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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Councilman Bonin Answers Heidi Roberts’ Accusations Regarding Venice Social Service Organizations

Thank you so much for your thoughtful email. I respect your commitment to improving Venice, and I value the considerable contributions you have made to help end homelessness in Venice – especially helping me found Venice Forward. While we clearly disagree on my proposed plans to implement the City’s Comprehensive Homelessness Strategy in Venice, we certainly share the same goal of ending homelessness.

With that in mind, I wish to correct a number of your misstatements, especially the claims that Venice Forward is not focused on a Housing First, Home for Good/United Way model, and the claims that the St. Joseph Center (SJC) and Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) are perpetuating the problem of homelessness in the community. Those claims are simply untrue.

Firstly, Venice Forward is fully integrated with and consistent with the United Way/Home for Good “Coordinated Entry System(CES).” Venice Forward uses the same methodology and resources, and key players in Home for Good and CES are part of the Venice Forward initiative and its efforts to house people. Like in Home for Good and CES, participating agencies meet regularly to discuss “Hot Lists” of people who are homeless in the community, and work to develop individualized strategies to get them into housing as quickly as possible.

You justifiably cheer the United Way and the Home for Good Initiative, and suggest Venice-based programs, like those offered by the St. Joseph Center, are inconsistent with that model. On the contrary, St. Joseph Center is a prominent and crucial part of the Home for Good collaborative, and is the lead agency for the Coordinated Entry System for the entire Westside. In that capacity, SJC has led 22 other agencies in working together to end homelessness. St. Joseph Center has also hired Courtney Kanagi, who coordinated the PATH programs you witnessed in Hollywood, to better coordinate its own programming and its CES efforts.

I also must dispute the contention that St. Joseph Center and Venice Community Housing Corporation do not effectively house people, and instead sustain the problem of homelessness in Venice. In fact, the efforts of both St. Joseph Center and Venice Community Housing Corporation to end homelessness have been considerable. In just the past two years, St. Joseph Center has been responsible for housing 500 family members, helping contribute to an 18% reduction in family homelessness. St. Joseph Center has placed more than 200 chronically homeless individuals from Venice into housing, and 93% of them remain in housing – a remarkable success statistic. This year alone, St. Joseph Center helped move 80 veterans out of homelessness, and connected 119 people with new Rapid Rehousing assistance, which will get them off the street and into apartments.

VCHC, for its part, has as its core mission the very thing you identify as the proper solution to the homelessness crisis – providing housing. VCHC provides 216 units of affordable housing in Venice and surrounding neighborhoods. Just last month, VCHC and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation opened 20 units of permanent supportive housing in nearby Del Rey (with the supportive services being provided by St. Joseph Center). VCHC and St. Joseph Center also collaborate in operation of another 20 permanent supportive housing units on Horizon Avenue in Venice — a building where more than half the tenants are from Venice hot spots, including the boardwalk. VCHC also operates short-term transitional housing for homeless women and their children, in a 32-bed building that can serve 8 families simultaneously. All told, VCHC operates more than 16 different buildings. It is a testament to their success that their facilities blend into the neighborhood and remain largely under the radar because they do not cause problems for their neighbors.

In the past five years, Home for Good and its partners – including St. Joseph Center and VCHC – have housed more than 27,000 people countywide. Yet homelessness continues to grow because each month more and more people become homeless in Los Angeles. That is precisely why both the City and the County of Los Angeles homelessness strategies include programs and efforts to prevent homelessness. Both the City and County recognize we need to provide more education, job training, financial counseling, wellness programs and more. Both the St. Joseph Center and VCHC provide those types of programs – and have been recognized and awarded for the success of those programs.

Venice Forward has many partner agencies, including several social service agencies with vastly different missions and strategies. We are fortunate to have the services not just of SJC and VCHC, but also of: The Teen Project; Regina and Stephen Weller of Venice Foursquare Church; Self-Help and Recovery Exchange (SHARE); Safe Place for Youth (SPY); New Directions for Veterans; the 1736 Family Crisis Center; Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health; Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and others. We need all of them; there is no one agency that has a silver bullet. We need the agencies that quickly link people to shared housing, and we need agencies that provide far more costly permanent supportive housing. We need agencies that can do the nimble work of getting someone who just lost their job into an apartment with a short-term rental subsidy, and we need agencies that can make the significant, long-term investment of building trust with someone who is chronically homeless or mentally ill and resistant to services. We need all of those agencies, all of those models, and all of those approaches. It is counter-productive to vilify some agencies for having a different mission or model in what is a shared effort to help people move out of homelessness. We need the unique talents and contributions of every organization.

You state — and I agree — that “it’s a fundamental truth that more of the same simply creates more of the same.” This sentiment has guided me in addressing homelessness in Venice. For decades, we have suffered from a paralyzing inaction, which is causing our neighborhoods and the people who live in them –whether housed or unhoused – to suffer. I do not intend to let that paralysis continue to harm the people and the neighborhoods I represent. I am not going to pretend that LAPD can be called upon to make homelessness disappear. We need to provide housing and appropriate services – and now, countywide, we have a blueprint to follow in doing so.

In February, the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles approved a Comprehensive Homeless Strategy. You can read that full City plan here, and the full County plan here. At the end of March, I unveiled my proposed strategy for how to implement that plan in Venice. You can read it here. Consistent with the City and County strategies, It is an 18-point plan, which focuses on: preserving affordable housing; building affordable housing; building homeless housing; the Coordinated Entry system; enhanced outreach; enhanced and expanded services; and a “Street Strategy.”

I knew when I proposed my plan that the elements of the “Street Strategy” – storage, bathrooms showers, safe parking – would be the most controversial. But until sufficient housing is built and available, people are going to sleep on our sidewalks in encampments. I cannot ignore that problem – and neither can the schoolchildren who walk by the encampments, the business owners who have people sleeping in their doorways, or the residents who find human feces in their carports or on their parkways. I would much rather provide storage, giving people a reason and opportunity to not leave their belongings in the public right of way. I would much rather provide access to restrooms than force people to defecate and urinate in public.

While we disagree strongly on elements of the “Street Strategy” – particularly the proposed storage facility near your home at the former Westminster Senior Center – I’d ask one thing: please don’t hold my proposals or actions against the agencies that do so much good work in Venice, and please do not hold them against Venice Forward or its contributing agencies. The accountability for those proposals is mine, and any disagreement with my proposals should not distract from the broader mission of Venice Forward or its participants.

Comment (1)

  1. Graham

    The main cause of homelessness in Los Angeles is absurdly high rents throughout the entire city. Apartments in Hollywood that were renting for 500 a month as recently as 10 years ago are now renting for over 2,000 a month. And what is making it possible for the landlords to raise the rents this high ? Well , the housing shortage of course. And why do we all of a sudden have this big shortage of housing in L.A. ? It ever dawn on any of you Socialists the the fact that 10% of Los Angeles’ population are illegal immigrants might have something to do with it ? Well of course you have because you’re the ones flooding the city with all of these illegals from all over the world. And you do it on purpose too. Your goal is to throw as many people under the bus as you can so you show up at their new home on the sidewalk with your grab bag of “free stuff.” Bottom line is we don’t need to build a bunch of housing for the homeless that will paid for with somebody elses’ money. There’s already plenty of housing in Los Angeles. And it’s being occupied by people who aren’t American citizens and are only here because of all the leftist politicians in this country like Barack Obama, Mayor Garcetti, and Councilman Mike Bonin who don’t want to enforce the immigration laws in this country and smear anybody who does as a racist in an attempt to bully them into shutting up.Well I have news for all of you. Neither Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders are going to be the next President. Donald Trump is. And all of these illegals are going to be going back to their own countries. And once that happens the rents will drop back to realistic prices and once again the only homeless we will see on our streets are the drunks and junkies because all of the working class people whose lives you’ve ruined with your policies will once again be able to afford to pay their own rent without any help from the rat bastard leftists whose policies landed them on the streets to begin with.

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