Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jack Simon
Observer Staff Writer 

Homeless in Brentwood Veteran's Row, Westchester Park Moving Indoors

LA and County implement 'Encampment to Home' program to offer the homeless path to permanent housing

 

November 5, 2021

Mary Leipziger

Boys run down newly cleared sidewalks on San Vicente

Nearly 100 homeless people have decided to move from their encampment along San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood and from their tents in Westchester Park to temporary housing, Los Angeles city and county officials announced this week.

At least 50 homeless veterans who were living in the Veteran's Row homeless encampment in Brentwood for the past several months have moved to transitional housing as crews from the County of Los Angeles finished clearing up the encampment along San Vicente on Monday, county officials said.

Some of the vets were offered dorms inside the Veteran Affairs campus or rooms with Project Homekey, a group of county-owned motels and motels converted to homeless housing. A small group of veterans opted for tent camp accommodations inside the VA grounds.

The removal of Veteran's Row was part of the county's goal to house homeless veterans and clean up unsightly tents from the sidewalk, said county officials. This year alone, the veteran's encampment has been linked to two homicides and one deadly crash.

"More than 30 residents of the Westchester Park have moved indoors and into temporary housing and on a path to permanent housing," tweeted LA City Councilman Mike Bonin on Tuesday, a day after implementing an "Encampments to Homes" effort in the park on Lincoln Boulevard and Manchester Avenue, which offers homeless people a pathway to permanent housing and appropriate services to help them succeed.

The effort, funded from the City of Los Angeles, is conducted by outreach teams from People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and Grassroots Neighbors.

It is modeled after the recent Encampments to Homes program in Venice Beach, which connected 213 people who were living on the beach and boardwalk with a pathway to permanent housing. To date, 49 of the people in the Venice program have moved into permanent housing, with another 122 remaining in interim housing, said Bonin.

The Westchester effort is designed to have a similar benefit of connecting unhoused individuals with housing while keeping public spaces clean and inviting for all to enjoy, said Bonin.

"We learned a lot with the success we saw in Venice," said Bonin. "When you work with people and focus on creating suitable alternatives to encampments, then people come inside and everyone wins."

Westchester Park has been the focus of local outreach organizations in recent months, and groups like Playa del Rey-based Grassroots Neighbors and PATH have helped connect 31 unhoused neighbors staying in the park with housing and resources, the councilman said.

"As a leading provider of housing and homeless services, PATH's teams take a housing-focused, person-centered approach to outreach. We proudly participate in any outreach efforts that lead with services and housing opportunities," said PATH Deputy CEO Jennifer Hark Dietz. "We look forward to building on our partnership with Councilmember Bonin's office and continuing to provide trauma-informed services to as many unhoused residents as possible in Westchester Park."

Mary Leipziger

Only trash cans remain on San Vicente Sidewalks, where 100 or so Veterans camped up till last week.

Similar to the Venice effort, the homeless people in Westchester will first be offered opportunities to move into interim housing such as hotel and motel rooms so they have a place to stay while they are matched with a permanent housing solution. The initial phase of the effort is planned to be a four-week operation.

"It doesn't solve anything to temporarily displace people, only for them to end up back out on the street," said Bonin. "Until people are permanently and stably housed, we won't be fully successful. Now that we have the resources available to create a pathway to permanent housing for people, we must act aggressively to get people housed and public spaces returned to full public use."

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council approved $1.1 million to support the Encampment to Home program in Westchester Park.

The Brentwood effort was coordinated in collaboration with the LA County Public Works Department, various homeless outreach groups and the Sheriff's Department.

 

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