Homeless: Los Angeles authorities are restarting their discussions on homelessness with new leadership. SMDP photo

Jamie Paige, Special to the Daily Press

A new pilot program to divert non-violent 9-1-1 calls related to homelessness away from law enforcement to trained, unarmed professionals has launched in Venice.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in late November the launch of the Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) pilot — a first-of-its-kind program.

Money for the new program is said to be coming from the “Justice budget” for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year.

The mayor stated that currently, the program has embedded teams deployed in Hollywood and Venice to foster relationships with people experiencing homelessness. Sometime in December, the crisis response teams will be available 24/7 to respond to PEH-related non-emergency calls from LAPD’s 911 system and the police non-emergency number.

In addition, proactive embedded response teams will be deployed during the day, seven days a week, in areas of high need within the two pilot communities.

According to the Mayor, teams will continue to build a rapport with the unhoused community, conduct light sanitation work, de-escalate situations as they arise, and create referrals to local service providers.

CIRCLE teams are comprised of one outreach worker, one mental health clinician or licensed behavioral health clinician, and one community ambassador. Venice and Hollywood were selected as the pilot areas because of the high concentration of PEH and high volume of calls for service.

Urban Alchemy, a Los Angeles-based organization that also runs the City’s mobile shower and restroom program and several of its interim housing facilities was selected as the service provider for the program.

This isn’t the first pilot program related to PEH in Venice. This summer, the Los Angeles Fire Department assigned a dedicated Fast Response Vehicle (FRV) to Venice devoted primarily to the Boardwalk to respond to emergency calls as part of a pilot program.

Councilmember Mike Bonin also launched a “voluntary” cleanup pilot program last November in the Special Enforcement Cleanup Zone near bridge housing.

There’s no information about the cost or outcome of either of those pilot programs. And, although we know where the money is coming from for the new CIRCLE pilot program, it’s unclear how much the program will cost.