This is the letter I sent today to the members of the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils (WRAC) - that is, neighborhood and community councils in council districts 5 and 11 - in response to the question of the conversion of city recreation centers to homeless shelters:
I would like to share
with WRAC members my thoughts on the question of the re-purposing
of City recreation centers as homeless shelters in response to the
corona virus pandemic.
As some of you know, I have been involved in addressing the
exponential increase in the homeless population in my community of
Venice for many years. At one point I was the co-chair of the
Venice Neighborhood Council's Homelessness Committee. I also hold
a BA in psychology from UCLA and for many years watched as my
parents dealt with my drug- and alcohol-addicted younger brother,
who would have been homeless had not my parents converted their
garage for him to live in for most of his life.
While the concept of converting recreation centers to shelters appears appropriate in this crisis, it is
contraindicated by the nature of the population itself.
At least 50%, and possibly a higher percentage,
of the homeless population simply lacks the required self
discipline to abide by any social distancing protocols.
Over 50% are mentally ill, substance addicted and/or are
anti-authoritarian, or just too young to accept the seriousness of
the situation (as we saw with partying students on the beach in
Also, the very nature of living on the streets for prolonged
periods, with addiction, poor hygiene and sanitation, and lack of
medical care, have rendered many in this population
The result is that placing them in recreation centers on cots on
six foot centers will certainly assure that the virus will spread
quickly among the homeless as well as the caregivers who will not
have the necessary personal protective gear needed to prevent
transmission. It also will put those over 60 members and the high percentage that are immuno-compromised at greater risk than other options.
I would add that this analysis applies equally to Bridge Housing
Apparently the County Sheriff understands the need to thin out
jail populations to slow the spread of the virus in jails, but the
Mayor and Councilman Bonin proceed in contradiction to the
obvious, packing homeless into Bridge Housing and recreation
As I was quoted in the LA Times recently, the homeless, especially those
over 60 and/or those with underlying conditions, should be given a
priority in motels, hotels (and possibly empty student
dormitories) to self quarantine.
In light of all the information coming out
of Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, self-quarantine
for everyone is the only path to slow the spread and contain the
virus. This is not possible in recreation centers or Bridge
Thank you for your consideration,
Mark Ryavec, Community Officer, Venice Neighborhood Council