Those who praised Rosendahl’s compassion for the homeless should support his successor’s comprehensive approach
Last week our community said a heartfelt goodbye to former L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, widely remembered for having genuine compassion for the less fortunate — particularly the homeless, some of whom he sheltered in his own home over the years.
We did not say goodbye to Rosendahl’s legacy on the issue, however.
The night before Rosendahl died, his successor on the council gathered hundreds of Venice residents at Westminster Avenue Elementary School to present the most comprehensive package of localized solutions to homelessness offered by any Westside elected official to date. (See our story on page 8.)
Councilman Mike Bonin’s Venice Forward initiative does just that — it moves forward. And it does so in many pragmatic ways that address the complex web of social and economic challenges causing homelessness in the first place: housing scarcity, mental health issues, unemployment, barriers to social services entry and the theft of basic human dignity.
Though it may seem trivial next to costly affordable housing construction and mass deployment of outreach workers, Bonin’s willingness to provide surplus buses or trailers for mobile shower and lavatory stations is an incredibly significant step in support of human dignity.
If you can’t start your workday without a cup of coffee, imagine clocking in (or showing up for a job interview) after sleeping outside without access to a toilet or morning shower.
Bonin’s most controversial proposal is to allow homeless people to store their belongings at the long-defunct Westminster Senior Center, an idea that is problematic because of the building’s proximity to residential housing.
Expanding access to secure storage is important because shelter programs won’t let homeless people bring many of their possessions with them, forcing the homeless to choose between protecting their personal property and a place to sleep.
We’re not 100% sold on the senior center plan — if a better location arises or shelters can relax property restrictions, so be it — but short of a reasonable alternative we’re inclined to keep an open mind until the scope of activity becomes clear.
That Chrysalis, a local nonprofit homeless resources agency, will be tasked with managing the facility is a good start toward ensuring that neighborhood quality of life is protected while storage bins become a means to a more important end: getting homeless people into programs that will get them off the street.
Venice Forward isn’t the last word on the issue. Two affordable housing developments, a phalanx of outreach workers and even $1.1 million for emergency housing isn’t going to solve homelessness in Venice. But it’s progress.
If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still. Or worse yet as L.A.’s homeless population continues to rise, moving backward.
And if we’re going to celebrate Rosendahl for striving to move forward, we’d be hypocrites to not do the same.
A public memorial for Bill Rosendahl is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at Mar Vista Park, 11430 Woodbine St. Visit 11thdistrict.com/remembering_bill for more information.
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