Hayes Takes Message to GOP Group
The L.A. activist for the homeless, who became a Republican in 2003, says his political views resemble those of Pacific Palisades audience.
By Amanda Covarrubias, Times Staff Writer
At first glance, the tall black man in white robe and dreadlocks seemed out of place Saturday in a room full of middle-aged Republicans gathered for a Christmas luncheon at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
But Los Angeles homeless activist Ted Hayes, guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Bel-Air Republican Women's Federation, said he holds political views similar to those of the group he was invited to address.
Hayes, who forsook a middle-class lifestyle years ago to live on the streets because he believed it would allow him to better serve the homeless, has been a registered Republican since 2003, he said.
Though that may surprise some, Hayes said in an interview that he hopes to carry his message to other conservative groups.
"I support President Bush, and I support the Republican Party," Hayes told the 50 men and women, dressed in their holiday best, who dined on poached salmon beneath the crystal chandeliers of a wood-paneled banquet room.
"I don't believe in the welfare state," Hayes said in his speech. "If you're poor, you're still expected to be a responsible citizen in this society. I believe in strengthening the hands of the poor where they can learn to stand on their own two feet."
He touched on a wide range of issues, emphasizing his belief in closing the U.S.-Mexico border to illegal immigration and his support of the war in Iraq.
Many in the audience clapped at his proclamations and during a question-and-answer session showed a keen interest in his activities on behalf of the homeless, black Americans and veterans.
Emily Garley of the Palos Verdes Peninsula said she might write him a check, but that's about it.
"I think he has some interesting ideas," Garley said after the speech. "But I think he has a long way to go. These people aren't going to run to skid row downtown to help him."
But Coleen Zeiser of Bel-Air, who with her husband has twice visited Dome Village, where Hayes lives, said she planned to return there with her minister.
"I'm impressed with him," Zeiser said of Hayes.
Aggie Hoffman, a Los Angeles attorney who invited Hayes to speak, said she agreed with his message.
"He very much believes in taking responsibility for yourself as opposed to waiting for the government or someone else to do it for you," Hoffman said.
The women were particularly curious about Hayes' work with Dome Village, a homeless encampment of white fiberglass domes near Staples Center that he established 12 years ago. Thirty-two men, women and children live in the village, along with pets, he said.
"When you have a group that diverse, there's going to be conflict," Hayes said. "When you have conflict, you resolve. And resolution leads to bonding, which leads to families."
Hayes has long been a political lightning rod, not only because of his conservatism but also because he left his wife and four children in suburban Riverside in 1984 to move to downtown Los Angeles after seeing a TV report about Tent City, a gathering of homeless people downtown.
Hayes said he wanted to reach out to the Republican women "” and similar groups "” because they have the financial means and political clout to support and lend legitimacy to his efforts, some of which have been shunned by mainstream African American leaders, who very often are Democrats.
"I would like to see us enter into a long-term working relationship," he told the crowd, adding later that he wanted to take the lead in bringing together African American conservatives.
"The more friends I make, like yourselves," he said, "the more we will unite.... If I'm making any kind of sense to you today, let us work together. Let's mobilize this massive force; let's turn this country around."