The Venice Neighborhood Council on Tuesday voted 8-5 in favor of a pilot program that will house homeless people’s belongings in a shipping container on Windward Circle while they stay at a shelter in Brentwood.
Although many VNC board members approved of the project’s intentions, they criticized the city’s execution – claiming that presenting the plan after it was implemented prevented the VNC and the community from properly vetting it.
“The whole process was despicable,” said Jake Kauffman, chair of VNC’s Land Use and Planning Committee. “We’re voting on it now that the storage is already in place.”
The shipping container is part of a pilot program to help fill beds at the city’s Westside winter shelter in Brentwood. Because homeless people cannot bring large items to the shelter, city officials decided to set up the container at Windward Circle to facilitate the transition to one of the shelter’s beds. The container will be in place in Venice until approximately March 8, as the winter shelter closes March 1.
Volunteers will tag and store people’s items in the container overnight until they return from the shelter. Only people staying in the shelter will be able to store their belongings, and they will need to prove it by filling in a form that a shelter employee will stamp and sign.
“This pilot project will help us learn how to operate the program effectively and efficiently,” said Steve Clare, executive director of Venice Community Housing Corporation.
Although other storage locations were considered, as well as other bus pick-up areas, organizers chose Windward Circle because of the congregation of homeless people in the area and therefore the likelihood of them learning about the program.
In addition to providing a safe place for homeless people’s belongings so they can access the shelter, the pilot program will also help city officials move forward with possible permanent structures throughout Los Angeles to comply with a September 2012 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling.
The court held that the City of Los Angeles cannot randomly remove homeless residents’ street property that is left unattended, unless it poses a clear threat to public health and safety.
A group of Venice residents, the Venice Stakeholder’s Association, filed a letter with the L.A. Recreation and Parks Department stating that they intend to sue the city unless the container is removed or proper permits are acquired.