Temporary shelter for homeless in Venice helps some get back on their feet

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Thursday, June 24, 2021
Venice homeless shelter helps some get back on their feet
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As Venice continues to grapple with a growing homeless problem, one facility has been helping unhoused residents get back on their feet.

VENICE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Virginia Bustamante has been homeless for nine years, but thanks to the resources she's received through the Venice Bridge Home she says she finally feels safe.

"I'm safe. I've been sexually assaulted. I've had many physical confrontations," said Bustamante, who is closer than ever to finding permanent housing. But, it's been frustrating.

"There's not enough affordable housing, and guess what, I've had my voucher since October. I'm near the point of 30 days it expires," said Bustamante.

The city of L.A.'s Venice Bridge Home, a temporary shelter that provides services, opened in February of 2020 right before the pandemic. Because of distancing rules, it was at reduced capacity up until a few weeks ago and is now at 97% capacity.

The facility can house 100 adults and 54 youth, and the residents who spoke with Eyewitness News say it's been a welcome improvement, but some have been here since it opened, exceeding the three-month plan to find permanent housing.

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

"The pipeline to move people through is slow. This project as designed is functioning exactly as we hoped. I can't tell you how often we celebrate people moving into permanent homes. Fifty percent of people who have moved out or left the site have gone into a permanent home," said Steve Fiechter, the senior director with PATH, who operates the facility, along with the group Safe Place for Youth.

But according to the 2020 homeless count, before the pandemic, Venice had a homeless population of 2,000 that increased - evidenced by the encampment on the Venice Beach boardwalk. Residents like Vicki Halladay say the pandemic has been used as an excuse for the slow progress of the Bridge Home to address the crisis.

"A lot of the tenants that you see are dual residents. They, for good reason, don't trust the Bridge housing model. They don't know that they're going to get housing. There are some of those tents the people have been in since a year ago or more. They're reluctant to give up their possessions," said Venice resident Vicki Halliday, who lives near the Venice Bridge Home.

RELATED: Venice boardwalk now a huge homeless encampment

When the city opened the Venice Bridge Home facility, they agreed to create a special enforcement zone. What does that mean? The blocks surrounding the Bridge Home has rules, including no tents erected from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. But, right across from the facility is an encampment that has been there for years.

"Housing is an issue. But, one of the things that I think has to take place for the whole are first is you have mentally ill people who would not take housing," said Halladay.

"So there has to be a solution for them. You have people who are heavily drug addicted. They need services," she said. "It's not all about housing. You could weed out a lot of what's here with those things because those people aren't capable of living independently. What we don't have a lot of around here for anyone is rules. We all live with them, they don't, and that's the rub with the neighborhood."