A nonprofit organization that works specifically with homeless people in areas across Los Angeles County has been selected as the agency to manage a proposed safe overnight parking program on the Westside.

Under the program, those who are forced to live in their vehicles on the streets will be offered designated areas in Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s 11th District where they can park safely overnight and begin the transition into housing. The participants, who must follow certain regulations, will be provided with basic amenities such as restrooms, showers and trash facilities, and will have access to services including case management.

Known as “Streets to Homes,” the parking program will be administered by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

“The program is designed to create a pathway for people to enter and begin that trajectory back to housing,” Michael Arnold, LAHSA executive director, told Venice community members at a town hall meeting on homeless issues in September. “We know it’s a program that works.”

Following the issuance of a request for proposals (RFP) for the initiative, the LAHSA board has selected People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) to receive a contract to further develop and run the program, said Calvin Fortenberry, LAHSA spokesman. The effective date of the appointment is yet to be determined.

PATH is a non-profit that works to combat homelessness by empowering homeless people with the tools for self-sufficiency. The agency, which serves people in several sites throughout the county, aims to provide services that help the homeless find work, save money, secure housing and empower their lives.

As the chosen Streets to Homes service provider, PATH will work with the community, Rosendahl’s office, the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies to evaluate and refine the program, according to LAHSA. A spokesperson for PATH was unavailable for comment on the selection.

The Streets to Homes program has been proposed as local communities, particularly Venice, have looked to find solutions in recent years to an ongoing problem of RVs and other vehicles lining the streets for extended periods.

After the California Coastal Commission has twice rejected permits for overnight parking restrictions in Venice, the Los Angeles City Council approved restrictions banning the overnight parking of so called “oversize” vehicles on city streets. But with such oversize parking limits in place, community leaders wanted to ensure that those forced to stay in their vehicles would have a place to park safely as they transition into housing.

The safe parking pilot program in the 11th Council District is modeled after similar efforts in Santa Barbara and Eugene, Ore. Rosendahl, who has been a strong advocate for the initiative, said he is “delighted” that PATH has been chosen as the agency to run the program.

“(PATH) has a great history with the work that they’ve done. I have great respect for them and I have over the years,” Rosendahl said.

Venice community members who are familiar with the efforts to address the vehicular living issue were also quick to offer praise to the new program manager.

“Their reputation is stellar. They do great work all over the city of L.A. with the homeless,” Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks said. “Of all the agencies, I couldn’t be happier (that PATH was selected) because they are comprehensive and citywide.

“My understanding is that they know how to provide comprehensive services and how to manage the different social service components necessary to make a program like that work.”

David Ewing, a member of the Venice Action Alliance, which has advocated for implementing the safe parking program in conjunction with the oversize restrictions, also referred to the advantages of PATH’s extensive outreach.

“They’re a countywide organization and they’re big enough to have some clout and plenty of expertise on tap,” Ewing said. “They have an advantage because they’re non-combatants in the local issues and altercations. They’re coming in fresh with no hard feelings against them and no bridges burned.”

But Ewing added that one disadvantage to not being a locally based organization is that PATH may not know the “local players” or have a feel for the terrain like a local organization would. He noted that according to the RFP, the service provider will be collaborating with other local agencies for various components of the program.

As part of the process, the manager will assess the vehicular homeless population to find people who meet the criteria for participation, including those willing to act as good neighbors, Lucks noted. The participants will agree to obey a code of conduct, or face possible removal.

During the program, outreach and engagement teams will visit with the participants and maintain contact with them. The designated parking zones will include areas such as church, temple and nonprofit organization lots. Referring to resident concerns about the location of the lots, Arnold has said the sites will be selected with community involvement.

Now that a service provider has been determined, community leaders expressed encouragement as the Streets to Homes effort moves ahead as a way to resolve the local problem.

“This will be a program that we want to have for people who want help,” Rosendahl said. “I’m very optimistic that this program will get off the ground and go well.”

Lucks agreed, saying, “If this can get a good number of people off the streets and into housing it’s a win as far as I’m concerned.”

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