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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Heidi Roberts Tells About the Venice Social Services System and Why It Won’t End Homelessness — It Nurtures Homelessness

Heidi Roberts, long-time resident of Venice, worked on trying to bring a system to end homelessness to Venice. She came with experience and after a year and a half of working to initiate and implement Venice Forward, a system to end homelessness in Venice … Well, this is her story.

I am a resident of Venice and am keenly interested in ending homelessness. After witnessing the same people rotting on the streets for 14 years, I invested a significant chunk of time to study, understand and support solutions that were truly effective at shifting people from the misery of the streets to a more promising future under a real roof. I helped Bill Rosendahl gain community support for the Streets to Homes program – with the condition that people were actually moved into housing rather than parking lots. Once I saw how effective PATH was at housing people rather than sustaining them on the streets, I then volunteered to work at PATH’s Hollywood center. Essentially, I created my own internship to learn from both PATH and the people they helped – those who were on the streets, those transitioning off the streets and those who had successfully re-booted their lives. It was during this time that I also became a member of Hollywood 4WRD and witnessed the power that commitment and collaboration against a common goal had to actually END HOMELESSNESS. With that experience and insight under my belt, I began to dig into what was different about Venice. How could Venice learn from a similar Los Angeles community that was doing it right?

Monies Used to Accommodate Continued Living on the Street
I learned that millions of dollars were being raised and funneled to Venice social service organizations (predominantly St. Joseph’s and Venice Community Housing) but that those organizations were not housing people with success commensurate with their funding. Rather, their homeless support strategy was to offer services that accommodated living on the streets and made it more comfortable. While generous in spirit, it seemed to me that this strategy only makes it more difficult to shift people off the streets and uses an immense amount of valuable city and community resources to sustain homelessness, prolonging the misery.

We Took on the Challenge to Make a Difference But …
This perspective drove my thinking when Mike Bonin asked me and a small group of community and business members to recommend solutions on homelessness in Venice to him. We willingly and enthusiastically took on the challenge. After months of research and planning, we recommended that we recreate the successful Hollywood 4RWD model here in Venice and work to align all service homeless organizations against a single and focused mission: END HOMELESSNESS. The strategies we recommended were very much aligned with the Housing First model and the United Way’s Home for Good initiative – shared housing and small space housing with wrap-around supportive services in lieu of support in place. Our recommendation was far more efficient than status quo and far more effective at getting people off the streets.

Our recommendation was to change the system, but unfortunately, the system ended up taking over our recommendation to justify, promote and celebrate more of the same.

One Plus Year Later … Homelessness Worse … More Money Spent for Street Services that have Never Proven Effective
Fast forward a year and a half. While Venice Forward is up and running, it has not replicated either the spirit or success Hollywood 4WRD. Venice Forward has not managed to shift the mission of its participants to ending homelessness and therefore, has not worked to implement coordinated solutions that shift people off the streets. In fact, homelessness and its impact in Venice has only been exacerbated since its formation and millions of dollars continue to be spent on funding more street services that have never proven effective. To be blunt, just more of the same. The collective focus on sustaining life on the streets is a tragedy for all, the homeless and Venice residents alike.

Westminster Senior Center

Westminster Senior Center
With that background, I’ll share with you why so many residents (me included) are against converting the Westminster Senior Center into storage and intake services for the homeless. Wherever a service organization sets up shop in Venice, the immediate residential community suffers greatly. And as history has proven time and time again, the residential community has no one to turn to for help.

Communities Surrounding St. Joseph’s are Permanent Encampments
The communities surrounding St. Joseph’s three outposts in Venice are permanent encampments – they’re dangerous and tragic for all. When neighborhood residents call LAPD for help and support, they’re informed that the LAPD is no longer guided by the LAMC (Municipal Code) but rather, is hamstrung by the City Attorney’s office. They shrug their collective shoulders and do nothing to help. And when we ask questions or for support from the council office, we get no response. It is this dilemma that causes people like me to withhold our support for yet another inefficient and ineffective service to move into the heart of a Venice residential neighborhood.

It’s not that we don’t want to help the homeless, it’s that we don’t want to support services that don’t work to end homelessness.

And since the City and LAPD have proven that they’re unwilling to help protect us from the negative impact of homeless encampments in residential neighborhoods, why on earth would we look forward to importing one more? It’s as simple as that.

If the City and LAPD were willing and able to assure and prove to their citizens that they could and would actively protect the them from the very real and present dangers, you’d see more optimism and acceptance.

And if social service organizations would shift their missions to end homelessness rather than maintain, sustain and nurture it, you would witness more support.

Fix both problems and you’ve got a solution. Without these two critical elements, you will continue to see resistance, anger and frustration.

It’s critical that you all understand that we residents are resisting status quo – we are not resisting positive effort to create change. We in Venice are realists with twenty years of evidence to prove that the City’s failure to implement solutions that truly work to end homelessness (as have been successfully implemented in other cities throughout the country) is not working.

It’s a fundamental truth that more of the same simply creates more of the same.

I have contributed years of work, an immense amount of energy and abundant enthusiasm to help end homelessness in Venice and I would really appreciate someone from the City responding to me. I continue to welcome the exchange of innovative ideas and solutions that have the potential to work for all and will continue to fight against the adoption of social services that only serve to prolong and magnify the tragedy of homelessness in my community.

Comments (6)

  1. Lynn Dow

    Hi – The Times article said you wanted art, I am willing to donate colorful abstract paintings wired to hang, varied sizes.

  2. Lee

    Thank you for your work Heidi. And the only thing I agree with Mr Martinez is the need to get rid of Mike Bonin.

  3. Gabriel Martinez

    The BID is a way to privatize the boardwalk to give more control to sweep out the homeless completely. Mike Bonin is playing head games with us. He doesn’t really care about the homeless. Mike Bonin wants to keep his developer friends happy, perhaps he is pocketing money from them and making shady deals happen. The Bid is one of the biggest shady deals. Driving the homeless out isn’t going end homelessness. People come to Venice to be homeless because of the open arm atmosphere. Now you’ve got people like Mark Ryavec and Mike Bonin trying to cleanse Venice of homelessness since honestly, they could care less. Bonin puts a drop in the bucket for the homeless and a paradise for the rich wealthy gentrifiers that want to live here. Homeless advocates know better then to be fooled by Mike Bonin. Mike Bonin is trying very hard to stay in office since he is hanging on by a thread at this point. How on earth did Bonin become councilman any how? Get Mike Bonin out of office now!

  4. Gabriel Martinez

    I still do believe that we need more social services in Venice but we need to do it without Mike Bonin. He is playing games with our heads. We need to get Bonin out of office now! It’s a grand idea to want to help the homeless but do it with someone who actually cares and isn’t corrupt like Mike Bonin. This Mike Bonin is really toying with our heads. We need to stop the BID and address homelessness in Venice. People all over the world are coming to Venice to seek out refuge. It’s a homeless utopia in Venice. It’s a utopia because there are people with open arms who are helping them and accepting of them as they are. Hope this helps neighbor. See you on the street.

  5. Gabriel Martinez

    To be honest Heidi, I really doubt by making these small real estate deals happen in Venice to end homelessness that it will actually work. Mike Bonin is really doing this because of the Bid. Bid is meant for real estate prices to sky rocket to the moon. Bonin doesn’t care about the homeless and anyone around here know that by now. This is about satisfying real estate developers wallets. It’s about cash flow. How many times Bonin has been involved in shady deals. It is true, we should all be compassionate towards the homeless. The problem is the BID. Go after the Bid first, since homeless people and the housed can equally benefit. Oherwise, after the Bid is in place more homelessness will occur, and nobody wants to be homeless. I still think of you as my close neighbor and if I ever see you rotting in the streets in Venice I’ll help you out. The homeless advocates and the rest of the community need to work together to end the BID. It’s proof of how corrupt Bonin really is. We can build paradise without Mike Bonin. And still make Venice the homeless utopia it was meant to be. And a utopia for everyone homeless or housed. Get Mike Bonin out of office now!

  6. Gabriel Martinez

    Hello Heidi,
    Mike Bonin’s solution in terms of offering lockers and storage is not long term. This is just the beginning of a long term solution to end homelessness. I think from the start, Mike Bonin should have said instead of ending homelessness, Mike could have said homeless prevention. I think you need to be more realistic Heidi. It’s not your fault, it’s the community response over homelessness. It’s a panic set in from this emergency call to end homelessness. Westminster is only a temporary solution and one day Venice will be the homeless helper hub of the world. People from all over the world already call Venice California the homeless capital of the world in terms of people being very accepting of homeless people. There are those that want to throw them all out of Los Angeles. That isn’t going to happen since homeless are people regardless of whether or not they have a home. There are people with compassion here in Venice who want to help the homeless any way they can. You are right, we should help them and not enable them. I think your confused about what enabling someone means. People are not born homeless, at least not most homeless people. People with homes can be just as enabled as the homeless. We are all in the same boat so to speak. As humans, we are have the right to freedom. That is a right we all have and are born with. You can’t control each human being and that is the essence of enabling. Put yourself in there shoes Heidi. We are all rotting in the same filth. Mike Bonin’s vision of making Venice a homeless advocate is a grand idea. He wants to create housing here in Venice for homeless and low income people. We are going to be neighbors Heidi and live in paradise together. Words already spreading around the world about this. People come here just to be homeless in hopes of finding a better way of life. The homeless come here to find themselves and to get off the streets. It’s really benefiting skid row too since the expo line and metro bring them straight to Venice to seek out refuge and a new beginning. Please join us Heidi to make Venice the homeless utopia it was meant to be. Chock full of social services and compassionate people to help guide us through the turmoil which is homelessness. Hope this helps neighbor. And thanks for helping the homeless. -Gabriel Martinez-

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