Westminster Senior Center will be used for 12-step meetings, not homeless people’s belongings

By Gary Walker

The former senior center on Pacific Avenue has been dormant since 2013

Three years after plans to store homeless people’s belongings at Venice’s long-shuttered Westminster Senior Center triggered multiple lawsuits against the city and strenuous public debate, city officials have found another use for the park-adjacent building at 1234 Pacific Ave.

The nonprofit, all-volunteer Venice Recovery Center will temporarily set up shop there to host Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step meetings, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office announced last week.

The center recently lost its location in a storefront on Lincoln Boulevard, so the invitation to use the former senior center came just in time.

Venice Recovery Center moved in last month and held its first AA meeting on Jan. 31, said Doug Caruso, who helps run the men’s AA meetings.

“We’re grateful to Mike Bonin and the Recreation and Parks Department for allowing us to continue to have a local and convenient place where thousands
of friends in this neighborhood can contribute to their own recovery,” said Jeff Christensen of the Venice Recovery Center.

Bonin had proposed repurposing the building to secure local homeless people’s belongings — lack of storage at designated shelters being one of the main reasons homeless people don’t use them — and as a point of contact for social services agencies.

A number of nearby residents opposed the plan, stating fears that it could draw an increased number of encampments to the area. The Venice Neighborhood Council voted in August 2016 to oppose storage at the building, which has remained inactive since that time.

According to a statement, Bonin withdrew the proposal because the temporary homeless housing facility slated for the former Metro bus yard on Main Street will allow its residents ample space for belongings.

Before it closed in 2013, the center had hosted 12-step meetings for several years.

“Many communities, such as Santa Monica and Culver City, have spaces that host frequent 12-step meetings, and it’s important that we have that resource in Venice, too,” Bonin said.