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Venice's Vehicular Homeless Issue Addressed by a 'Safe Overnight Parking' Program

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Photo by bodycoach via Flickr

Photo by bodycoach via Flickr
Venice is currently the destination spot for over 250 vehicles serving as replacement homes for the homeless. But some have now decided to deal with this increasing issue of homelessness in a new and somewhat controversial way.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl has proposed a program that would get the homeless living in cars and RV’s off the streets, at least for the night.

The program, Streets to Homes (.pdf), would enable transient populations living from their cars and RVs to participate in a safe parking program that opens up designated parking lots for overnight parking, use of porter potties and other facilities, and access to certain social services.

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The program will provide mental health checks, counseling, health facilities, and will allow participants to receive aid in finding more permanent homes.

Rosendahl has already set aside $750,000 to launch the program, which he hopes to begin by the end of the year. A draft Request for Proposal (RFP) is currently circulating amongst non-profits, neighborhoods, and community programs for feedback. Then in August, he will release his final RFP and will formally select a social service provider to run this proposed program by early fall.

Despite Rosendahl’s optimism in launching the program, many remain hesitant. Opposition is coming from both residents and homeless activists. In a Venice Neighborhood Council Meeting that drew nearly 200 people last Tuesday, local residents said they feared the program would simply attract more homeless to Venice, according to the Venice Dispatch.

Safety is also an issue that both residents and the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) are taking into consideration. One man who lives by a parking lot currently being used to house the mobile homes, pointed out that his garden has been used as a toilet, and his yard has been a site for knife threats, and his hose has been used as a shower.

"Who will compensate me for my lower property values, my lower rents? You, the homeless, the city, I don't think so," said the 10 year Venice resident according to the paper.

But Rosendahl says he understands safety issues, which is why those participating in the program will have to sign a code of conduct. They will be required to adhere to good neighbor and safe parking site rules. Some of the regulations will include no outdoor cooking, no alcohol or drug use, no outdoor furniture, noise restrictions, parking permits, sanitation maintenance, etc.

Still, homeless activists say that the underlying issue is gentrification. Some feel the safe parking program will act as a broom, sweeping the problem under the rug and again just move the problem to a new space without actually dealing with it.

But Rosendahl says he is trying to find a reasonable solution to answer the complaints of residents while continuing to assess the needs of the homeless.

"I'm a very progressive guy. But if I was pulling out of my driveway in Mar Vista, would I want three or four campers outside my house every day? No, I wouldn't." said Rosendahl to LA Weekly.

Previously: A 2009 video report on the vehicular homeless of Venice