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L.A. to help homeless people find safe overnight parking in Venice area

To help the rising number of people living in cars and campers on the streets of Venice and nearby areas, the city of Los Angeles plans to recruit an agency to operate a “safe overnight parking” program aimed at linking them with social services and, eventually, permanent housing.

The program would mirror efforts in Santa Barbara and in Eugene, Ore., where participants sleep in their vehicles in designated areas and have access to counseling and other services, including help finding subsidized apartments.

In Council District 11, where the program would start, participants would sign a contract and agree to a strict code of conduct. Bathrooms, showers and trash facilities would be made available.

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city-county agency that would administer the program, plans to begin soliciting bids in August from social service providers.

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Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the 11th District, which includes Venice, secured $750,000 in city funding for the program.

For years, Rosendahl has been besieged by Venice residents complaining about unpleasant and unsanitary conditions caused by some of the people living in recreational vehicles and autos. Many residents have sought overnight parking restrictions, but the California Coastal Commission thwarted those requests, saying the city needed to deal with the larger social issue of homelessness in areas near the beach.

The Venice Neighborhood Council and others have called for creating a safe parking program.

“This is a smart and cutting-edge program that builds on the successes of similar programs in other cities and improves and tailors them for our community,” Rosendahl said in a statement.

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Michael Arnold, executive director of the homeless services authority, said his agency expects to select a social services provider by late September.

The provider would then spend a couple of months working with the community to identify several locations that could accommodate three to five vehicles each. A survey earlier this month in Venice and nearby areas identified more than 250 RVs and other vehicles that appeared to be occupied, Arnold said.

The 11th District communities of Del Rey, Westchester and Playa del Rey have already begun developing programs, according to Rosendahl’s office.

“It’s going to focus on people living in their vehicles who have no other option available to them,” Arnold said of the safe parking program. “It’s going to focus on those most at need and provide them a pathway from their vehicle back to stable housing.”

Rosendahl said he hopes to launch the program before year’s end, to coincide with implementation of a new oversize vehicle ordinance. Last month, the Los Angeles City Council approved amendments to an ordinance to make it easier to prohibit big RVs from parking at street curbs overnight.

martha.groves@latimes.com


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