Monday, October 30, 2006

Ad Hoc Homelessness Meeting in Venice

Providing housing for the thousands of individuals that will go to bed tonight without a roof over their heads is one of the most serious issues facing the city today. I joined my colleagues Jan Perry and Bill Rosendahl in Venice for the Ad Hoc Homelessness Committee meeting, where we discussed recent developments in Los Angeles' efforts to address homelessness and hear comments from concerned residents and homelessness advocates alike.

Much of the debate in Los Angeles has centered on enforcement strategies used by the city to abate encampment activity in certain areas. While enforcement is an important part of the solution to homelessness issues, relying solely on the work of the LAPD is the equivalent of trying to sit on a one-legged stool. As we work towards addressing the root causes of homelessness and finding a decent shelter where homeless individuals and families have the opportunity to permanently get off the streets, we must be equally committed to the other two legs of the stool: services and outreach. We must reach out to those who are homeless to make them award of the possibilities that are available to them other than sleeping on the street and we need to invest in specially trained counselors to do that work. The final leg is the provision of services: shelter, health, and, in some cases, rehabilitative and educational programs are needed to find a permanent solution for those without housing.

In consideration of this broader approach, Councilmember Perry and I are seeking funds to open 500 additional shelter beds for homeless individuals in the city, 200 of which will be winter beds to provide extra relief during the harsher months. These beds may only be the first step towards solving the city's homelessness issue but they are needed while we develop permanent supportive housing options.