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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Regina Weller and why the “Bridge Housing” wont work

14 June 2018

Note: Sometimes Regina speaks of Measure HHH monies being spent. Measure HHH is used for building. Measure H is used for services.

This story was made as a comment to the questions Kip Pardue prepared for the Westminster meet Darryl DuFay brought it to the attention of the Update as being worthy of  a story by itself.    Regina writes of Bridge Housing which is the topic of conversation of Venetians.

Sorry everyone: Bridge housing on the MTA grounds sounds lovely, but the problem will be with the time restriction offered to the participants in the Bridge Housing program – a 3-month time limit for each individual? And then what? Kicked out and then where do they go? Then you bring in another bunch for a 3-month stint and then where do they go next? That’s a BRIDGE TO NOWHERE!

Everyone knows there are no permanent vacancies available because efforts were not painstakingly underway to allocate or acquire property to build permanent housing, even in the last few years with the availability of HHH funding. The funds primarily should have been used to facilitate vacancies for the homeless, and to acquire property and then build, build, build.

The only logical thing to do! Heidi Roberts and John Betz did just that (on their own) by acquiring property and building from the ground up in Los Angeles (in a relatively short time), subsequently housing 28 homeless people. What an example! It obviously can be a reality, it can be done.

Wake up call: Too much of HHH funds are still being used to categorize and analyze the homeless, and constant meetings held to maintain the oversized bureaucratic CES data entry system, providing a “Cart Before The Horse” outcome. The data system and the personnel required to maintain it, swallow up the funding.

This has taken precedence over quick and direct help to the individual in need. The homeless in hopes of acquiring housing, submit to a lengthy CES questionnaire, when the probability of being housed doesn’t even exist because in reality there are no such vacancies ready for them. This causes more distrust.

And many of the organizations attending Venice Forward have traditionally pooh-poohed collaborative housing as a viable option in providing immediate housing. This mindset has to change quickly – there are droves of homeless coming in from other states of a Bohemian lifestyle, the Jones settlement allowing for sidewalk sleepovers, and by newspaper articles discussing the large amount of funding available for homeless here via HHH funds. Why oh why, do HHH funds have to be grandiosely announced by our L.A. Politicians over and over again? Unforeseen by our leaders, it prompted and partially ushered in the California Homeless Rush. (The large feather untimely placed in ones’ cap, sometimes dismantles the greater good.)

Additionally, it’s been my observation over many years that 70% of the homeless in Venice are using drugs and alcohol, so that my husband and I were offering placement in rehab facilities if they were willing, even before we provided family reunification, and even screening prior to placement in available housing.

On the CES survey, no homeless person ever naturally admits they are using drugs or alcohol, so that the stats register low. Rehab programs are important and its been left out of the equation for problem solving. They have to be WILLING AND WANT A LIFE OFF THE STREETS more than we want it for them.

I’m not so sure, if the planned Bridge Housing program will stipulate some kind of sobriety or willingness for sobriety, as a prerequisite to entry. If this is not a requirement, the bridge housing facility will be a climate of chaos, to say the least, for the residents, for the neighborhood, for the police, and for the facility itself. “No Change” to a drug-induced, alcoholic lifestyle will certainly never change the negative outcomes. And yes, I am very aware that some are mentally ill and need more help than others, and that some have just been derailed as a result of the economy and through no fault of their own, and yes some are of the criminal element and need to be incarcerated.

Furthermore, has anyone raised the question: Why can’t the MTA site be prepared now for PERMANENCY or a longer stay? Go ahead and orchestrate the plan for the MTA grounds, but can leadership consider eliminating the 3-month housing deadline straight away? This is not a cattle drive; these are human beings in crisis. How would any of you like to be treated in this way? Or your sons and daughters handled in this way: told you can move in and then ordered to move out a few months later?! That’s a hopeless and scary revolving door. And what housing options or guarantees are offered by leadership and the homeless service organizations given the large dollar figures through HHH funding that when the 3-month stay comes to term, that other housing accommodations will be made available besides the familiar Venice sidewalk? It’s the time limitation that is the weak link, resembling the typical arrangement with some SRO (single room occupancy) housing around L.A. Skid Row – 4 months in and then out the door again, and in the street again. Strangely so…the masses grow, and lawlessness prevails.

This is my recommendation: that the site be considered for an 18-month stay which would give the individual time to stabilize, allowing for better decision-making and choices without the psychosis imposed on their minds from constant interrupted sleep. It has been my experience from my years of service to the unhoused, that when one does not have the pressure hanging over his head of the possibility of forced exit to the street again, that most thrive and set their sights higher, even to finding employment. For the mental health consumer, making the commitment to take the necessary psych meds prescribed on a regular basis allows for coherent reasoning and dialogue and an enhanced lifestyle. Others even voluntarily return home to the families they miss.

The absence of a rental term constraint is a good thing and this is what Heidi Roberts and John Betz have decided for Weller House, including the assistance of follow-up care provided by SHARE! Peer Support counselors. On a side note, I must mention THE UNSUNG HERO IN VENICE, JOHN BETZ: Never there for the argument, stepping away from his leadership post at the Long Beach Port to volunteer his free time to do the right thing for the disenfranchised, toting that refrigerator all by himself into the home he has built for them from the ground up. Did you see that picture in the LA Times? What a man!

Just my two cents…
Kip Pardue, thanks for your pertinent questions, and all those whose heart is affected by this dilemma. For the record,Kip, Homeless Task Force placed 416 individuals from 2015 to April 2018. All due respect and credit to the vision and groundwork of the late Reverend Steven Weller.

Chaplain Regina Weller,
Executive Director,
Homeless Task Force

Comments (2)

  1. Dr. Katherine Peters

    Hi Regina,

    I was thinking about you and Pastor Steve and found he had passed. I want to see how you are doing and see what I can do to help.

    Love to you

  2. Regina Weller

    Sorry for not clarifying HHH and H – it’s basically all the same to me: a whole lot of money gathered from taxpayers for the homeless cause, with nothing to show for it in Venice.

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