Los Angeles

Controversial Venice Homeless Shelter Closer to Becoming Reality

Members of a Los Angeles City Council committee Wednesday recommended moving forward on developing six sites for bridge housing for the homeless, including a site in Venice that is strongly opposed by some community leaders.

The Venice location is a vacant bus yard owned by Metro at 100 Sunset Ave., and although about a dozen residents urged members of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee to delay any action on the site, it was recommended for conversion into a temporary bridge homeless facility by the committee's members who were present.

The committee only had two of its four members at the meeting, which does not constitute a quorum, so the recommendation was not an official act of the committee but rather a "communication'' to the council by Councilmen

Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mike Bonin, who represents the Venice area.

"I would note that this project has not been approved by the Venice Neighborhood Council, and in fact that body has asked for the city to do a feasibility study of other sites that the neighborhood council thought were better," said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association who unsuccessfully challenged Bonin for his seat in 2017.

"We would ask at this point that you postpone this matter and ask the Bureau of Engineering to review the issues that our attorneys have raised and conduct a full environmental impact report on the proposal addressing parking, noise, and site contamination and conduct the feasibility study called for by the Venice Neighborhood Council."

Bonin did not directly talk about the Sunset site, but spoke in detail about the Bridge Home program in general, in which the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to install temporary bridge housing facilities for the homeless in each of the 15 council districts.

"Historically, Los Angeles' approach to homelessness has been a neglectful one, and that has caused people to suffer, and it has caused neighborhoods to suffer," Bonin said. "And for a very long time Los Angeles, given a choice by the courts of beds or sidewalks, has chosen sidewalks.

"And this council and this mayor and this county Board of Supervisors has been determined to change that and to replace sidewalk encampments with bridge housing and permanent housing and shared housing and myriad of other opportunities. That is the choice."

The "Bridge Home" program was first announced by Garcetti during his State of the City speech in April as a new front in the fight against homelessness, which has grown by about 75 percent over the last six years.

The 2018 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that more than 31,000 people are homeless in the city, including more than 23,000 living without shelter, which were both slight drops from the previous year after years of increases.

The current fiscal year has at least $20 million in direct budget funds dedicated for the program, with an additional $10 million in unallocated funds that could be used for shelters, and $85 million from the state as a one-time emergency grant for homeless programs, some of which could be used for the Bridge Home program.

The shelters are intended as a temporary solution to the problem while the city builds thousands of permanent supportive units approved in 2016 by city voters through Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure.

The temporary shelters will help transition homeless people off the street and into permanent housing, along with providing them access to supportive services, including addiction counseling, Garcetti and other leaders have said.

A Bridge Home site opened a few months ago near the El Pueblo monument in downtown Los Angeles, and there are many others at various stages of development.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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