July 21, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Venice Shorts: Committee Hears Marr Street Residents’ Concerns on Encampments

CD-11 Staffers Address Concerns, 2024 Homeless Count Figures to Be Announced June 28 as a Decrease Appears Likely

By Nick Antonicello

The Homelessness Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council met Tuesday evening at the Free Public Library and members of Councilwoman Traci Park’s (CD-11) staff fielded general questions on homelessness as well as specific actions taking place at Marr Street where several residents were on hand from that block seeking information on the status of any impending cleanups.

About fifty residents were on-hand with Alley Bean presiding.

Other committee members include Lisa Redmond, Naomi Nightingale, Christina Tullock, Judy Goldman and Alfie Jones.

Casey Pratts, a former employee of LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) and now the Homelessness & Housing Coordinator for CD-11 was joined by senior staffer Juan Fregoso as well as Sean Silva, the Venice neighborhood deputy.

Pratts made some brief remarks as Juan Fregoso, the CD-11 Homeless District Director also fielded questions from the audience.

Several Marr Street residents were in attendance and VNC Community Officer Clark Brown spoke on the need and urgency to have that encampment immediately remediated.

Residents complained that once some encampments are clean and RV’s leave, they quickly come back.

Residents who spoke claimed the situation is “escalating,” as open camp fires and drug use was evident.

One speaker said the urination and defecation was widespread, and that outside cooking was increasing.

“Things could explode,” offered one resident.  

Fregoso said an effort to keep the right-of-ways clear was a city priority.

He also noted all operations regarding RV compliance are on Wednesdays as Brown questioned what specifically is being done.

Fregoso agreed that permanent housing was a  challenge and that he was prioritizing the retention of the 154 beds currently available for temporary shelter.

I asked the question of reliable data, since LAHSA self-reports and it was announced that the results of the 2024 Homeless Count will be made available this Friday at a press conference ZOOM call beginning at 10:30 AM.

From the body language of the presenters, it was evident that good news will be offered to the public and that was confirmed when committee member Lisa Redmond indicated that CD-11 will be pleased with the results.

“There will be lots of crowing,” offered the longtime homeless advocate.  

It was also indicated that no specific neighborhood data or metrics will be offered, which is what most Venetians will be seeking in that report. Some CD-11 staffers suggested “visually speaking” the plight of the streets has improved, while the number of RV’s have increased, and that is apparently a citywide trend.

For the CD-11 staff emphasized they were seeking accountability and transparency which is currently lacking according to Fregoso.

The cottage industry of homelessness has been harshly criticized during this crisis as city expenditures have swelled to nearly $1.5 billion dollars annually, yet the construction of permanent housing is seemingly too little and too late.

One Homelessness Board member, Alfie Jones, was highly critical of the dollars being spent, especially by Saint Joseph’s Center that apparently was awarded a $900,000 contract dealing with mental health casework.

Pat Raphael, a former member of the committee and unhoused, was critical for the lack of action to build supportive housing at a rapid pace and questioned if the homeless in general were welcome in Venice.

One question regarding selective enforcement was addressed and Fregoso assured those assembled that was not the case.

Committee conversation talked about service providers “failing the homeless,” and CD-11 staffers were disturbed by those accusations and promised to look into it moving forward.

Also in attendance were VNC board members CJ Cole, Steve Bradbury and Erica Moore.

Once the Q&A was completed, the committee addressed several motions for action as a good part of the audience left at roughly 7:15.

Nick Antonicello is a thirty-one year resident of Venice and covers the current encampment and RV crisis in the neighborhood. Have an encampment issue on your block or street? E-mail Antonicello at nantoni@mindspring.com

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