Venice councilman seconds motion for “Czar” to coordinate homeless services

Councilman Mike Bonin.

A Los Angeles city councilman said on Friday a “czar” should be brought in to coordinate services for the homeless in the city.

Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion calling on the City Administrative Officer and Chief Legislative Analyst to report back to the City Council with ways to install a “full-time coordinator, director or czar” who will work with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Los Angeles County and other agencies and groups that provide services to the homeless.

The czar also can better connect the homeless or formerly homeless to resources offered by the city, including city-run housing units and vouchers, the motion said.

Huizar’s council district includes Skid Row, which the motion describes as a “one-square-mile section of downtown” that shelters a large concentration of the city’s homeless population.

Hollywood and Venice also have significant homeless populations, also contributing to Los Angeles’ reputation as the “homeless capital” of the country, according to the motion.

The motion is seconded by Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, and has been referred to the City Council’s Housing Committee.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment on if the mayor also believes Los Angeles needs a homeless czar.

Huizar earlier this week announced county agencies will work with the Los Angeles Police Department, City Attorney’s Office and other city departments to offer health screenings and referrals to mental health and social resources to homeless in Skid Row, every couple of months.

The services, which a Huizar aide said is being offered by the county “at no cost” to the city, are being offered as the city engages in a $3.7 million clean-up effort called Operation Healthy Streets, starting Aug. 13.

The cleanup will require the homeless residents of Skid Row to remove their personal belongings and store them elsewhere.

Other city council offices have also taken steps to bring resources directly to the homeless within their districts. Councilman Gil Cedillo last month formed the Westlake Coalition, a task force of nonprofits, county agencies and city departments, to begin monthly outreach sessions to the homeless at MacArthur Park.

Incidentally, the services along Skid Row were announced several months after Huizar supported an above-ground walkway at the under-construction Da Vinci apartments that developers and a downtown business group said would allow residents to avoid nearby homeless encampments and address “pervasive public safety concerns.”

The Venice area also has been the battleground for a dispute over the city’s midnight to 5 a.m. beach curfew, which effectively prevents overnight sleeping at the beach and the boardwalk. The Coastal Commission believes the curfew should be relaxed, while Bonin, the Venice area councilman, believes the city has the right to maintain a curfew.