Mike sent the following note to neighbors on November 24, 2021: 


Dear Friends,

Nearly 100 former residents of Westchester Park are now safely indoors, connected with services and on a pathway to permanent housing — and the popular regional park is once again available for general public use.

And we did it the right way.

Instead of pushing people out of the park into nearby neighborhoods, as Sheriff Villanueva would have done, we conducted weeks of intense and focused outreach, and matched people with a range of housing resources and social services.

City staff has been conducting routine cleaning and maintenance at the park, and this week registration opened for park activities, including senior programs, winter camps, youth sports and the Girls Play LA program. You can find out more at: www.laparks.org.

Here’s what happened:

Since late October, outreach workers with PATH, LAHSA and Grass Roots Neighbors (an all volunteer group of neighbors) connected 63 people with temporary housing in local motels. From there, they will be matched with long term housing. This is in addition to 31 other unhoused people who were housed in August and September through efforts of PATH, LAHSA, Grass Roots Neighbors, SHARE! Housing, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

Two former Westchester Park residents in interim housing

A recent view of tent-free Westchester Park

The caseworkers and outreach workers (paid and volunteer) and partner agencies who were part of Westchester Park Encampments to Homes are impressive. Here’s a snapshot of who they helped:

  • A 27 year-old woman fleeing domestic violence. She is now living in shared housing, provided by SHARE!, and is reuniting with her mother and twin sister.
  • A man with Stage 4 cancer. PATH placed him in a motel room, and he is receiving treatment from Venice Family Clinic, and is being matched with a board and care facility.
  • A 50 year-old woman and her 20 year-old autistic son, who were living in Westchester Park, feared the intimidating presence of the sheriff and his team, and now feel safe, receiving care and services in a local motel.
  • A 30 year-old woman who had been living in the park for more than a year. PATH, The People Concern and St. Joseph Center worked together, and she moved into permanent housing November 5.
  • A family of four that has been homeless for several months. PATH provided interim housing in a motel room, and is helping the family find an apartment. The father and teenage son have both found employment since moving indoors, and the mother and teenage daughter are now enrolled in GED programs.
  • A 23 year-old pregnant woman and her partner. My staff drove them to a temporary motel placement provided by St Joseph Center, which is matching them with family services for a long term placement.  She describes the intervention as a lifesaver and wants to go to school so she can support her family.
  • Two Honduran refugees, who found jobs to pay rent, but could not afford move-in costs and became homeless. Grass Roots Neighbors helped them with move-in costs, and they are now living in an apartment.

Those are just a few of the stories of people whose personal traumas, coupled with skyrocketing housing costs, left them unhoused. While I’m excited the program has worked so well so far, we are far from finished. I will not declare success until we have helped them find permanent housing.

Like our successful Venice Beach Encampments to Homes program, which helped 213 people move indoors, the Westchester Park effort matched unhoused people with permanent housing resources, and provided them interim housing until they and casework teams locate the permanent housing. 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.

Westchester Park after Encampments to Home.

PATH staff delivering meals to former residents of Westchester Park, now in interim housing.

This type of program is the result of new resources that became available from the federal, state and county government during the pandemic. They are tools and resources I have been proposing and pushing for years, and it is heart-warming to finally see them starting to become available. The old model — leading with enforcement and offering only temporary shelter — wasted money, ultimately left people homeless, and pushed encampments from neighborhood to neighborhood.

I want to thank all of the social service agencies that provided outreach, services or housing, and all of the various city agencies and staff, including my own, which provided consistent support. We could not have done this without them. Special recognition must go to Grass Roots Neighbors, the phenomenal group of volunteers — many of them young moms and their kids — who spent untold hours over several months building relationships with people living in the park, identifying their needs, and advocating for them.   

GRN volunteers operating a check-in table at Westchester Park.

CD11 staff, GRN volunteers, and former park residents now in housing.

 

Warm regards, and Happy Thanksgiving,


MIKE BONIN

Councilmember, 11th District 

 

Thank you to: