‘Shelter Us’

Inaugural Palisades Reads Addresses Homelessness in Two-Part Discussion

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

The inaugural Palisades Reads—designed by Pacific Palisades Library Association to “foster connections, spark conversations and celebrate the power of books to cultivate empathy”—kicks off this month with a two-night event.

“The idea came about a couple of years ago,” said Laura Nicole Diamond—a resident of The Huntington and the author of the book PPLA selected to be the first focus, “Shelter Us.”

The literary event, modeled after similar programs around the country, encourages community members to read one featured book and participate in conversations around the themes of the book. Other cities with similar programs include Seattle and Santa Monica.

Diamond recalled first talking about the idea with friends and neighbors walking to and from school to drop their kids off. 

“We were talking about it and talking about how my book would be a nice way to begin it,” shared Diamond, adding that it would be a good fit because it is set in Pacific Palisades and addresses local issues, including homelessness.

“Shelter Us,” published in 2015, follows the story of a mother who is struggling with grief following a tragic accident who becomes obsessed with helping a young mother, Josie, experiencing homelessness get back on her feet.

Josie is an amalgam of people Diamond encountered volunteering at the Beyond Shelter, which is now a part of the PATH program, focusing on helping homeless families transition back into housing.

“Many of the families that we helped were young, single mothers, many of who grew up in the foster care system and didn’t have any sort of familial infrastructure to fall back on,” Diamond explained.

Diamond recalled one woman she met who left a lasting impression. While they were helping move the woman into housing, she shared that she did not have any baby photos of herself so it was important that she take a lot of photos of her then-1-year-old daughter so that she would have them when she grew up.

“My heart was touched by her experience,” Diamond shared. “I was so moved … people don’t really see the face of homelessness in a complete picture, so often we see people who are struggling with mental illness or addiction,” but Diamond wanted to shed light on families who have struggled with finding affordable housing. 

On Wednesday, October 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Palisades Branch Library, a panel will meet to discuss the idea of “Save One Life, Save the World?” with participation from community organizations, including Safe Place for Youth, griefHaven and the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness. Diamond will moderate the discussion.

Those who wish to promote a similar “helping” organization will have a chance to do so following the panel and are invited to bring information to share. 

Anyone who attends the conversation and makes a donation of any amount will be gifted a copy of “Shelter Us,” with enough time to read it ahead of the second part of Palisades Reads, a Community Book Club Night on November 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“I think we could all use some unifying … activity to do as a community,” Diamond shared. “In these times, the arts can be very soothing and restorative, in an age when we need more empathy … reading is one of the most profound ways to build empathy.”

Those interested in obtaining a copy can attend the panel on October 23 or purchase one wherever books are sold. Palisades Branch Library will also have copies available.