Letter from Venice Stakeholders Association to G. Michael Arnold, Executive Director, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority:
Your agency has invited comment on the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the proposed “Streets to Homes” Program. I am writing on behalf of Venice residents to address several concerns. While we support the program in concept, we find the program design and RFP lacking in several aspects.
1. The program outline prepared by Ms. Sophia Heller, a consultant to Councilman Rosendahl, and the RFP do not reflect that a primary objective of the program is – or should be - relieving residents of Council District 11 of the burden they experience with people living in vehicles on their doorsteps (along with the goal of assisting those living in vehicles find housing). We would ask that this be included as a stated program goal.
2. The RFP does not include any protections for residents in the siting or the operation of parking lots to be used to host program participants. The Report of the VNC Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness and Vehicular Occupation recommended at least a 300 foot setback between lots used for the program and any inhabited residences. We would ask that this specific language be included in the RFP.
3. The Ad Hoc Committee rejected providing any permit or placard for program participants who continue to park on public streets, yet your program outline proposes to provide placards to those who sign up to be on a waiting list. This will be the equivalent of giving preferential permit parking to vehicle dwellers, a right denied Venice residents by the Coastal Commission. We would ask that you reject this program element and rely upon the obvious identification provided by license plate numbers to record, locate and monitor those on the waiting list.
4. The program outline suggests that the target population is homeless families. Out of over 250 documented occupied vehicles, residents know of only one family, a single mother with two teenage children (who has rejected an offer of affordable housing). The St. Joseph Center’s limited survey of some of the camper population is a more accurate portrait and should be relied upon to explain the target population to CD 11 residents.
5. The VNC Ad Hoc Committee recommended that in the initial pilot program that participants adhere to a set of rules, which was derived from the “best practices” of similar programs in Eugene, OR and Santa Barbara, CA. I have attached them for your reference. We would ask that they be appended to the RFP. Certainly, they can and will be modified as the program evolves, but they, again, offer residents protections from the program parking lots becoming public nuisances. Further, we would ask that the RFP and program outline include in the program rules the requirement that those on a waiting list, i.e., those living in vehicles but still parking on public streets, not park at night on any block that has any residences on it.
6. You have indicated that you believe that a non-profit medical services provider would be qualified to apply for and ultimately run the “Streets to Homes” program. We beg to disagree. The stated mission of the program is to help vehicle dwellers find housing (and to also remove these vehicles from our neighborhoods). A medical services provider by definition has no experience with this mission and should not even be allowed to bid on RFP. A qualified non-profit with extensive experience with coaching homeless individuals to find and move to housing is called for.
Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.
Mark Ryavec, President
Report and Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness and Vehicular Occupation to the Venice Neighborhood Council
May 8, 2009
Co-Chairs: Carolyn Rios and Mark Ryavec
Members: Mariana Aguilar, Susan Beckman, Steve Freedman, Marie Hammond, Giovanna Imbesi, Michael King, John Meehan, Stewart Oscars and Terry Simons
The program would have the following outline:
1. The City would adopt conditional use permit language (recommended language included) to allow the permitting of public or private lots as transition sites per the proposed attached language. The sites would be at least 300 feet from inhabited residences, exempted from LAMC 85.02, no more than three vehicles would allowed on a site at one time, and participants would be restricted to three month stays and must be of very low income status. (Examples of possible sites are below.) Other provisions are contained in the attached proposed permit language to protect the neighborhoods in which the sites are located.
2. The City would develop and release a request for proposals for non-profit social service agencies to submit proposals to operate a vehicle-to-housing transition program (the service provider). The service provider would recruit vehicle dwellers to participate in the program, provide services required by the participants to facilitate placement in affordable housing, and supervise the sites and assure they are operated in a safe and healthy manner.
3. The service provider would be delegated by the City as the “first responder” in the event the City (DOT, Council Office or LAPD) is notified that someone is living in a vehicle on City streets in violation of LAMC 85.02 (ban on using vehicles as living quarters on public streets or parking lots) and/or 80.73.2 (ban on stays of more than 72 hours). The service provider will notify the vehicle dweller that living in vehicles is prohibited by City ordinance and that they will be cited for violation of 85.02 and/or 80.73.2. The service provider shall offer them overnight accommodations on a permitted parking lot, subject to availability, if they are judged to be very low income, agree to program guidelines and to participate in the transition program to place them in affordable housing. If they are not very low income and/or have no interest in finding housing, the service provider will direct them to permitted camping locations in the County of Los Angeles. If they fail to move their vehicles they will be subject to citation by the police and/or DOT.
4. The program would have the following guidelines:
a. Anyone, individuals or families, living in a motor vehicle (car/truck/van/recreational vehicle) which can be moved to and from the site by its own power, and who is judged to be very low income by a standard set by the Los Angeles Housing Department, is eligible.
b. Only those who have been accepted into the transition program by the service provider may stay on the permitted lot(s) overnight. All others will be cited for trespassing, and towed away if necessary.
c. Participant(s) must sign a contract with the service provider agreeing to relocate to permanent housing, if such housing is affordable to the participant and located within 10 miles of the transition site.
d. Anyone under age eighteen must be accompanied by and supervised by an adult.
e. The vehicle must have current a California license and insurance.
f. Dogs and other pets are forbidden (other than an assistance dog, such as a Seeing Eye dog).
Hours and Length of Stay
a. Vehicles are allowed on the sites overnight only (hours may differ as the lots may have other uses in the early evening or early morning).
b. Individuals and their vehicles are allowed to use the site overnight for a period of three months provided they abide by all program rules.
Support Services/Clean Up
a. Portable toilet(s) and trash bags will be provided by the service provided on-site. Overnight sleepers must use the portable toilet(s) provided or the sanitation system installed on their vehicle. The service provider will also make available shower facilities within a reasonable driving distance of the site.
b. Participants must dispose of human waste which accumulates in their vehicle’s tank at proper disposal sites.
c. Participants are responsible for keeping their space clean and helping to keep the entire site clean.
a. No violent or aggressive behavior, physical or verbal abuse, vandalism, panhandling, gambling or offensive behavior is allowed.
b. No use or brandishing of weapons or carrying of firearms on the site.
c. No consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs or open containers of alcoholic beverages allowed on-site.
d. No loud noises or music.
e. Disputes between participants to be immediately brought to the attention of the service provider for resolution.
f. No children to be left unattended in a vehicle or on the site.
a. Vehicles are allowed only in prescribed locations on the site.
b. Vehicles and possessions are to be kept within the boundary lines of individual spaces.
c. No tents or temporary structures are to be erected on the site.
d. No cooking devices or open fires allowed on site other than those originally installed by manufacturers in vehicles.
f. No pets permitted on site.
g. Any vehicle left unattended for 48 hours will considered abandoned and the process will be started to have it towed away.
h. Program participants are responsible for their guests abiding by program rules. Guests must leave the site by 9 PM.
i. Violation of any of these rules can lead to termination from the program and loss of the right to use the site for overnight parking.
J. As multiple sites are developed, there should be separate sites for single individuals, women, and families.