Mike sent the following message to neighbors on August 2, 2021.
This past weekend, the first part of our Venice Beach Encampments to Homes program came to a close. The dust is settling, and we now know that 211 unhoused people have come indoors, are receiving services, and are on a pathway to permanent housing.
That’s 211 individual lives, each meaningfully and significantly changed for the better. 211 brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives, getting the tools and resources they need to rebuild their lives.
211 individuals like Sara*, who told us she stayed up all night praying before this program made her dreams come true, because when she “get[s] out of fear, [she’s] fantastic.” Like Moses, who said he wants “to be the Valedictorian of the group,” and reintegrate to society.
Or like Jessica*, who got indoors this week. Once Jessica has a permanent address, she will be able to begin the process of regaining custody of her daughter. She said she felt “at peace” knowing she was getting closer to getting her baby back.
How can a number, even a large one like 211, convey that?
We knew this would be possible back in March and April, when we began crafting this program with St. Joseph Center. With new federal and state homelessness funds becoming available, we knew we could demonstrate that housing and services are the solutions to homelessness, and that we could house everyone at the Westside’s largest encampment, along Venice Beach’s Ocean Front Walk.
We undertook this journey over the objections of people who said that leading with housing and services wouldn’t work because people experiencing homeless don’t want to be housed, are supposedly “service-resistant.” In fact, there were even some people who rooted for this program to fail, because – for whatever reason – they only want to see people swept out of sight, to industrial parks, or deserts, or even Nevada. But my experience, as well as a strong, research-based consensus, suggested that this path was the only workable one.
I’m immensely proud of the success of this work, and let’s be clear, this has been work. The success of this program has depended on the incredible and sustained efforts of outreach teams led by the St. Joseph Center, building relationships and trust every day. This program has been rooted in its acknowledgment of the uncountably different situations of each individual, which have required serious flexibility and problem-solving. St. Joseph Center diligently managed folks’ transitions from the Boardwalk to permanent housing, with the assistance of agencies like LAHSA, PATH, SPY, Department of Mental Health, and Venice Family Clinic.
I am thankful for the work of partner agencies at the City and the County, and I am tremendously grateful for the leadership and partnership of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, without whom this program and its achievements would not have been possible.
But just because we’ve reached the conclusion of the six-week engagement period and 211 people have now gotten indoors and on the pathway to permanent housing doesn’t mean we’re done.
This is only the beginning.
What comes next, for Venice Beach Encampments to Homes, is continuing the work of getting each and every one of these folks into permanent housing. I appreciate that there are people who look at the boardwalk now and, not seeing tents, declare this effort completed, a success. How the boardwalk looks is a reasonable metric of success, but it’s not the only one. The most important metric of this program’s success is how many people have been brought indoors, and how many lives have been changed for the better.
That’s why the program doesn’t end when there are no tents on the boardwalk. The program ends when every person has gotten into permanent housing. And that’s why, as proud as I am of where we stand today and the work that got us here, I’m here to tell you we’re not done.
I would love to replicate this program and bring it to every encampment and every person living on the streets. But those resources – that housing, those services – are not yet available. That’s why I am fighting every single day for faster, nimbler solutions to homelessness, for more housing, for more prevention. That’s why Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and I are co-sponsoring legislation to provide rental subsidies and supportive services to move a minimum of 10,000 people experiencing homelessness off the streets quickly. If we can do this in Venice, we can – and must – do it everywhere. I won’t rest until we can.
Thank you for your partnership working to move Los Angeles forward, do good, and get things done to get people housed.
Councilmember, 11th District