Program Continues as Scores of People Move Indoors, Encampments Diminish

 
WESTCHESTER, CA (November 17, 2021) – In just the past three weeks, 56 people living in Westchester Park have moved indoors and are on a path to permanent housing, thanks to an ongoing collaborative “Encampments to Homes” effort by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), Grass Roots Neighbors and City Councilmember Mike Bonin. 

This is in addition to 31 other unhoused people from Westchester Park, who were housed in August and September through efforts of PATH, LAHSA, Grass Roots Neighbors, Bonin, SHARE! Housing, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

“Leading with housing, services, and consistent outreach is the best and most successful way to end homelessness, and that’s what we’re doing at Westchester Park,” Bonin said. “Everybody wins when we help people move indoors, instead of wasting resources on failed strategies that push people from neighborhood to neighborhood.”

Bonin said, “the reduction of tents and encampments in the park as nearly 90 people have moved indoors is the result of consistent, dedicated, sincere and relationship-based outreach by service providers equipped with what’s needed – both interim and long term housing resources. The lesson is clear that housing and services are the best way to address homelessness, and housing and services are the best way to make sure we don’t have encampments in our public spaces.”

Fewer than a dozen tents remain in the park, and outreach workers continue to place remaining residents into interim housing and then match them with long-term housing vouchers. As people move indoors, city staff is doing routine cleaning and maintenance at the park, and the Department of Recreation & Parks is preparing to resume park programming. Next week, registration will open for senior programs, winter camps, youth sports and the Girls Play LA program. The Department of Recreation & Parks will make formal announcements about programming and registration later this week on its website at: www.laparks.org.

“We are far from finished,” Bonin said. “This program does not end until everyone who was living in the park gets to come indoors. And we will not declare success until we have helped them find permanent housing. Taking a tent down doesn’t end homelessness. Housing does.”

Like Bonin’s previous “Venice Beach Encampments to Homes” program, which helped 213 people move indoors from Venice encampments, the Westchester Park effort matches unhoused people with permanent housing resources, and provides them interim housing in motel rooms until they and casework teams locate the permanent housing. Discretionary funds earmarked by Bonin pay for most of the motels. The permanent housing is being provided through the use of rapid rehousing vouchers, recovery rehousing slots, and Emergency Housing Vouchers made available through the federal American Rescue Plan.  In the Venice program, 49 people have already moved into permanent housing.

Stephanie Tatro, co-founder of Grass Roots Neighbors, has been doing outreach in Westchester Park with fellow volunteers for months. She and her team have been a crucial part of the housing effort.

“Park residents accepted the offer of a motel room really quickly, and I think that demonstrates how people living in the park was not an issue of willingness to accept services but rather an issue of barriers to securing housing,” said Tatro. “I’m really grateful for the leadership of Councilmember Bonin and his staff to make this happen. It is wonderful to go into the Thanksgiving holiday knowing our neighbors are safely indoors and on their way to permanent housing, and I’m so grateful for the work of everyone involved.”

Bonin and his staff have worked with PATH, LAHSA and Grass Roots Neighbors over the past several months to craft the Encampments to Homes program. PATH leads efforts in the park by moving people into various forms of housing, reconnecting people to family, creating pathways for people to obtain various documentation to be housing ready, and providing substance abuse support and other services. Grass Roots Neighbors, a Playa Del Rey community-based organization, has hosted several connect days at the park in partnership with housing providers, provides hygiene kits to individuals in the park, and they routinely support housing placements and general park well-being through regular outreach visits.

For more information about Bonin’s work to end homelessness in Los Angeles, please visit https://11thdistrict.com/issues/homelessness/.

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