of three boys, grew up in Vero Beach, Florida, and worked in grocery stores such as Winn-Dixie, before moving to L.A. and joining Vons.

29-celeste-hayeck-at-vons

“I’ve never not worked,” said Hayeck who has an associate of science in business from Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.

When she moved to California in 1996 with her husband (they have since divorced), Hayeck started as a courtesy clerk in a store in Marina del Rey and worked her way up to supervisor. Twelve years ago, she worked for two years in Pacific Palisades, before she was transferred to another store.

“As a supervisor, you move around a lot,” said Hayeck, who will mark her third year at the Palisades store in June.

“The customers are great, but the homeless have been a big problem at this store,” she said, noting that some of the homeless had taken over the patio. Thanks to help from the PPTFH and LAPD, “the housekeepers now have a place to go before they go to work. They have been afraid to go out there in the past.”

Shoplifting is also an issue, and happens daily. The three most taken items are baby formula, liquor and detergent. Hayeck calls the police, but the long response time means that no one is caught.

“We’re not allowed to go outside after them,” she said, and notes she tries to stop them by the door, asking “Would you like to pay for that?”

One Comment

  1. Diane Elder says:

    Very good story! Prayers and best wishes for Andy Neal. Keep up the good work! We never know the road someone has traveled.

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