Venice locals volunteer in largest annual homeless count of its kind anywhere in the United States
By Nick Antonicello
About 100 or so Venetians descended upon the St. Joseph Center Wednesday evening to conduct the annual LA Homeless Count sponsored by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority otherwise know as LAHSA. The event is a critical function of LAHSA to determine an accurate count of the city’s homeless population. For me, this was my fifth homeless count and I was joined by two members of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Elizabeth Clay and Soledad Romero Ursua.
Those volunteering in teams with a new app scoured the streets of Venice compassionately identifying the current homeless population be it be on foot, in tents or other makeshift structures as well as cars, RV’s, buses and other vehicles that are currently occupying the Venice street population. These observations and headcounts were done in compliance with the training and guidelines offered by LAHSA in a ZOOM call for all those that participated or in subsequent YOUTUBE training as well.
Those participating were greeted by Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, who has left St. Joseph Center to head-up LAHSA after earning the support of Mayor Karen Bass, the LA County Board of Supervisors including Supervisor Chair Janice Hahn, newly elected Supervisor Lindsey Horvath and Chair of LAHSA, former LA city council member Wendy Greuel. Dr. Adams Kellum replaces former Executive Director Heidi Marston who resigned last May from her $260,000 post. Adams Kellum is taking on the newly created role of chief executive officer (CEO) and will be paid substantially more starting at $430,000, a forty percent increase minus other compensation perks.
Adams Kellum complete financial package has not been made public yet with the 30-year old governmental bureaucracy that has had a history of mediocre and mixed results as homelessness has become easily the single most important issue for Venetians as well as Angelenos as street counts have soared over the last several years.
LA Councilwoman Traci Park (CD-11), also a Venice resident and attorney addressed those in attendance and thanked them for their spirit of volunteerism in ensuring an accurate count is reached and the importance of a unified front in battling the current encampments. Since assuming office on December 12th, Park has made substantial progress in removing over 100 homeless individuals from the streets of Venice alone, specifically at Flower, Hampton and Third, where those encampments have been for the most part, cleaned and cleared.
In addition to VNC members Clay and Ursua, Community Officer Nico Ruderman also volunteered his time tonight with Katrina Schmitt, chief organizers of the 2021 Bonin Recall campaign.
Ruderman is running again for the VNC, this time unopposed as Communications Officer. Ruderman was an unsuccessful candidate for the California legislature in the 2022 June Primary and is a popular activist and Venice advocate who supported Park in her effort to succeed former Councilman Mike Bonin.
There was a sense of optimism in the air on this brisk January night as my team of four walked Oceanfront Walk and other Venice neighborhoods to ensure a credible head count which lasted for about two hours. Once the canvassing was complete, the information was submitted to St. Joseph & LAHSA officials who then thanked the volunteers and presented them all with certificates of appreciation for their community involvement.
LAHSA is claiming that the mammoth agency has placed some 64,000 individuals indoors, and LAHSA is embracing Dr. Adams Kellum as fostering a new era of unity and cooperation. Adams Kellum in a press release stated “that business as usual is unacceptable,” and that “we must all lock arms to create a new way forward to help our unhoused neighbors and restore our neighborhoods.”
Nick Antonicello is a 30-year resident of the neighborhood of Venice and completed his fifth homeless count canvass. A member of the Outreach and Oceanfront Walk Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Antonicello continues to cover the issue of street encampments. Have a take or a tip on all things Venice? E-mail Antonicello at email@example.com