Faced with a big increase in its homeless population, the City of West Hollywood has stepped up its efforts to address the issue. Today the city has announced the launch of a pilot program that provides outreach and services to homeless people at West Hollywood Library. Recently City Manager Paul Arevalo announced that he was asking Social Services Supervisor Corri Planck to take on the role of coordinating the city’s homeless efforts.
The pilot program, which actually began in October, makes it possible for homeless people to meet at the library during certain hours with organizations with which the city has contracted to provide services. Those organizations provide an array of services, ranging from housing and shelter to mental health and substance abuse treatment.
An on-the-street survey in January 2016 found 87 homeless people in West Hollywood, a significant increase from the 43 counted the year before. That survey, while not an accurate count of all homeless people in West Hollywood, reinforced the perception of residents that homeless has been on the increase in WeHo. This year’s survey will take place Jan. 26.
In September the West Hollywood City Council passed a resolution proposed by Mayor Lauren Meister and Councilmember John Heilman to form a council subcommittee focused on homeless issues and to reaffirm the city’s willingness to work with countywide agencies on the issue as well as concentrate on preventing West Hollywood residents from becoming homeless.
Planck, in an interview with WEHOville, explained that there are no easy solutions to homelessness, which also is a major issue in Los Angeles County and other large metro areas in the country. “It’s complex, it’s just complex,” she said. “If there were an easy answer somebody would have done something about it by now.”
One of the issues, Planck explained, is that the presence of homeless people in West Hollywood can’t be solved by the city alone, given the ease with which people can cross the city’s boundaries. That’s one reason why West Hollywood is working with countywide agencies on the problem and why a recent meeting of the Westside Council of Governments had three items on its agenda about homelessness. Another issue is that homelessness can be the result of several different factors: poverty, mental illness and drug addiction, among them.
And then there is the lack of affordable housing. “What we need regionally is more affordable housing, more housing vouchers and resources,” Planck said. ”
The city currently has a variety of programs to address homelessness. For example, it offers housing vouchers to subsidize the rent for those who have lost a job and are in danger of losing their home. It contracts with various non-profit agencies for other services, many of which will be providing counseling and outreach at the library on the following dates and times:
Mondays. Ascencia, a Glendale-based organization that offers shelter and other services. Available 10 a.m. to noon.
Tuesdays. The L.A. LGBT Center‘s Youth Services and Mental Health Services. Available from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Wednesdays. Safe Refuge, Long Beach-based organization that focuses on alcohol and drug abuse. Available from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Thursdays. Step Up on Second, a Santa Monica-based organization with a facility on Vine Street in Hollywood that provides housing and mental health services. Available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m..
Fridays. Friends Community Center in Los Angeles and / or Tarzana Treatment Centers. Friends provides services for gay and transgender men with drug abuse issues. Tarzana Treatment, based in Tarzana, provides alcohol and drug abuse help.
“We are extremely grateful for the partnerships we have developed and, although we still have a ways to go, we know this pilot program is already making an impact,” said Mayor Meister, who sits on the city council’s homeless subcommittee with John Heilman. Heilman said the library is a good location for service providers because homeless people often go there for services or to use the internet. “Our new pilot program attempts to reach homeless individuals wherever they are and connect them to services,” Heilman said. “Reaching out to people who are homeless in our library and our parks is another way for us to get people the help they need.”
If you are concerned about a community member who is homeless, call the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative Concern Line at (323) 848-6590. If your concern requires time-sensitive assistance during nights or weekends, call the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station at (310) 855-8850. Additional information about the city’s resources for the homeless is available online.