Alfred Adkins stepped off of his old, graffiti-covered school bus and into a Venice home he no longer has to move each day.
The 65-year-old was handed a new set of keys after signing the lease to his one-bedroom apartment in the 600 block of California Avenue Aug. 18 with Los Angeles officials and homeless advocates present.
It was the first time in about 12 years that Adkins had an apartment to call his home, rather than vans, or most recently, an old school bus.
“I won the lottery; what else can you say,” Adkins answered regarding the significance of moving into a stable home.
Adkins was the second person to be placed into housing under the city’s so-called Roadmap to Housing program, which aims to help people living in vehicles transition into permanent housing. The first participant to receive a home was a 50-year-old woman who was living in a vehicle with her dog in Venice for 10 years before moving into her apartment in Koreatown.
Adkins, who moved to California in 1957, had lived for the last year and a half on the streets of Venice in the school bus he bought from a school district for $500. He said he constantly had to move the bus, which he allowed graffiti artists to paint, for fear it would be towed, and previously made homes out of his vans over the years.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has sought solutions to the ongoing problem of vehicular living in his Westside district, was pleased to see that Adkins now has a home close to where he’s been staying in Venice and that other program participants are in the process of getting their apartments.
“This is a great day; a day when we’re showing that we can be part of a solution for people living in their cars and campers,” Rosendahl said.
“It was such a joy to go into this beautiful unit and know (Adkins) can get a good night’s sleep; that’s our goal.”
Rosendahl said officials are committed to helping people in vehicles who want assistance with housing, but those who opt out of the Roadmap to Housing effort will be faced with the city law that prohibits sleeping in vehicles.
The Roadmap to Housing program is administered by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and managed by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), with the primary goal of moving people into permanent housing. Rosendahl announced earlier this year that his office secured 50 housing vouchers for the initiative from the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles and the Veterans Administration.
Joel John Roberts, CEO of PATH, said outreach workers counted about 150 homeless vehicles in the 11th Council District in a November survey, and the agency has since enrolled 126 people in the program. Of those participants, 35 percent, or 40 people have received vouchers or are on the way to being housed, Roberts noted.
With Adkins being one of those people who just moved into a Housing Authority-owned complex in Venice, Roberts said it shows that the program works.
“This is a sign of success of what we can do here,” said Roberts, pointing to the building where the formerly homeless Adkins moved in. “The goal all along is to get people into housing. This is the end game here.”
Others who have closely worked with the Roadmap effort agreed that moments like the one Adkins experienced should be what the program aspires to achieve.
“This is exactly what we should be seeing this program do. The real solution to homelessness is getting people into permanent housing,” said Mike Arnold, executive director of the Homeless Services Authority.
Peter Lynn, the Section 8 director for the city’s Housing Authority, was also quick to point out that the program is specifically designed to transition people out of a state of homelessness. After determining the individuals who are eligible, the authority makes a referral in an effort to be able to house them more rapidly, he said.
Rosendahl said Adkins showed a tremendous interest in participating, noting how the PATH outreach workers, whom Adkins called his “heroes,” were the ones who convinced him of the benefits.
“Here is an example of an individual who was able to trust the approach we were doing,” the councilman said of Adkins.
The original proposal for Roadmap to Housing included a plan for identifying lots on the Westside where the participants could park safely overnight as they transition into housing. Rosendahl proposed using his office lots in Westchester and West Los Angeles, which received the backing of the communities’ neighborhood councils. An option for the Penmar Golf Course lot was supported by the Venice Neighborhood Council but later fell through.
A six-month progress report by PATH recommended that resources allocated for the temporary parking lot plan should instead be used toward outreach and housing placement. The report additionally recommended extending the period of services from 1 years to 2 years, which would increase the program’s impact in the area.
But some Venice residents said while they are happy to see people on the way to being housed, they have concerns with diverting from one of Roadmap’s original proposals: offering safe overnight parking in the interim.
“Everytime someone is placed into housing it’s a blessing. But I’m disappointed there are not safe overnight parking lots, which was the original plan,” said Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks, adding that the council was a long supporter of the program.
She said she believes that vehicular homeless who are in the process of finding housing should have a place to park overnight in the meantime without fear of harassment.
Rosendahl acknowledged the extensive community process toward identifying the temporary lots, but he referred to PATH’s report that found the limited resources would be better directed toward outreach and housing.
“The street is not a home, a parking lot is not a home,” Roberts said. “If we can get people housed into apartments that’s the end goal.”
Adkins, who said he lost his job as a supermarket meat cutter when he was told his job was obsolete, learned that it costs a lot less for a person to live inside than it does outside. While he said living on the street can offer a sense of complete freedom, Adkins is looking forward to his home being in the same place each night.
“I don’t know (how things will be different), but now I won’t have to park on a major street with traffic going all around,” he said.