Jamie Paige, Special to the Daily Press
Although not many residents had a chance to speak during a Town Hall meeting that included Councilmember Mike Bonin and Supervisor Holly Mitchell Monday, those who did say they have reached a tipping point and need help.
The town hall, about the growing concern of homeless in del Rey, was moderated by [del Rey] council president Matt Wersinger and included members of the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Bonin started the meeting by telling attendees what he believes works and doesn’t work for solving the homeless crisis. Bonin used the Venice Encampment to Home program, where he and service providers were able to get 211 people who were living along the Venice boardwalk inside and 190 of those on a pathway to permanent housing, as an illustration of success. However, it’s unclear if some of those  are among a recent count by Venice Stakeholder Association president Mark Ryavec who said at least 70 people are [still] camping on the Boardwalk.
Bonin talked about the interim housing that they used for the Venice program, but when asked about the same in de Rey—he said there are currently no similar options in the community. He did say that there are 380 intervention doors on the Westside; 50 of those are safe parking — with the majority of the remaining number in Venice, including the A Bridge Home on Sunset Avenue [that has 154 beds].
When asked about why housing had to take place on the Westside — both Supervisor Holly Mitchell and Bonin said the unhoused typically need to be provided options in neighborhoods they know. “Every community needs to do their part. We have to figure out how to build and stay in their communities,” said Mitchell. It’s something disputed by Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who said when he was assessing the Boardwalk, his team discovered more than 70 percent of the unhoused were from other cities and countries.
Wersinger told Bonin and Mitchell that del Rey is among the most compassionate communities on the Westside. Still, many people in the community feel that “things have been allowed to get out of control.”
Del Rey resident Judy Page, who spoke on behalf of 23 condominiums and 1,600 homes, echoed the sentiment. “There is a lack of safety that has forced us to speak up. We’re seeing an increasing number of individuals in makeshift encampments that block walkways and have become impassable,” said Page. “People passing by are subject to insults and threats. In Glencoe, there are bike chops shops and drug use and drug dealing. At night there are fights and fires. People urinate and defecate on our property.”
Earlier in the meeting, Mitchel said that desperate people do desperate things [referring to the acts of homeless in the community].
Her comment received pushback from del Rey councilmember Greg Turquand who said that homeless encampments near him had been seen dumping waste in storm drains as well as his neighborhood has been seeing an increase in acts of vandalism. “The LA City council has been unresponsive. We’ve filed reports, and sanitation says they can’t do anything about trash. We’ve been compassionate while seeing our neighborhoods becoming unsafe and our children threatened. Beaches and parks and the Ballona Wetlands are being destroyed. We need your help. At what point does the balance tip — where things have gone too far?”
A LAHSA representative told community members that they were aware of the Ballona situation and had been doing outreach since April, saying: “It takes time to build a report with the homeless.” However, it was noted that Ballona is called a hot spot, meaning it has been identified as an encampment with increased criminal activity and needs immediate attention.
The Los Angeles Police Department also had a turn to address what municipal codes they can and can’t force. Before LAPD Captain Steven Embrich spoke, residents were reminded that rolls that once belonged to police have been redistributed by a police reform movement. Bonin has been the most outspoken supporter of reform.
Embrich told attendees that the law to enforce tents down during the day was suspended because of City Council and CDC guidelines that recommend the unhoused shelter in place. Adding that having tents down allowed police and fire do things like look for flammable objects and keep a better eye on activity around the encampments.
There’s also a moratorium on impounding vehicles for dwelling. It was mentioned that Bonin’s office is working with LAX to look at safe parking at the airport. “The FAA is a tough nut,” Bonin said about the exploration.
At the end of the meeting, a question was asked about enforcement on Venice Beach after offering housing to people staying on the Boardwalk. LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow said support can go to the beach now and say “we have been here and offered help.”
“The LAPD is working with parks and recs to keep the area cleaner. Outreach is going on,” said Chow.
Published in partnership with the Westside Current.