An East Hollywood tent village, sanctioned and funded by the city as part of an eight-month pilot program to provide space for about 70 tents to be pitched in a secure lot, is coming to a close this week.
Dubbed “Safe Sleep Village,” the temporary tent complex at 317 N. Madison Ave. was another of the city’s programs to address one of Los Angeles’ biggest challenges: its growing homelessness crisis.
Homeless people staying in tents there had access to meals, showers, restrooms and connection to services like counseling.
Tyler Cummins, 37, told KTLA he’s been at the site since July, when he lost his job and began living on the streets.
“At least I’ve had a landing pad here. It’s a lot safer than just being out on the street,” Cummins said. “I feel like every day is another chance. I’ve made a lot of mistakes to be at this point in my life and I consider this kind of a rock bottom.”
Now, Cummins and the others remaining at the site are set to move to a new tiny home village in the Westlake district.
Wanda Williams serves as the director of the tent village. She works for San Francisco-based nonprofit Urban Alchemy, which runs the program and provides on-site services, as well as outreach to the surrounding area. The organization is tasked with client intake and care coordination, custodial and sanitation services, de-escalation intervention, security and handling of overdoses.
“We have 35 guests, who are moving from this model to a tiny home. So they’re elevating,” Williams said, adding that she believe the program was a success.
The tent village, which opened in April, cost the city nearly $1.5 million dollars, according to the office of the City Administrative Officer. City officials said when the program began that it would cost around $2,140 per person each month when operating at maximum capacity of 90 residents. (A breakdown of how that projection played out was not yet available.)
The site had 200 residents over the duration, with 79 people at its peak. The average stay was three to five months, with one or two empty tents on average. A total of 50 residents left on their own at some point and 45 were “exited,” Urban Alchemy said.
The 45 people “exited” means nearly one in four residents were kicked out of the program. When asked if that was a high figure, Kirkpatrick Tyler of Urban Alchemy said, “It’s probably high. If we want to gauge it as a pilot, then we’ll say no, it’s an opportunity for us to learn.
Program organizers say people were “exited” or kicked out mostly for breaking the rule of not showing up for more than three days, or for violence. (About 70 people aren’t accounted for, which the nonprofit said are people who just walked off but didn’t formally leave or get kicked out of the program.)
During the pilot, 22 people moved to tiny homes or permanent housing. The rest chose to leave — that includes Brent Hatcher, who first spoke to KTLA in June.
“Right now I’m back on the streets. It’s rough, it’s cold but I’m hoping to get to the tiny homes,” Hatcher said.
The program is low barrier as there is no curfew and drugs and alcohol are not prohibited. Organizers say it provides an important first step for some who haven’t been able to get help in the past and aren’t ready to take a bigger step.
“It has created another pathway into the housing journey,” Tyler, who is the deputy chief of government and community affairs at the nonprofit, said.
The tent city is in Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s district, and he said in statement to KTLA Wednesday that the program provided the lowest barrier to entry for homeless Angelenos to take that first critical step into a safe, secure environment.
“There is nothing compassionate about enabling people experiencing homelessness to live or die on City sidewalks,” the councilman said. “The valuable connections made at Safe Sleep Village are producing results: many of the residents have taken the next steps to permanent housing, while others are moving to the new Tiny Home Village we are opening in my district — yet another comprehensive housing solution that is getting unhoused people off the street, indoors into safety, and on a path to wellness and stability.
City officials say the pilot is wrapping up this week, as was always the plan. Construction is set to begin at the location for permanent supportive housing, with more than 450 apartments for people experiencing homelessness.
“This is the way to make progress on the homelessness crisis: providing a range of comprehensive housing options, including everything from low-barrier interim housing to permanent units, that are managed by dedicated service professionals,” O’Farrell said. “In my district, we are thinking holistically, creatively, and comprehensively. The same approach should be followed all across the City.”
Another tent village site is set to open mid-January, run by the same service provider, in Councilman Curren Price’s district, though no definite location information has been released.