02-21-2016, 06:37 PM #1
CA - Lenny Somberg, Los Angeles, 3 November 1975
Free for All
July 13, 1997|SHARI ROAN | TIMES HEALTH WRITER
It was the Summer of Love when the L.A. Free Clinic opened to administer to the poor, homeless and runaways. The operation is a testament to the power of volunteerism--and good fund-raising.
Nov. 3, 1975
Three days before the clinic moves, Executive Director Lenny Somberg is shot and killed during a burglary at the clinic's business office. The killer was never found.
The History of The Saban Free Clinic
“It was a time of social change and unrest, especially for youth,” recalls former Board member Frances Helfman, who had volunteered at the Clinic for 35 years. Hippies, flower children, runaways and dropouts flocked to Los Angeles that year and discovered that housing and food were in short supply. This, combined with the so-called “sexual revolution” and drug use, contributed to major health problems for young people. Long lines would form outside the Clinic when it opened each day as young people waited for their chance to see the volunteer physicians.
The Clinic offered medical care, psychological care and job placement services free of charge to anyone who needed them. The staff was made up entirely of volunteers and the financial operations depended on haphazard donations. The Clinic moved three times during its first few months due to lack of money
The new Clinic was located in the heart of Los Angeles’ Jewish community at 115 N. Fairfax just a few blocks north of the original site. In 1968 the neighborhood had become a counterculture haven with coffee houses, underground newspapers and craft shops. The combination of elderly people and hippies produced some tension and the Clinic was viewed with a certain level of distrust in the neighborhood. Local residents frequently complained to a police force that saw it as a hangout for drug dealers and drug users. “[Clinic supporters] were not so unrealistic as to deny this possibility,” writes Clinic Executive Director Lenny Somberg in a 1971 history of the Clinic, “but pointed out that if the kids felt free of harassment at the Clinic they would be more inclined to seek help, rather than hide their problems.” A committee from the Clinic met with representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department to work out a moratorium on arrests.
On November 3, 1975, Executive Director, Lenny Somberg (a cousin of Murray Korngold) was working in a suite of offices rented by the Clinic while the new building was being remodeled. An intruder entered and demanded the Clinic’s cashbox. Lenny was shot and killed. Three days later, despite the anguish over this tragedy, The Los Angeles Free Clinic moved into its new building, now named the Lenny Somberg Building.__________________________________
Muddy water in the street; Muddy water 'round my feet... as sung by the inimitable Bessie Smith, "Muddy Water (A Mississippi Moan)"
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02-21-2016, 09:56 PM #2Registered User
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Thank you for posting this. It is a very tragic case. I know personally that family members were forever changed by this and grieved terribly. Lenny's parents died never knowing who his killer was, never having closure that their son's killer was held accountable. Lenny was a talented musician, very much loved and devoted to the cause of bringing free healthcare to the impoverished. As the full article link here mentions, the original neighborhood that the clinic was located in was not exactly appreciative of the groups of individuals who suddenly flocked to the clinic. Part of me wonders if LE didn't feel highly motivated to solve this case because the clinic served what they viewed as "undesirables" (hippies, drug addicts, sex workers etc). As I understand it the clinic also had at one point a legal aide office too advise individuals on the draft. I can't imagine LE loved this clinic. Perhaps they just didn't care what happened to Lenny and never tried to solve his murder because they didn't appreciate his political stance. A few articles from the LA Times mention the murder incidentally in relation to the history of the clinic (still in full force today), but there is never any mention of any investigation or suspects. I do hope there is someone out there who may know something and may yet step forward.
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