May 22, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Column: VNC Homeless Committee Hosts Park Staffers on the State of Encampments in Venice, CD-11

Park Homeless Coordinator, Venice Deputy seek community input and engagement in assessing and resolving the ongoing encampment crisis

By Nick Antonicello 

VENICE – In keeping to the commitment of engaging the Venice community when it comes to the state of homelessness and encampments, the Homelessness Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org) hosted two members of the legislative team of Councilwoman Traci Park (CD-11) in addressing the ongoing crisis and while offering some positive updates, was short on several specifics and asked the public for patience in solving this “monstrosity of an issue” that plagues Los Angeles and Venice in particular. 

The Homelessness Committee, chaired by Frank Murphy is comprised of members Vicki Halliday, Pat Raphael, Brian Ulf, Elizabeth Wright, Jody Mortimer and Stan Muhammad. 

The committee meets once a month and hosts guests and agenda items surrounding the homeless and encampment crisis. 

About ten or so residents asked questions on specific encampment and RV sightings that have proliferated over the last several months and have become concerning to locals exhausted by a dilemma that is slow to solve. 

Murphy introduced both Park staffers in Juan Fregoso, the Councilwoman’s new point person on the crisis and Ashley Lozado, the new Venice Deputy. 

Fregoso was previously employed by former LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell who was defeated for reelection last year and has been in the employ of LA city government for nearly a decade. Lozado is a former staffer to former LA Councilman Joe Buscaino and served as his Watts Deputy. Buscaino was an unsuccessful candidate for LA Mayor in 2022 who dropped out to support billionaire developer Rick Caruso who in turn spent over $100 million dollars of his own money only to lose to Mayor Karen Bass in the November run-off. 

Neither Fregoso or Lozado are residents of Venice or CD-11. 

In fact, when I asked if any members of Team Park were Venice residents, Fregoso replied, “Traci Park.” 

It has been long believed that in CD-11, half of the homeless population was located in Venice, “Ground Zero” for encampments outside of LA’s Skid Row.

When asked if that was still the case, no number was offered or confirmed by either Park representative. 

At least two ZOOM callers asked for updates on the plethora of RV’s along North Venice Boulevard and the encampments that are due west of the Friday Farmer’s Market that is by the pedestrian sidewalk. I wrote about this encampment last week and you can click here: https://yovenice.com/2023/02/22/venice-shorts-are-south-venice-encampments-next-for-city-clean-up/ to the see the proliferation of tents and RV’s. 

For the most part, the discussion was productive as several attendees thanked the Park staffers for coming on the call and offering support in addressing the ongoing crisis. 

The conversation remained positive and information on new resources, such as beds and usage of city-owned parcels to house individuals as well as the parking of oversized vehicles (RV’s) were ongoing themes throughout the conversation. 

Fregoso stressed partnership with county, state and federal officials critical to coordinating a new strategy in lieu of the Mayor’s emergency proclamation and “Inside Safe” initiative. 

The push by Mayor Bass and Councilwoman Park has resulted in about 150 homeless individuals off the streets of Venice according to Park in recent public comments I attended. 

Encampments have been cleared on Flower, Hampton and Third and many believe the recent LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) homeless count will result in a sharp reduction of the unsheltered citywide. 

Fregoso stated that RV’s “are a much bigger question,” and that Bass and the LA City Council are currently mulling new ideas and proposals to address the vehicle challenge. 

Other questions posed by the public turned to how many beds would be needed in CD-11, and what could be the potential location for mental health services. 

A question asking the status of legislation regarding bicycle chop shops was also another neighborhood concern. 

Estimates as to how many individuals are currently on the streets of CD-11 was believed to be roughly 1,200. 

So the question of how many homeless are actually living on the streets of Venice remains estimated, but factually unknown. 

While LAHSA’s new numbers are not readily available, in 2019 there were some 1,200 people on the streets of Venice and the 2022 numbers suggested 259 sheltered and 722 unsheltered for a total of 981: https://yovenice.com/2022/09/12/column-lahsa-claims-50-reduction-of-homeless-population-in-venice-39-drop-in-cd-11/

Fregoso was blunt about the enormity of the challenge and stressed over and over again that an engaged Venice populous is critical to assisting this crisis. 

“This is not going to be fixed overnight or in a month,” offered the Park policy wonk. 

Venice resident Gabe Smith, who identified himself as a candidate in the March 26th VNC election for LUPC Chair also asked for specifics regarding new homeless figures. 

Smith also asked how many of those homeless were out-of-state individuals and suggested Los Angeles be rebated for providing homeless services for these non-California residents. 

Fregoso suggested “going after states as tricky,” and believed providing services “regardless how they got here” as the policy priority.  

Fregoso believed the use of the Municipal Ordinance 41.18 would help minimize the size and scope of encampments citywide moving forward.

Both staffers were seeking continued engagement and public input in battling the issue of homelessness and encampments and thanked those in attendance who would take the time to attend a conversation on the topic on a rainy Tuesday evening via ZOOM. 

Brian Ulf, a longtime member thanked the Park staffers for their insight and input as the transition from former Councilmember Mike Bonin to Councilwoman Traci Park was warmly welcomed by the entire group. 

Ulf was concerned about future transparency as service providers will now be reporting to Mayor Bass versus LA’s fifteen council members. 

The meeting was over two hours and Chairman Frank Murphy extended an invitation for them both to return and address any updates that can be shared with the public in a future discussion.

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who covers the issue of homelessness and encampments in Venice. A member of the Oceanfront and Outreach Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Antonicello can be reached via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com

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