Venice homeless camps to be cleared under plan offered by LA Councilman Bonin

VENICE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin says starting next week people living in homeless encampments spread out on the Venice Beach boardwalk will be offered help.

Bonin says teams from St. Joseph Center will reach out to the approximately 200 people who live in encampments.

"It's a housing, not handcuffs approach," Bonin says about his plan. "What we're trying to do is offer permanent housing services and interim shelter to everyone who is currently living on the boardwalk."

"We are launching a major effort to address the homelessness crisis at Venice Beach, prioritize the urgent safety needs of the housed and the unhoused, and fully reopen the park and beach for general public use. How? We're offering housing, not handcuffs," Bonin said in a statement.



The process to offer shelter to the boardwalk's unhoused residents will take about six weeks, and each week the outreach teams will focus on a different section of Ocean Front Walk, according to Bonin. During outreach for a particular zone, the unhoused residents will be given a choice of either accepting housing or moving out of that zone.

Over the six-week period, as people are given housing and leave the encampments, the Bureau of Sanitation will clean the area. Bonin said in his email to constituents that his office -- with assistance from Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl -- identified permanent housing options including Project Homekey, shared housing and permanent housing vouchers.

He added that it may take time to place the unhoused Venice residents into the permanent housing options, particularly through the voucher program, as the city must identify willing landlords and available units. In theinterim, temporary housing will be given, including up to six months of motel placements, which is the most commonly requested form of temporary housing, Bonin said.

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"The 'Venice Beach Encampments to Homes' program will not be led by law enforcement, nor driven by threats of arrest or incarceration," Bonin's statement said. "We will offer what works: housing, with counseling, or mental health services, substance abuse recovery services, and anything else needed to successfully transition people into housing."

The homeless crisis in Venice has sparked heated debate between politicians with ideas, residents fed up with encampments, to the homeless, who have nowhere else to go.

Some residents say Bonin's plan is too little, too late.

"The fact that Mike Bonin today is saying he's going to do something, he hasn't even spoken to us in two-and-a-half years," says Heidi Roberts, who is one of the organizers of the Recall Bonin campaign.

She says the area is dangerous. Surveillance cameras Monday caught someone trying to break into her home.

"It's every single day. Two weeks ago I was standing in my garage and a woman was practicing throwing her knife - a knife down this alley," Roberts says.

This comes after L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent deputies to Venice in an effort to clear the encampments.

"I feel like he's being shamed into this, he's being pressured into this," says Roberts. "The sheriff was down here taking action, and I think they were humiliated."

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"A lot of the folks who are talking about a recall, or who are opposing this or criticizing it is too late are the very same people who have consistently over the years opposed, sued to stop, appealed to slow down or objected to every solution to homelessness in Venice," Bonin says.

A big question is how much will this cost and how will the city pay for it? Funding for the program will be considered by the city council Wednesday.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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