Affordable Interim Housing Proposal
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin reported recently that 191 homeless people living on the Venice Beach boardwalk have accepted housing in apartments, private motel rooms and congregate shelters. I hope this effort will keep the Venice community safe, and preserve the economic and well-being of the residents living and working in and around the adjacent neighborhoods.
The city’s efforts to move homeless individuals inside with bridge housing, tiny homes, project Homekey, shelters, and hotel and motel conversions have housed hundreds to be sure. But these projects are very costly and provide beds for only a few, while tens of thousands languish on the streets of Los Angeles every day.
The city and county need to provide interim housing for the remaining homeless who bed down in make-shift shelters, tents, congregate shelters, vehicles, jail or a spare couch night after night. According to the LAHSA’s homeless count last year, there were 66,436 homeless in Los Angeles County and 41,290 in the city of Los Angeles.
There is a reasonable and immediate interim solution. City- and county-owned properties that are vacant or underutilized to their full capacity have tremendous potential to provide interim housing for the homeless.
A network of sanctioned encampments—a safe distance from parks, schools, libraries and beaches—could be set up on these parcels of land to house the homeless until permanent housing is available. Many constituents have urged the city to do this.
There are several United States manufactures that build tents for the military, United Nations, WHO and UNICEF. A single tent can be purchased for $599. The 10’ x 10’ x 7’ footprint offers privacy and adequate space for a bed, table, chair and storage.
The tents are manufactured using military grade canvass and heavy duty zippers, are leak proof, UV and rot protected, and built to last 15 years. They can be placed right on the ground and set up in less than 30 minutes. Larger tents could be purchased for community dining and office space for service providers.
Sanctioned community encampments can contribute to the mental stability homeless people need to heal and move forward. Putting at-risk and chronically homeless people in individual hotel or motel rooms excludes them from social contact that they desperately need.
During the Echo Park encampment clearing we heard homeless people express their desire to be part of a community. Feeling connected to others is crucial for humans, and that is why some who were given hotel rooms came back to visit at the encampment. You can hear the same words echo from homeless encampments in New York, Texas, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Toronto and wherever homeless people congregate.
Convincing homeless people to relocate is difficult. Creating trust and providing a comforting and welcoming environment is fundamental. People care and would welcome a chance to join their neighbors with donations to make each tent be welcoming and feel like a home.
Donation centers could be set up to receive donations for personal items, clothing, towels, linens, furniture and hygiene products. These amenities would incentivize homeless people to move, as well as provide an opportunity for citizens to engage personally in a necessary and humane effort to move people from the unsafe, unsanitary and deplorable living conditions they endure on the street.
Combining housing with intensive supportive services is crucial. Having a permanent location will allow service providers to locate residents and adapt services to meet the needs of a particular sub-population.
Knowing a particular person’s address will help outreach teams recover birth certificates, driver’s licenses, ID cards, etc., so homeless individuals can access benefits like Social Security, disability income, job training, housing and health care benefits.
No community has been spared the ugliness and despair of homelessness. Unless interim housing and services are forthcoming, there will be more untreated medical illness, substance abuse, mental illness, drugs, crime, prostitution and violence.
In the end, the accumulated trauma will be harder and costlier to treat, and many will not survive. Sanctioned tent villages are an affordable, interim solution that would get thousands of homeless individuals off the streets into a safe, restorative environment while they wait to transfer to permanent housing.
I hope you will help address this calamitous crisis by writing, emailing or calling your elected representatives in Los Angeles city and county.
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