VENICE - It's been almost a month since Mike Bonin's Encampment to Home program was launched on the Venice Boardwalk. And, although there is noticeable change--there is little to no transparency about what the plan is after the July 30 deadline to move folks out of the area, especially since a majority are staying in nearby hotels.
Encampment to Home
The Encampment to Home initiative began in late June after homeless numbers on the Boardwalk grew to more than 200. Councilmember Mike Bonin asked the City Council for an additional $5million for the initiative. St. Joseph's outreach teams have been leading the efforts.
Although the councilmember is touting 131 former boardwalk homeless have moved onto a pathway to permanent housing, there is little to no transparency beyond emails and messages sent out by the councilman's office.
Information we obtained for this report shows people are being moved off the Boardwalk. However, many are moving into local motels and hotels like the Marina 7 on Lincoln Boulevard, the Cadillac located just off the Boardwalk and the Ramada Inn located on Washington Avenue, after refusing housing in other parts of the city.
Last Friday, the Westside Current talked with one person who moved into one of the westside hotels; they said they were offered housing 30 minutes inland but refused to take a room anywhere but in Venice.
This Monday we learned that the woman accused of pulling a knife during Joe Buscaino's press conference is already back on the Boardwalk after being kicked out of the Cadillac. 19-year-old Alaia Smith, otherwise known as "Angel", was put up in the Cadillac last Friday. This Monday, Smith said she had been kicked out of the hotel and was back on the Boardwalk with nowhere to go.
Smith's partner, who was also offered a room at the Cadillac, was arrested Saturday after police say he used his pitbull as a weapon against a construction worker. He was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.
"It's not right that we are putting a lot of these people up in hotel rooms adjacent to the boardwalk," said one resident who lives near the Cadillac. "It's clear there is no plan to ensure the safety of the community. It's also concerning that many are holding out for a beachfront hotel room and getting it."
History Repeats Itself
The concern from nearby residents about safety holds weight. Violent crime, rape and homicides on the boardwalk have all been up--sometimes as much as 80 percent this past year.
Residents who live near the Roadway Inn in Marvista, a hotel used for a similar Encampment to Home program last year, said crime went up significantly after 80 homeless individuals who were camping near Penmar were relocated to the hotel. In contrast, the quality of life drastically went down. The homeless individuals were relocated to the hotel with the guidance of Bonin's Encampment to Home initiative that were led by St. Joseph's Center.
One resident described her new life as "living in a warzone" when the homeless moved in. "Here is a group with a history of crime, vandalism and drug use transported from one location to another. They just dumped them here. They should have never been moved as a group. They had a history; that was not news to anyone." Eventually the Culver City mayor and Chief of Police became involved and pushed to have the residents moved out of the hotel.
A report by KCRW shows after Bonin declared the Penmar clean up "a tremendous win," he acknowledged many of the same people moved back to the streets of Venice.
"In some ways, the program is similar," Bonin told KCRW. "And in some ways, it is very much the opposite." The big difference, Bonin said, is that the outreach planned for Ocean Front Walk comes with permanent housing set aside from the start, including dedicated apartments and rental vouchers. It is, he claimed, what he intended to do with Penmar, but didn't have the resources for at the time. Those dedicated apartments and rental vouchers have yet to be disclosed for the current program. It's also unclear if the residents who took up hotel rooms on the westside will eventually move into permanent housing anywhere else.
Moving Into Other Parts of the District
Bonin is also not talking about a growing concern that some Boardwalk homeless are moving into other areas of CD11. Last week a Pacific Palisades group said that at least five individuals formerly camping in Venice have moved into their hills. Westchester Park residents who count encampments daily say an additional five homeless individuals have moved in since last week. A recent article in the Santa Monica Daily Press, Fallout from Venice homeless crisis hits local beaches, shows that several Santa Monica agencies that work with the homeless population have reported more people living on the streets near the beach's southend [Venice border] since the Encampment to Home program started.
According to Saint Joseph's Center Zone 3, between Dudley and Sunset avenues, will be cleared by July 23, while Zone 2, between Sunset and Park avenues, will be cleared by July 30.
The Westside Current reached out to Councilmember Mike Bonin's office and Saint Joseph's Center for this report and have not heard back.