A first-of-its-kind outreach program called CIRCLE (Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement) is tackling homelessness in Hollywood with compassion and respect, providing unhoused people with much-needed services.
KTLA’s Gene Kang went on an exclusive ride-along with CIRCLE team members on a typical day of outreach activities Thursday.
The program aims to move individuals experiencing homelessness off the streets and into housing while also connecting them with services dealing with mental health, drug addiction, and social services.
The unarmed “Urban Alchemy” task force approaches its goals with respect and compassion. Their mission hits close to home as the team members themselves have struggled with homelessness, incarceration, drug addiction and more.
“The UA mission is to bring a sense of peace and respect to America’s most chaotic urban areas,” says a task force team member.
The program began in January 2022 and addresses 911 calls dealing with non-emergencies related to mental health issues, drug problems, violence and more.
Tasha, a woman who has been homeless for 20 years, feels hopeful about the new program.
“Anything is much better than this,” says Tasha. “I don’t want to live out on the streets. I was in a program called ODR. I was happy, clean, healthy, energetic. I had a boyfriend in the Army. Somewhere along the lines I keep wondering to myself, what happened?”
Since the program’s inception, team members have responded to more than 500 calls for help, and around 20,000 compassionate, face-to-face talks.
“People are on all sides of the issue,” explains 13th District Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. “But here’s the thing: Angelenos want a compassionate, declarative approach to this. There should be nothing controversial about regulating a public right-of-way so children can walk safely to school. The reason we’re able to do this, regulate more public right-of-ways as we go along, is because we’re bringing more people indoors than ever before.”
From 2020 to 2022, although homelessness in Los Angeles County rose about 4%, the community of Hollywood saw a decrease in homelessness by 57%.
Along with Hollywood, the program also currently serves the communities of downtown Los Angeles and Venice with additional funding allowing the program to expand into the Valley and South Los Angeles.