Seven months after a $5 million program was launched to clean up Venice Beach’s sprawling homeless encampment, many have been placed in permanent or interim housing, but the work remains ongoing.
The CEO of St. Joseph Center, the nonprofit tasked by the city to clean the Venice Boardwalk, spoke to KTLA Friday about the progress that’s been made so far.
“We know there’s so much more to do,” Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Ph.D., says. “We’re really glad we started this process.”
St. Joseph Center is working to provide a pathway to permanent homes for people who were living in the encampments.
“We showed if you can go into a space and connect with people sincerely and offer them both interim and permanent housing, they say yes,” Adams Kellum says.
The nonprofit reports that 213 people were relocated from the beach, and now 88 are in interim housing like motel rooms, 78 are permanently housed and 47 left housing.
“Obviously there are going to be people who need additional support, additional mental health services,” Adams Kellum explains.
There are a number of different programs funding the permanent housing, but typically it’s government-subsidized and the tenant pays 1/3 of their income, whether that’s from their salary or something like a disability payment, according to St. Joseph Center.
For 67-year-old Luke Harris, a Vietnam veteran, the program worked out well.
“This is my house. This is my yard,” Harris proudly told KTLA while pointing to his new residence.
Harris moved from a plot of sand on the boardwalk to a shared apartment in South Los Angeles. He explained that accepting help to get off the boardwalk was an easy choice for him “because that’s what I was asking for, that’s what I desired.”
His roommate David Cruz didn’t want to leave the beach at first. But now says he loves his new residence.
“I love it, I love it,” Cruz says. “I like being comfortable at night when I go to sleep.”
Back in Venice, some residents say there is still work to be done.
Cari Bjelajac of the Venice Boardwalk Action Committee explains that while many were able to get indoors and start to change their lives, “It’s sort of an unfinished job.”
She says of those that still remain unhoused and in apparent mental health crisis near Ocean Front Walk, “They’re not able to get the mental health and drug help they need, which is critical to making change in their lives and to helping the community heal.”
“You can’t put a fence around the beach. It’s huge, right? And so we have to be out here every day, connecting with people who are hurting and we see it as ongoing work.” Kellum said.