Follow in the Palisades Task Force
On June 14, Councilman Mike Bonin sent out a press release that included his suggestions on “Why Is Homelessness Getting Worse, and What Can We Do About It?”
His solutions included a “Vacancy Tax” (if you own property that can be rented and you don’t, you will be taxed); “Inclusionary Zoning” (all new developments must include low-income housing); “Preventing Income Discrimination” (if you and I are applying for the same apartment and I make more money, I don’t automatically get the apartment); “Just Cause Eviction,” which would require landlords to show a just cause for eviction, a measure that Bonin believes would help seniors and the disabled; and “Right to Counsel” to help tenants fight unjust evictions.
He concludes: “The results of the 2019 LAHSA homeless count make clear — encampments are not going away overnight. The systemic issues that drive people to homelessness — most specifically the housing affordability crisis throughout California — will continue forcing families to homelessness faster than we can create housing for them. The question we have to answer as a city is how we can make sure our neighborhoods are clean and safe — for everyone who lives in them.”
One program Bonin failed to acknowledge was the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness. The nonprofit was founded in 2014 because of the increasing number of homeless found on the streets and hillsides in this area.
In January’s citywide homeless count, the numbers here went down here dramatically, except for a slight increase in people living in their vehicles. Tents and makeshift shelters dropped from a high of 61 in 2016 to three in 2019.
Since the beginning of 2016, PPTFH has housed 102 of the individuals engaged by two social workers from The People Concern.
The model that the PPTFH has established works. It gives homeless people options and does not allow them to languish. ((Editor’s note: L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote about the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness in a July 29, 2017 column, “The Mystery Homeless Woman of Pacific Palisades and the Village That Helped Her Home.”)
Additionally, since Pacific Palisades is in a very high-fire-severity zone, no camping signs have been posted in brush-covered areas. Several prior homeless fires traveled through the brush and threatened entire neighborhoods.
The two social workers are paid through local private donations and work through The People Concern to obtain services. They repeatedly meet with the homeless and offer help.
A law enforcement team is engaged, and homeless individuals are not allowed to do drugs.
Panhandling is discouraged with the idea, “Make real change not spare change,” and people who are begging are given a PPTFH “services card,” which allows them to contact the outreach team. Residents are asked to donate instead to the task force, so that more services can be supplied.
More than 163 abandoned encampments, with their litter, bottles of urine, propane canisters and lighters, have been removed.
LAPD Officer John “Rusty” Redican, who works with the task force and has been assigned the beach homeless detail, said “While the City’s numbers are concerning, the city has a working model right here in your own Pacific Palisades.
“I believe this compassionate model can be rolled out city-wide. Sometimes the answers are right here in front of us. And I believe the PPTFH, was ahead of its time, and now serves as a model of ongoing success!”
Redican noted that by merely driving through this community, which doesn’t have the tents and homeless living on the street, people can observe PPTFH’s success.
Then, he makes a point that needs to be reiterated, “But what might not be seen in that drive, is the lives saved, and the hard work of the Palisades Community, the homeless outreach services and the people who work on this task force that have placed people in long-term housing, saving those lives, and improving the quality of life for all.”
He agrees that the LAPD cannot arrest its way out of the crisis, but that law enforcement can help the homeless into getting help. “My partners and I have had to completely retool our approach to law enforcement, while compassionately doing our part in this effort,” he said. “Building relationships of trust, help the end game of helping people see that they should take the help.
“I believe the Mayor and City Council members are trying to find solutions, and while there is not one single solution, the model of the PPTFH is one that gets us all closer to the best possible outcome,” Redican said and added, “Selfishly, it’s very gratifying and fulfilling to be a part of a team that gets to see the fruits of our labor, by getting people off the street and back up on their feet. Is very humbling to be a part of this effort and this community.” Visit: pptfh.org