Homelessness: West Hollywood Can Take the Lead in Eliminating the Problem

I was shocked and horrified to read about the attack that recently took place on Santa Monica Boulevard and Hayworth Avenue. For me it was particularly disturbing considering that I patronize that 7-Eleven almost every day. The office of Mercy For Animals, the non-profit organization I work for, is just down the street.

I was heartened to hear that our courageous Sheriff’s deputies finally apprehended the vagrant who was responsible for the brutal assault. All of our residents — our adults, children, seniors — deserve a safe community and a municipal government that is responsible and accountable. The more I look, however, at the circumstances behind this particular crime and individual, the more it looks as if this tragedy is part of a bigger, broader crisis we are dealing with as a city, state and country — the crisis of homelessness.

James Duke Mason

The voters of Los Angeles County took a big stride forward this past November by passing Measure H, and I’m glad to see that the Board of Supervisors have already started to formulate a plan as to how to spend the approved funding. West Hollywood has a unique opportunity though, given our small size, to do something innovative on a citywide level that lives up to our legacy as a progressive, creative, cutting-edge example for the nation.

Late last year, when PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) decided to part ways with the city and we were deciding who we should select as our new provider for homeless shelter services, I spoke out strongly as a city official on the Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board and suggested we follow a slower, more deliberative process to decide \our next steps. I said, as great as PATH is, that the services we’d gotten from them clearly had not solved the issue, and that we needed to take more responsibility instead of essentially just paying someone else to do deal with it.

The plan I’ve advocated for is a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach that includes a combination of shelter, mental health services, law enforcement and permanent housing.

West Hollywood used to have a homeless shelter of its own — the West Hollywood Homeless Organization. It was closed about 20 years ago because the City Council decided that the new PATH shelter that had just opened in Hollywood was enough to tackle the problem. I believe that decision was a mistake and that West Hollywood should take ownership of the issue as it exists within our borders. We can build an even bigger, better funded facility than the one we had two decades ago. It may not be politically palatable or popular with certain residents, but it’s the right thing to do.

Mental health and law enforcement are of course incredibly important components in coming up with a solution to homelessness. I applaud the work that the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative has already done in tandem with the Sheriff’s Department. I attended one of their meetings and was glad to see the high level of engagement that they have developed with both residents as well as businesses. Of course we want to treat all homeless individuals with respect, but we also need to ensure that those of them who are erratic and violent are not allowed to pose a threat to our residents.

The final piece, and perhaps most critical, piece of the puzzle is permanent housing. Yes, temporary shelter is the first step, but as a board member of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, I am intimately familiar with the fact that the sooner people are able to move into a space that they can permanently call their own, the sooner they can become self-sufficient and lead lives of stability, security and success. We already lead the way in terms of affordable housing, but a time when our state and country are facing a shortage more dramatic and drastic than ever before, it’s time for us to double down on our commitment.

The issues of homelessness, public safety and affordable housing are all intrinsically tied. The plan I outlined above is the combination that I think will ultimately solve the crisis and lead West Hollywood to becoming one of the first government entities to eliminate chronic homelessness. It can be done.


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BK
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BK

There is or was an West Hollywood City ordinance, that makes it illegal to sit on the sidewalk, let alone sleep on the sidewalk. I would not be any benefit for the Sheriff department to issue a citation to a homeless person. However if the City and the Sheriff created a task-force and partnership with a shelter, many of the the homeless could be removed and placed in a more safe environment. Its nice to talk about creating programs to help, but that reality is not going to happen.

KH
Guest
KH

worked with the homeless in West Hollywood and Hollywood from 1995-2000, and worked at West Hollywood Homeless Organization (formerly at the site of West Hollywood Gateway complex and Target on La Brea and Santa Monica). Mostly, I just remember being sexually harassed by the then executive-director and having my hours cut from full-time to part-time when I complained. But that site was plagued with problems; I remember the antenna on my Volkswagen Golf parked on a nearby street was often stolen because the antenna was hollow and could be used for an impromptu crack pipe. Residents of the emergency shelter… Read more »

Nir Zilberman
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Nir Zilberman

what we all keep forgetting so many of our homeless are gay men who are living with AIDS, Using and Selling drugs to our community. i spend one week sleeping on the streets of WEHO with them, i was more in shock about those of our residents (gay men) who keep buying METH and other drugs from them and how many paying them to sleep with them. yes, so let’s start with looking at our own mirrors first. we must have our social services team walking our streets, talking to them and support them to get medical, mental help. “trying”… Read more »

jeffery ward
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jeffery ward

There is one other thing besides what I wrote, that is the City and the Sheriff’s do not do enough in getting some of these people to Hollywood Mental Health, the County Mental Health Clinic on Vine, and although I know that they work with them, this needs to be an area that is expanded with outreach to HMH, so they, at the clinic, understand more of what we are facing and better understand our needs as a community, to me, it would behoove our leaders to reach out to the Clinic and to the County supervisors to better coordinate!… Read more »

jeffery ward
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jeffery ward

The reason the Homeless population in WEHO rose is becuase the West Hollywood Food Coalition found a more permanent home up in Hollywood at the Salvation Army Center, and that means no more bus at Sycamore and Romaine to the Dream Center downtown for nightly shelter and it also means that a lot of those that were being treated and fed by the UCLA Mobile clinic and the Food coalition now have to go up to the Salvation Army and that comes with a whole other set of factors that Homeless do not like, like having to listen that god… Read more »

blueeyedboy
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blueeyedboy

Before you go to a lot of trouble and expense be prepared to learn that a lot of homeless people are homeless by choice. They are living their life exactly the way they want to live it.

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

The key is permanent “transitional housing”; you want to insure people get medical/mental health attention; job training and emotional support so that we can re-integrate people back into productive lives. There are plenty of people who just need a place to get back on their feet and don’t aspire to live their lives on the streets. Rather than just warehousing the homeless, we can at least try to help those who have a shot at helping themselves. While this won’t take care of everyone, at least we could be putting our money to productive use. If we want to provide… Read more »

WeHo-J
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WeHo-J

One way to start getting more attention to this is every time you see a homeless person sleepung in your yard, alley, or in front of the sheriff station, call weho sheriff station! Inundated the heck out of them will calls. Every time you experience an aggressive pan handler, report it! Sure, they probably will do little to nothing, but a record of their flaccid responses will be made.

jeromecleary
Guest

and when you call the Sheriff’s Dept about this get a TAG number and then email the city council at: cc@weho.org and make reference to the tag number and also Cc: Cplanck@weho.org and Odelgado@weho.org too

KV_0624
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KV_0624

Building permanent housing? How is that fixing the problem? It will just encourage. I agree with EB & Derek. WAKE UP.

SaveWeho
Guest
SaveWeho

I hate to sound brash…but homelessness should just be illegal. We need to pick the individuals up and take them to shelters for rehabilitiation. We need to be very careful. Look at San Diego and the recent outbreak of Hep. A due to the homeless population on the streets. They are now having to wash city streets with bleach and installed temporary toilets and facilities until they can figure out what to do. This will eventually make its way to Weho. Homelessness, and the mental illness that usually accompanies it, only causes harm to everyone in the community. Stop this… Read more »

Derek
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Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin

Good catch! You’re right on that.

Roxanne Albee
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Roxanne Albee

I keep looking for the plan he outlined above? What is the plan? Are we building permanent housing for them? Offering them jobs? Medical care? Until you separate the actual “willing to get off the streets” from the” freeloaders” there will always be danger on our streets. Most will work just enough to get in a $50 motel room for the night and food! But they never manage to get the thousands you need for first last and security in this city! Of course they never pass the “credit check” anyway…… It’s a vicious circle for anyone that falls into… Read more »