The Los Angeles City Council member representing Venice introduced legislation Wednesday to expand two programs that have quickly housed thousands of people experiencing homelessness.
Councilmember Mike Bonin wrote in the motion he introduced last week that local social service agencies operating with new funding and more outreach workers are still often unable to find housing for people who want it. Rather than waiting for the 10,000 homes promised under the $1.2 billion bond measure Proposition HHH to come online, Bonin urged the city and county to expand programs that use existing rental units to house people living on the streets.
“We need to break the mold and embrace quicker, less expensive solutions or homelessness will continue to increase, encampments will continue to proliferate in our neighborhoods, and people will continue to die,” Bonin said in a press release.
The county has made substantial investments in master leasing programs, in which a government or social service agency rents available housing units and makes them available to agencies that provide housing to people experiencing homelessness.
Since 2014, the county’s flexible housing subsidy pool has housed almost 7,000 people and currently provides housing for almost 200 people per month. The program is funded by the county and philanthropic partners and overseen by the nonprofit Brilliant Corners.
Bonin proposed that the city invest in a flexible housing subsidy pool of its own and to explore whether it can require or incentivize that existing affordable housing units be used for such a program.
He also asked the city to expand the “Encampments to Homes” project, which multiple county agencies and nonprofits piloted in South Los Angeles last year. The agencies matched 106 people in two large encampments with housing and 96% remain housed a year later.
The “Encampments to Homes” pilot project enhanced the usual outreach and placement protocols with a more geographically focused and proactive approach connected to new, nearby housing resources that were set to become available,” Bonin said in the motion.
Homeless encampments have proliferated in Venice over the past three years as the neighborhood’s homeless population swelled by 33%.
Venice residents complain that the encampments are a blight on the neighborhood, and a lawsuit the Venice Stakeholders Association filed to block a homeless shelter currently under construction at a former bus yard in Venice claims it would create encampments of people waiting to be admitted to the shelter.
Bonin recently voted against a proposal from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell to ban people experiencing homelessness from sitting or sleeping on sidewalks in many parts of Los Angeles, saying that the city should build more shelters and housing rather than restricting where unhoused individuals can sleep.
In the motion he introduced Wednesday, Bonin said sidewalk encampments cause considerable alarm for housed residents and exposes unhoused residents to the elements, harm and public health threats.
“Clearly, more aggressive and coordinated efforts are required to help people move from encampments and into long-term housing,” he said.