Wary Hope in Venice as Mayor Bass’s New Program Houses Dozens

The new mayor’s big initiative to address the homelessness crisis—dubbed Inside Safe—has launched its second site

L.A.’s newly-launched Inside Safe initiative has made its way to Venice for a three-week stint aimed at helping those living in the encampments near Sunset and Pacific Avenues move into more permanent housing. The program plans to offer wrap-around services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, as part of its mission to find long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis.

Bass launched the citywide program with an executive directive on December 21, at which point crews made their way to the first encampment at Cahuenga Boulevard and Cerritos Place in Hollywood; the new mayor promised that the program will cost “under $100 million.” As of Friday, 92 people have been housed in Venice, KTLA reports, in addition to the 31 people who were housed in Hollywood.

“Inside Safe is bringing coordinated resources to help people who are living in encampments get on a path to permanent housing,” Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, president and CEO of the St. Joseph Center told LAMag via email, adding that Bass, newly-elected Councilmember Traci Park, and the initiative are bringing the center closer to city departments. Adams Kellum added that Inside Safe is inspiring locals to “come inside and ensure a smoother transition for our unhoused neighbors as they move into both temporary and permanent housing.”

In 2021, the center was able to help 200 people move off the street; 70% of them remain housed today, she told LAMag. Their ability to create these success stories came from the $5 million the city provided St. Joseph Center; over half of the funds were spent on rooms and most of the rest was used for staff and operations, the Times reported.

Adams Kellum said that for the three weeks that the program is set up in Venice, it will utilize motels to provide temporary housing and immediate assistance. Outreach crews will focus on the area around A Bridge Home, a shelter built in February 2020 for those experiencing homelessness.

Getting someone to trust the outreach teams often depends on the opportunity to immediately provide a bed and transportation, the Los Angeles Times reported—which is what Inside Safe is designed to do. But a persistent problem comes with Inside Safe. For years, many unhoused people in L.A. have said that when encampments are cleared, situations for them worsen. The Sanitation Department not only disposes of the makeshift shelters where these people lived but often their most important personal possessions, too. 

Meanwhile, Venetians and local workers are cautiously hopeful that the new program will bring change—but they’ll believe it when they see it, they say.

“Our current problem today is out of hand,” Steven Cain, manager at The Sidewalk Café in Venice, told LAMag. He wasn’t too familiar with the new initiative but says something must be done soon because the problem is only getting worse. “I have hope. But at the same time, it’s more about actions, about seeing things get done.”

Local artist Elizabeth Orleans also said she had mixed feelings. “I’m hopeful that they can really provide help for people,” Orleans said. “It’s become more tragic and I just hope that they can figure out how to take care of these people, so that younger generations don’t end up in this situation.”

Others expressed concern over the program, doubting its effectiveness. 

“Homelessness is the top issue in L.A. politics, so people are desperate for solutions, and a lot of times these politicians are going to make these highly improbable solutions given the pattern in the city so far,” Orleans Mike Bravo, a 5th generation Venetian and member of the Venice Neighborhood Council. “I think it’s more of an optical campaign.”

Tony Black, co-owner of the restaurant Barrique Venice, said that he’s seen a series of cheap bandages on what’s actually a deep wound for too long.

“What needs to happen is just a complete teardown of the system and approach it from a different angle. Approach it from a mental health [and] drug abuse issue. I don’t think the status quo is going to change…I hope but I don’t have faith that it is.”

There’s still much to be learned as the program continues to launch in different areas of L.A. For now, Venice will be watched closely as a key indicator of whether Inside Safe is working. 

“We appreciate that Venice was chosen as one of the first Inside Safe sites to help the city learn more about what it will take to truly bring this work to a scale commensurate with the challenge we face,” Adams Kellum told LAMag.. “This three-week effort in Venice is really just the beginning of our work helping people reclaim their lives.”

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