For several homeless people in the Westchester and Venice areas, the new year is starting off with the prospect of a new home.

Community members are touting the recent efforts of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) and Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s program known as Roadmap to Housing for doing just that – moving people into housing. Thanks to the work of PATH outreach workers and others involved in Roadmap to Housing, several homeless individuals, most of whom were living in their vehicles in Westchester and Venice, as well as some sleeping outside are transitioning into permanent housing in the area.

The program, which is administered by PATH and is primarily focused on moving people living in vehicles on the Westside into housing, has secured housing for approximately 30 participants since its implementation last year, Rosendahl said.

The recent housing acquisition for men and women living in Westchester Park comes as an emergency winter shelter program opened early to provide temporary relief for the homeless on the Westside.

Rosendahl said he is thrilled with the success that the Roadmap to Housing program has seen so far.

“I couldn’t be more delighted that PATH has been able to put approximately 30 people into permanent housing, and we will look to move forward with it,” the councilman said.

“It shows that the Westchester and Venice communities are united on the issue of homelessness and are able to go forward to make something happen.”

PATH representatives provided an update of recent efforts to help the homeless at Westchester Park at a meeting of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa Jan. 3.

According to a PATH report, the organization has recently been able to find housing for three individuals who have been living in their vehicles at the Westchester Recreation Center parking lot, as well as a man and two women who have been sleeping outside in the park. Of the non-vehicular homeless, one is described as a vulnerable older woman who has temporarily moved into a Westside shelter. Another is described as a chronically homeless older man who is in poor health and has been assisted in finding low cost market rate housing on Venice Boulevard.

In Venice, PATH secured housing in the West Los Angeles area for a man who was living in his van for nearly eight years, as well as for a homeless couple who are now renting a small house, according to the report.

The PATH report noted that several other homeless individuals in the Westchester area, who are willing to work toward permanent housing and are being actively case managed, are expected to be housed within the next few months.

Booker Pearson, chair of the neighborhood council’s Homeless and Vehicular Living Committee who has been actively involved in the park’s homeless issues, said that finding housing for those struggling with homelessness “was always the goal.”

“It’s about getting these people who want to move forward with their lives into housing. This gives them a path to do it and a lot of them are taking it,” Pearson said of the program.

“I think it’s a huge multiplier for the community and for the people who are getting off the street.”

In recent months some residents and representatives of park facilities spoke of ongoing concerns regarding the homeless who sleep outside at the park, including being verbally harassed in the parking lot.

But Pearson noted that due to the efforts of the PATH workers, the Roadmap to Housing and the winter shelter, he has noticed significant improvements with the homeless situation. The number of people living in the park has greatly reduced and there have been no recent complaints of harassment, he said.

While much of the improvements have occurred with just two consistent outreach workers, many of the homeless are seeing the benefits of the program, Pearson said.

“It’s just applying very meager resources to a big problem and you start seeing some payback,” he said.

Rosendahl praised the ability of the PATH employees to convince some of the homeless who may be service resistant that moving into permanent housing is the right step.

“Being able to break through that barrier, give them the confidence and encourage them to be a part of housing in itself is a challenge,” Rosendahl said.

Rudy Salinas, director of community outreach for PATH, said that staff have dedicated many hours to working with the homeless at the park, and to form a trusting relationship with the clients requires perseverance. Although staff members work hard to maintain consistent contact, the success is also attributed to the clients who take the initiative to be a part of the program, he said.

“The work is not ours alone, as the clients themselves do quite a bit of legwork,” Salinas said. “It’s a credit to their strong desire to get housed.”

Once word traveled that PATH was successful in getting some homeless off the street, others who were initially reluctant to the idea began to approach the workers for help, he said.

“It’s been a huge sign that something is working and trust has been established,” he said.

Rosendahl stressed that the housing program will continue to run throughout the year and he will look to expand it to other parts of the county. The councilman also hopes to make strides in the fight against homelessness by opening a year-round shelter on the Westside, where there is currently only a seasonal program.

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