Temporary housing is a humane and effective way to address encampments like this one on Hampton Drive
Photo by Maria Martin

Putting temporary housing in Venice is a win-win for homeowners and the homeless

By Michael Rapkin

Rapkin is a local homeowner, part-owner of a restaurant on Ocean Front Walk, and an attorney who advocates for the homeless.

Many homeowners and renters in Venice have complained vociferously for years about the large number of homeless people sleeping on local sidewalks, in alleys and on Ocean Front Walk, and maintaining their personal possessions in those areas. They’ve complained about human waste left in public areas, and voiced concerns about public safety among so many unsheltered men, women and children.

These are legitimate concerns, but these are also good reasons to support a temporary housing facility at the former Metro bus depot on Main Street. Created specifically to serve people currently living in Venice encampments, this local rollout of the city’s “A Bridge Home” initiative is going to be a win-win for residents and the local homeless population alike.

It’s a win-win because at any given time 100 people otherwise sleeping in tents or under the stars will be able to leave the streets for a temporary roof over their heads on the way to permanent housing, and when people move from encampments to bridge housing the city will clean up the former encampments.

It’s a win-win because bridge housing will include storage facilities, meaning there will be much less personal property strewn about Venice’s public areas.

It’s a win-win because bridge housing will provide 24/7 bathroom access and security, preventing public health and nuisance issues. There will also be on-site management and access to food, mental health professionals, employment specialists and anti-addition experts to facilitate residents’ journeys toward permanent housing.

This will not be a homeless shelter, only providing an evening meal and overnight bed. Venice already has a popular bridge housing program for pregnant women called Harvest Home. Venice does not have any homeless shelters, which is no doubt one of the reasons we presently have 854 unsheltered neighbors, as of the county’s January homeless count.

Because bridge housing will provide shelters, services and security for those already on the streets, there’s no reason for locals to anticipate an increase in crime. Nor is there evidence that home values in Venice — which have only increased in value despite the presence of hundreds of unsheltered homeless people — will decrease if we trade tent encampments for city-regulated temporary housing. And the Metro lot appears to be an ideal location because it is large and already buffered from existing residences.

Venice residents, you know we have a crisis on our hands. You see it every day. You want to reduce homelessness. And it’s worth noting that the homeless folks we see are mostly longtime residents of Los Angeles County. More than three-quarters of those experiencing homelessness in our county have lived here for at least five years, and 57% of those living on the streets have been in Los Angeles for more than 20 years — many of them losing their homes due to sharp increases in housing costs.

It’s a myth that homeless people prefer living on the streets. While it is true that many homeless people decline to live in emergency shelters because they’d have to leave behind property and be separated from family members and beloved pets, the bridge housing in Venice is not a shelter and this will neither separate families nor forbid pets.

Help is finally on the horizon for homeless families, military veterans, seniors, victims of domestic violence, the mentally ill and those who self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Locals should not stand in its way.