May 26, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Venice Shorts; Bass, Park, Lahsa Address the State of Homelessness in Cd-11, Venice

While Homelessness  Continues to Increase by Double-Digits, City Officials Remain Optimistic Things Can Turn Around!

By Nick Antonicello

With roughly 300 or so citizens, mostly from Venice attending a “State of Homelessness” presentation by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) via ZOOM Thursday evening, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass (D) and Councilwoman Traci Park (CD-11) joined Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, who heads this massive bureaucratic agency that has been tasked to change the face of homelessness here in Venice and the rest of Los Angeles.

Kellum, who was described as the “brains behind Inside Safe,” the Mayor’s emergency initiative to control the spread of street encampments was formerly with St. Joseph’s Center and was hired last winter at a salary in excess of $400,000, almost double of her predecessor!

Nevertheless, Kellum was upbeat and optimistic in her assessment of homelessness despite the fact Los Angeles County saw a 9% hike and Los Angeles a 10% increase in the unhoused here in Los Angeles. In sharp contrast, Houston, Texas saw a sharp decline in their homeless count year over year of some 20%!

Yesterday VNC Community Officer Soledad Ursua, long a critic of the current bridge housing on Main Street and strong proponent of public safety here in Venice was critical of the ZOOM call and believed the entire presentation could be an ethics code municipal violation.

“There are over 170,000 registered voters in CD-11. An RSVP list of only 150 people for a zoom meeting with Councilwoman Park and Mayor Bass is not an indication of successful outreach. This meeting is not posted on social media. How is a member of the public supposed to know about this meeting unless they were already subscribed to receive emails from the Councilwoman? This meeting is taxpayer-funded and is using government resources. Public meetings must be made accessible to the public,” offered Ursua in an e-mail thread yesterday.

Despite her protest, the meeting went on as scheduled.

And while the state of California is just 12% of the US population, it accounts for roughly 33% of the unhoused here in America.

While the situation was described as “troubling and disappointing,” Both Bass and Park acknowledged that there are more homeless here in Los Angeles than ever before.

The presentation, which lasted about 90 minutes with just a handful of questions from the audience saw both Bass and Park praise each other and their partnership despite the fact the numbers do not reflect any real or tangible results.

While an unprecedented amount of financial resources including $250 million from the federal government and the Biden Administration, the City of Los Angeles has earmarked a staggering $1.3 billion in new spending to combat what was described by all as the most challenging issue facing LA.

Bass said CD-11 was “fortunate to have Councilwoman Park,” despite not knowing her until after their victories last November that saw Bass cruise past billionaire developer Rick Caruso and Park edge out Erin Darling, a fellow Venetian and attorney by a slim, 52-48% margin.

Bass asserted that some 1,400 individuals have been removed from the streets to housing citywide while Park noted some 200 have been housed here in Venice as several large encampments were cleaned and swept on Hampton, Flower, Third, and South Venice Blvd.

Park praised Bass for the “partnership and leadership,” as well as with LAHSA in her initial months in office.

Bass emphasized her commitment to stemming the homeless epidemic while pivoting towards the RV challenge that has exploded both in Venice and rest of Los Angeles.

In offering new statistics based on the current state of homelessness based on the recently completed homeless count which was validated by the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), there are roughly 75,000 individuals on the streets of LA County, not including Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale that conduct their own counts.

LAHSA breaks down Los Angeles into eight SPAS or Service Planning Areas of which Venice is part of SPA #5 which saw the largest increase in homelessness year over year.

No numbers were offered as to the actual number of homeless in Venice year over year despite the fact the presentation was geared to Venetians.

The overall number of homeless in Los Angeles is estimated at some 46,000, and of that 18% are chronically unhoused.

According to the numbers presented, there was an 11% increase in homeless males while 42% of the overall homeless population identified as Hispanic, 31.7% African-American and 19.4% white.

Some good news offered was that number of days to rehouse was at 60 days, but none of the presenters seemed satisfied with the overall dismal figures year over year.

Kellum acknowledged a sense that most residents don’t believe anything is changing, and that real goals of decreasing encampments through a system that unifies local, county, state and federal efforts is necessary.

Kellum referred to “master leasing” and having individuals “document ready” as part of the process of housing navigation. Interim housing and permanent housing were two parts of the housing crisis that needed to be better addressed. According to the presentation, the average rent in Los Angeles is $2,452 per month and the loss of income as the number one source of new homelessness.

The current goal is to construct 5,000 units and 3,200 this year.

Park shared the same sense of urgency in terms of providing results and emphasized that her team is working on homelessness each and every day while flip-flopping on her position regarding bridge housing which she opposed as a candidate in 2021 and 2022.

She announced again bridge housing is here to stay in Venice, while committing to keeping the unhoused off of specific public parcels like the beach, libraries and schools.

Park said she is committed to cracking down on “van lords,” individuals who rent space in illegal RV dwellings that in many cases are riddled with health code violations unfit for human habitation in some cases.

Park said a pilot program will be launched regarding RV’s and supported an unarmed response to disputes with those in street encampments.

“We need to move the needle on homelessness.”

While the $1.3 billion dollar figure in the new LA municipal budget was described as a game changing expenditure, it was unclear how much would be spent in Venice, ground zero for homelessness here in CD-11.

Park talked about investment in addiction recovery, but no mention was made as to just how much of these dollars go to hard and soft costs, like salaries or fees to service providers who play a huge role in the cost of this cottage industry of homelessness.

One of the concerns expressed was the repopulation of encampments cleared and Park mentioned she received a $78 traffic ticket due the fact she had nowhere to park because of the proliferation of RV’s that do not get ticketed.

Park pleaded with those few who asked questions that help was on the way, and to be patient moving forward.

While the rhetoric of the presentation does not match the reality of the streets, the plan of action moving forward was vague and lacked specifics.

Park also acknowledged the depleting number of sworn officers here in Los Angeles, a root foundation of her political support and her victory last November as she enjoyed overwhelming support from the Police Protective League or PPL, the union that represents the LAPD.

Park stated that LA will have around 8,800 officers and according to the new budget, a $1.9 billion dollar expenditure.

In clear contrast, New York City has some 36,000 officers and an operating budget of $5.4 billion which represents one of the largest expenditures in municipal spending. New York City also has a pension and health benefits obligation of $3.5 billion.

It was unclear just what is the role of LAPD and public safety in general when it comes to the homeless dilemma.

The meeting closed with about 257 individuals still on the call, and Park stated this ZOOM call was just a starting point, and that future community meetings will be scheduled.

It was unclear if these future meetings would in-person or virtual.

The overall tone of the meeting was positive, but impossible to gage those watching and listening. Those who did get called on to speak were generally supportive of Park’s efforts and her staff.

Based on the size of those participating, it is clear that homelessness, street encampments and housing are very much on the minds of those who took the time to participate and will remain so until residents can see tangible progress.

Nick Antonicello is a thirty-year resident who covers the issue of homelessness here in Venice. Have a take or a tip on the issue of new encampments or homelessness in general, contact Antonicello via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com

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