Bonin program brings 70 homeless indoors in two weeks

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The City Council has allocated $5 million to pay for interim housing for about 200 people who live in encampments along Ocean Front Walk in Venice and are being offered a pathway to permanent housing through Councilman Mike Bonin’s “Encampment to Home” program.

The program had brought more than 70 people inside as of July 6, Bonin said on a Facebook post. About 19 of them were brought inside before the program’s official start June 28, as St. Joseph Center teams began outreach on June 21.

The St. Joseph Center was contracted to outreach and offer housing, shelter and services to the people who live in the boardwalk encampments, which have proliferated amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who do not accept housing have to leave the area by a certain date, Bonin’s office said, but it was not clear how that will be enforced.

Bonin announced June 28 that outreach workers began the previous week and already had moved 19 people indoors.

The Venice Beach Encampment to Home program is moving people indoors and on a path to permanent housing,” Bonin said. “There’s a right way to confront our homelessness crisis — it starts with housing and services.”

Outcry about the homelessness crisis in the area has been a factor in a recall effort launched against Bonin last month. The councilman has contrasted his voluntary approach to housing the area’s homeless population to that taken by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who sent deputies to Venice in an effort to clear the encampments by July 4.

Some of Bonin’s constituents have accused him and his staff of being hypocrites, according to Fox11, which obtained an email from Bonin’s acting district director, Hannah Levien, who complained about a man living outside Bonin’s Westchester field office on Manchester Avenue.

We have a person permanently staying in front of our office who is disruptive to our ability to work and blocks the entrance. Would this be considered an interference with the business trespass? Please let me know as soon as possible,” the email stated, according to Fox11.

Bonin’s chief of staff issued Fox11 a statement that said the councilman “didn’t know about this and it isn’t how he personally would have handled it. He believes our response to homelessness and encampments on public property needs to lead with housing and services, not enforcement. That’s what he was fighting for today at City Hall, and that’s the approach we are taking as we are housing dozens of unhoused residents of Venice Beach this week with our Encampments to Homes program.”

The process to offer shelter to the boardwalk’s unhoused residents will take about six weeks, and each week the outreach teams will focus on a different section of Ocean Front Walk, according to Bonin.

During outreach for a particular zone, the unhoused residents will be given a choice of either accepting housing or moving out of that zone.

Over the six-week period, as people are given housing and leave the encampments, the Bureau of Sanitation will clean the area. Bonin said in an email to constituents that his office — with assistance from Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl — identified permanent housing options including Project Homekey, shared housing and permanent housing vouchers.

Aside from the $5 million allocated for interim housing, funds for permanent housing will come from resources already available, according to Bonin’s office. The motion also instructs the city administrative officer and the chief legislative analyst to report on the likely total cost of the program.

Bonin said it may take time to place the unhoused Venice residents into the permanent housing options, particularly through the voucher program, as the city must identify willing landlords and available units.

In the interim, temporary housing will be given, including up to six months of motel placements, which is the most commonly requested form of temporary housing, Bonin said.

Bonin’s initiative’s partners include People Assisting the Homeless, Safe Place for Youth, Venice Family Clinic, Self Help and Recovery Exchange and CLARE Matrix. Participating government agencies include the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the Public Health, Mental Health and Recreation & Parks departments and the Bureau of Sanitation.

The Los Angeles Police Department is aware and supportive of the program but is not involved in the rehousing effort, according to Bonin.

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