Life Just Changed. Homeless in Malibu

By Ema Schulz


One year ago we got a call that changed our lives forever.  I was picking up my husband Shen from the 

airport in Kauai, Hawaii.  We were there for vacation pre Thanksgiving vacation.  He had just landed from LA and was feeling apprehensive to get on the plane because there were fires near our home in Malibu.   Two nights prior, there was one of the largest mass shootings in the United States, at The Borderline, in Thousand Oaks, on our twin sons college night from Cal Lutheran.  They came home to Malibu because they were upset. As Shen was about to get on the plane he called them and said, “If I get on this plane and our house burns down, I will never forgive myself.”  They replied, “Dad, there are firefighters everywhere, don’t worry, Pt Dume has never burned, we will be fine.” Bodhi and Kai were wrong.   As I got to the airport in Lihue, I informed Shen, I had lost touch with the boys and the fire was near our house, as my friend Noriko Smith was keeping me updated from Malibu.  We were panicked.    When we picked up the cell phone after frantically realizing the inferno had hit our neighborhood, it was my husbands best friend since grade school, Fire Captain Chris Hanson.   “Hi Guys, I am at your house.”  he said… “Oh thank God Chris, you are at our house and you saved it……”  we replied with slight relief.  Then, after an awkward pause…..  “I am so sorry guys, your house just burned, I couldn’t save it, we tried, we had no water.”  A lump grew in my throat the size of a mango.  Suddenly I forgot how to use a phone, or speak, or drive the vehicle I was in.   I looked around at all the happy people on vacation drinking coconuts, oblivious to the fact we just lost everything, they were happy, enjoying themselves, and our world was just shattered, and our kids were missing.  He said there was nothing he could do… the power was out…the pumps to the hydrants didn’t work…. No water, and there was no sign of the family.

The Schulz home before, and after the Woolsey Fire.

This was my Facebook post :


Chris Hanson you are the most incredible human being. We got a call yesterday afternoon during the fires from our dear friend Fire Captain Chris Hanson, he was at our house, distraught and telling us it is going up

in flames and we just lost our house. He said they tried so hard to save it. Chris and his son Hunter out of love for us ran into our burning house, collecting photos off the walls, guitars, special notes from my boys, some personal items all while thinking of us. I can’t imagine how he felt running around our house he has been in so many times playing music. He said he had a truck with some water on it, but it wasn’t enough to put out the blaze. There was no water in the hose. There was no water from the hydrants. Our neighbor tried to stop the burning by shoveling dirt on our sheds, but it just couldn’t be contained. It hit the kitchen then the garage, then the fence line and eventually ate up our sheds and all our surf boards, amplifiers, memory bins, bikes, all one by one up in flames. But to know you have a friend that would run into a burning house for the sake of just trying to save something for your friend goes beyond hero. 

What a blessing you are Chris. Thank you for the call. We were so glad it was you who told us the news and thank you for your wise counsel as a friend and brother. It was worse seeing it burn on television later, so your call prepared us for the worst. We love you and your family. Much love.  #MALIBUSTRONG

Our house, our neighborhood, our community had just burned.   The very next call was my brother in law James telling me he had found our sons. Loss, shock, devastation, elation, sadness, anger, frustration, fear, sickness, nausea, and deep disappointment…. I felt it all at once….  WHAT THE FARK JUST HAPPENED. We 


We were taken in and cared for, along with our two giant Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, by our dear friend Cheryl Rich, which admittedly included many nights of drowning our sorrows in Martini’s, dancing in the kitchen & savoring her home cooking, and possibly flashing her uptight neighbors.  We were also loved and supported by our family, and our community, which helped, put us back together after the fire with donations and gifts.   But, there is hollowness when you don’t have your own home, your comfort place to just be YOU.  To wake up in your underwear or birthday suit, scratch your ass and saunter to the kitchen in your messy comfort, in your OWN private space, that is priceless, that IS home.  Having a home makes your feel whole, comforted, private, and you can surround yourself with what you love and things that are a reflection of you.  Depression sets in fast without a home… We were still homeless as of March after the fire…  and the choices were crap, and expensive…and not where we wanted to be…. Actually, we had no idea where we wanted to be…. The City Of Malibu, FEMA, The State of California really did nothing for us.   It was up to us and our own resolve with the support of community that made the difference.   To this day, I still don’t think the City Of Malibu is prepared and I will forever be disappointed, angry, and aware of their complete failure to leave us to burn.  But, that is another conversation.  Cycle Up….

The fire was just before Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays… there was a detachment and a perspective that came with not having a home.    The last thing I could think of was buying any gifts, and it was quite liberating.   Walking in shopping areas listening to the stress of the shoppers getting the right thing…. Standing in long lines with a bunch of useless items in their baskets…. Things no longer matter;  experiences matter, people matter, relationships matter, helping others matters, peoples suffering matters.   I am reminded of a poignant Buddhist saying ,  “To be free from suffering, free yourself from attachments.”   Nothing more powerful than all your attachments going up in smoke…. 

This was my Facebook Post:

Homeless For The Holidays

We have been so blessed to be in our friends home, feeling safe and sound during our search. But our search continues…. It isn’t just us. I know many of us fire survivors are still searching, some still in guest rooms, or maybe couch surfing, maybe in a trailer, many are sharing homes, and many are in homes that are not quite them, but it works for them for now. I see posts of some who seem to have good settlements who have found homes, have started adjusting and moving forward with furnishings and even have Christmas trees up….some feeling of normalcy…..and others who just can’t wake up or move in the morning, and those who didn’t have insurance and have nothing. I have spoken to teachers who lost their homes who are struggling to stay strong for their students, and friends who are in houses for sale, not knowing if they will have to move again.  

The uncertainty is the gut wrenching part. Not knowing where we will be living. No sense of being settled and not even a thought of Christmas or the holidays.  

No baking or cooking. No Christmas shopping, no wrapping, other than for new underwear and bath towels for ourselves

No Christmas ornaments to unpack, or lights to untangle, no tinsel and no pine tree smell. No living room, no bedrooms, no yard for the dogs…..BUT what we do have is what matters. We have each other. We have family. 

We have our friends. We have our health. (except maybe a little mental health issues right now.). So for this holiday season the only gift we have will be each other, our community and the love and support we have for all of you and all of us. That is the most valuable gift of all. Something not to be found in a store, or under a tree, or that needs to be wrapped. It is the gift that keeps on giving, that is eternal in our hearts and souls and we are lighted up from the inside with the fullness of our hearts and the humbling gratitude we have for our clan, our tribe, our community. Happy Holidays and remember those of us who lost everything are very fragile and raw and need your love and hugs and kind words…..this is as hard emotionally as it is uplifting by the generosity. I send a big hug and kiss to each and everyone of you this season. Stay strong, be loving, forgive, move forward, new attitude, new life, new beginnings, Zen living, less is more. LOVE CONQUERS ALL.


With this new perspective of having nothing and being humbled by the generosity of others, my path and process to be mentally successful after this great loss was to BE OF SERVICE  to others and pay it forward, with the realization that there are many more in the world less fortunate than me.  Our goal is to make the difference in others lives like the difference they made in ours, just knowing someone cared about us, was enough to have hope for recovery.  

I discovered a great book called, or rather a great book discovered me, Ikigai, by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, that helped guide me through.  Ikigai is the Japanese secret to a Long Happy Life.  The basis is find meaning and purpose in what you do and you will find happiness.    What is your reason for living?   If we are self-centric we have suffering.  If we are other centric we are happy and free because our purpose and intention are selfless which creates community and compassion and our intention is authentic.

The simplest things like a pair of socks meant so much because we had only bathing suits and sandals from Hawaii and it was freezing here.  I often look down at what I am wearing and say, Thank you Tammy, or Corky, Amber Farr, Marsha, Nikki, Samm, Amanda, Nina, Maggie, Stan, Ludo and Otz shoes, and many others for my new cool style, and a new attitude….  So, don’t think you can’t make a difference.  I am so grateful for all of those in Malibu who supported us in our darkest hour.  You were our beacon of light.    

From left: Scott Lochmus, Randy Jackson, Ema Schulz, Barry Pointer, Tyler Bearde, J Marie Jones.

As a practicing Buddhist it is our path to save ALL sentient beings.  I had to take my/our suffering and cycle it up.  I had two choices. Non-Attachment and Cycle Up or Attachment and Cycle Down.  I understand sometimes we can’t cycle up.  Some of us are not healed and we are still processing the pain.    My process is working to help others, in wellness, in health, in homelessness, including the homeless of our local communities and greater Los Angeles and those less fortunate by supporting charities that show compassion and work for a positive outcome for those that need and accept the help.   We can start right here at home and spread our compassion to the bigger areas around us and keep going until we have helped all those that want it.  There are also many fire victims still homeless, living in trailers to, and our attention should be put on them as well.

See Also

I am inspired by Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson and his spearheading the Malibu City Council to make positive changes and to make Malibu ground zero for tipping the scales in helping the homeless of our community, as well as Carol Bird and People Concern, CART, The Sherriff’s Department under Sherriff Villanueva, and others for their commitment.  There is no easy answer, the situation is messy and complicated, and even smelly, sometimes dangerous, and sometimes heart warming, but that just means we have to work harder to solve the problem, not walk away or complain, but show up and participate in the solution.


I was moved to channel this feeling and get back to charity work and I called a good friend that I respected in the charity world, Marchelle Sellars.  She founded Charity On Top and I worked as a producer with her when she ran Mending Kids.  She has been an inspiration to me for her dedication to others and her knowledge of charity and philanthropic work locally and globally.  She said, “Come work with me!!”   I said, “Okay, as long as you don’t pay me.”   She said “Deal”.     Within a few weeks we were traveling to Canada to raise funds for schools in Haiti With Arcade Fire on F1 weekend.  We have raised funds for children’s surgeries for Mending Kids with KISS, Tom Jones, and Robert Downey, Jr. and recently, our charity production team for Charity On Top, Produced the Official LA Global Event for “The World’s Big Sleep Out” featuring Ziggy Marley, Seth Green, Ellie Goulding, Meghan Trainer, local Dorothy Lucey, and Randy Jackson and many others, to help bring funding and awareness to the homeless situation of Los Angeles and globally.  60,000 people slept out around the world in solidarity for the homeless hosted by Will Smith in NY, Helen Mirren in London, and my dear soul brother and friend Randy Jackson, who was the first to say yes and brought his big heart and friends the guitar goddess Orianthi, and Zen master Michael Bearden to fill us with gratitude for donating their time to our event.   

From left: Tyler Bearde, Marchelle Sellers, Josh Littlejohn, Kathy Selders, Ema Schulz, Barry Pointer.

We brought together compassionate performers with the highlight being Don Logstone, a previously homeless man, performing on stage with his biological daughter, Cami, aka Jenni Alpert , who found him on the streets decades after he abandoned her.  Their story is told in the documentary produced by local Steven Schwartz call, “Homeless, The Soundtrack.”  We sparked the conversation and as Ziggy Marley said, ”and now the work begins.”  Charity On Top, hosted event,  and when I asked them to tell me what doing the event meant to them, they replied,  “Charity On Top gift cards support all US charities and all causes, which is incredibly fulfilling, but focusing our efforts on the big issue of homelessness, having an impact locally and worldwide on this epidemic was irresistible! I mean, this was a powerful opportunity!”

I want to thank my team.  My amazing mentors and founders of Charity On Top, Marchelle Sellars and Kathy Selders, bringing the gift of giving with their Charity Gift Cards (  ,and your endless compassion. Scott Lochmus, Director/ Producer, father, compassionate human ( . Barry Pointer, my Producing Partner and Gibson Guitar Rep and Guru, awesome rocker and dad, who dropped everything and showed up (, Cece Woods, social media, branding, promotion, extraordinaire kick ass reporter who is filled with compassion for her community and others. Tyler Beard, my brother, Stage Manager, and all time funny guy.  Shen Schulz, my husband and biggest fan and supporter and puts up with my eccentricities.   And a special shout out to Kimberly Behling from Up Stage LA (  who designed our vibe, Kelli Gerrans and Hailey Pointer, and my sister Amanda for holding it together.  

From left: Michael Bearden Orianthi, Ema Schulz, Randy Jackson.

Being temporarily homeless gave me the perspective I needed to find my meaning and purpose, my Ikigai, to keep me going and to keep the idea that we all need help and it takes a village, it takes conversation, it takes advocacy, it takes dedication, it takes compassion, it takes money and it takes love.   Thank you Malibu for being there for us.   We have more people to help in our community, would you like to join me….


This has been my biggest lesson this year. In the moment is all we have. We create our own suffering…if we live in each moment with gratitude for what we have right here right now, then we will not be disappointed.  Life is precious and short.

If we live in each moment and live in service of each other then we are truly being human. I have seen so much generosity and being of service this year, expressed in so many ways. During this experience the evidence of giving has been extraordinary and inspiring. That is the path I will always walk because the best rewards come from giving…and life is much easier if we learn to just be complete in each moment…..not contemplating what is coming or what has past….

I am truly inspired by this new beginning.  Less is more.  Experiences, not things.  New Relationships, New Partnerships, New Home, New Decade, New Career, New Vibes.   I want to connect Good People, with Good Companies for a Good Cause.  Part of my Mama Good Vibes network…. Stay tuned for some exciting new stories I can’t wait to share with you on wellness, and being the best version of you possible, as I have learned.  If what I share can help you process too or have a new perspective or choose to cycle up then I am grateful to be here for you.

Ema and her husband Shen.

We sat for dinner last night with some dear friends and before we ate we asked our friend to say the prayer as we held hands and completed the circle of energy we were creating. We closed our eyes and we held hands and our friend said nothing……we sat in silence…no words…after a few moments he said….”that is all there is….just breathe…”  

Truer words were never spoken. Just breathe…..


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