The Venice Neighborhood Council has formed an ad hoc committee specifically charged with addressing various issues related to homelessness and exploring potential solutions to improve the situation facing the community.

Combining efforts of two task force groups that have studied different aspects of the homeless issue, including those living in recreational vehicles (RVs) on the streets, the Neighborhood Council voted Tuesday, June 17th, to create a single ad hoc committee on homelessness and vehicular living.

Following a town hall meeting on homelessness earlier this year, the Neighborhood Council set up a task force to review community input gathered at the meeting and develop various recommendations for council consideration. In a separate action, Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse had formed a task force dealing with vehicular living issues that looked into alternative solutions for people living on the streets.

The issue of RVs being parked on Venice streets for extended periods of time has been a source of frustration for many residents, who claim that the vehicles are turning the community into a campground and creating unsanitary conditions. The vehicular living task force had proposed a recommendation to allow people to sleep overnight in vehicles on public or private property as long as they had the property owner’s permission.

A group of residents opposing the recommendation submitted a petition, saying that the task force was not drawn from a cross section of the community and the plan did not consider the concerns of nearby residents and businesses.

While the homeless task force studied broader issues related to the problem, including housing facilities and outreach, many argued that the group inevitably covered issues similar to the RV task force. As a way to avoid the two groups from doing similar work, the Neighborhood Council decided to combine them.

“There was already a tremendous amount of redundancy in the materials so it was recommended that they be combined,” said Mark Ryavec, who has been selected as a co-chair of the new committee along with Judy Alexander of St. Joseph Center.

Neighborhood Council secretary Joe Murphy added, “There was an overlap with those who were interested in the subjects, so it made sense to have it as one committee.”

The ad hoc homelessness committee will be comprised of 12 voting members, including two co-chairs, two Neighborhood Council members, and eight community stakeholders selected by the co-chairs. The council recommended that the stakeholders be representative of various community interests.

The committee will also work with non-voting members from city and county agencies, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office.

According to the council’s mission statement, the committee is charged with “identifying local and regional solutions and actions to assist those who are indigent and thus unable to afford housing.” Committee members plan to seek the input not just of residents and businesses, but service providers and homeless individuals as well.

Council members note that the committee can create subcommittees to deal with more specific issues such as RV living. According to the council motion, the committee’s mission is to end vehicular living on city streets and identify regional alternatives.

Some council members say they hope that having a single committee will be more effective in exploring potential solutions.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be effective,” Neighborhood Council vice president Linda Lucks said. “I hope it will be fair and balanced and will look at solutions for the entire city, not just Venice.”

Ryavec said that having one committee will help avoid redundancy on the homeless issues.

“This way it gets all the players at one table to look at all the issues,” he said.

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