By Angela McGregor
Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Homeless Committee added several new proposals aimed at getting unhoused people off the street. Last month they asked for the Jones Agreement housing count and provided a mobile storage plan, both of which were passed by the Venice Neighborhood Council.
Homeless Holiday Outreach
Matt Shaw presented Will Hawkins proposal that asked for VNC support of an innovative, week-long pilot program that would bring 40 volunteers from San Francisco-based Miracle Messaging Program to Venice over the holiday season. This program puts the homeless back in touch with friends, family and loved ones via the Miracle Messages Social Media Program. MMP are looking to expand their service to other communities, and so would be providing this service for free on a trial basis. For more information, see: http://www.miraclemessages.com.
During Board discussion, it was mentioned that several agencies in Venice (including Teen Project and Safe Place for Youth) already provide a similar service, which includes crucial coordination with CES and in-depth knowledge of this population. In light of this, the meeting’s acting parliamentarian, VNC Vice-President George Francisco recommended that the motion be withdrawn and tabled in favor of the formation of a task force to explore having a “Homeless Holiday Outreach Event” coordinating the efforts of all of these agencies. This was agreed to, and the task force will be headed by Lauri Burns, who will report back to the committee at their next meeting.
Safe Parking Needed
Item Two on the agenda was the creation of a safe parking plan in response to Councilman Mike Bonin’s call for 75 safe parking spaces in each of Los Angeles’ 15 Council Districts, after which the City could once again enforce a revised version of MC 85.02, which forbids persons from living in their vehicles on public streets. Since Venice represents roughly 16% of the population of CD11, committee member Heidi Roberts pointed out that we should be able to easily identify about 20 spaces spread out among our various neighborhoods (spaces at the beach lots cannot be considered because that is county land). The program would provide bathroom services to participants, who would be issued parking placards that would be renewed every three months. It would also enable outreach providers to interact with vehicle dwellers on a regular basis, with the ultimate goal being to get them out of their cars and into real homes. There are several agencies currently providing this service in California, including one in Santa Barbara. The initial motion, which was tabled in favor of a task force to study all options, called for a program similar to that offered by San Diego-based organization, Dreams for Change (http://www.dreamsforchange.org). Matt Shaw will head the task force.
Services Availability Breakdown for Residents
Finally, Lauri Burns made a power point presentation of a project she and Heidi Roberts are putting together — a placard and/or website that would be distributed to all Venice residents and businesspeople which would break down services offered by local agencies (e.g., rehab, mental health counseling, rapid-rehousing, etc.) and how to get in touch with those agencies. Challenges with this project going forward include identifying which agencies will respond to calls (and during which hours). Such a resource would enable all Venetians to become part of the solution.
As soon as placard or website is ready, it will be published in Venice Update. This will give all Venetians the opportunity to help homeless get proper assistance.