Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin announced Wednesday that his office’s “Encampment to Home” program at Westchester Park has brought 56 people indoors with the promise of a pathway to permanent housing.
Bonin’s program, modeled after a similar operation his office conducted in Venice, began on Nov. 1. An additional 31 people living in Westchester were brought indoors in August and September, Bonin’s office said.
“Leading with housing, services and consistent outreach is the best and most successful way to end homelessness, and that’s what we’re doing at Westchester Park,” Bonin said. “Everybody wins when we help people move indoors, instead of wasting resources on failed strategies that push people from neighborhood to neighborhood.”
People are living in interim housing as they get matched with long-term housing vouchers. Bonin’s office said less than a dozen tents remain in the park, and outreach — performed by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), Grass Roots Neighbors — will continue.
“The reduction of tents and encampments in the park as nearly 90 people have moved indoors is the result of consistent, dedicated, sincere and relationship-based outreach by service providers equipped with what’s needed — both interim and long-term housing resources,” Bonin said.
The housing operation in Westchester Park was modeled after Bonin’s program in Venice Beach over the summer, which brought 213 people living on the beach and boardwalk indoors with the promise of a pathway to permanent housing.
So far, 49 of those people have moved into permanent housing and 122 are in interim housing, awaiting permanent placements. The remaining 42 include people who were reunified with family or are awaiting permanent housing but left the interim housing placements.
Bonin repeatedly emphasizes the need for housing and services over enforcement to solve Los Angeles’ historic homelessness and affordable housing crisis.
A group of constituents who oppose his approach toward homelessness in Council District 11 — which includes affluent Westside neighborhoods of Venice, Pacific Palisades, Mar Vista and more — turned in a petition on Nov. 10 for the councilman’s recall that proponents say has enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot.
The recall election could potentially be held within weeks of a primary vote to reelect the councilman. In 2017, Bonin won his primary with 71% of the vote.
The Los Angeles City Council on Oct. 26 approved $1.1 million for the program, and the permanent housing accommodations will be provided through rapid re-housing vouchers, recovery re-housing slots and Emergency Housing Vouchers funded by the American Rescue Plan.
“Park residents accepted the offer of a motel room really quickly, and I think that demonstrates how people living in the park was not an issue of willingness to accept services but rather an issue of barriers to securing housing,” said Grass Roots Neighbors co-founder Stephanie Tatro, who has been doing outreach in Westchester for months.