Thursday, May 28

Westwood attempts to address homelessness via nonprofits, lacks location

Westwood Village, along with other areas in Los Angeles, is working to utilize funds from measures H and HHH to improve the lives of the Village's homeless population. In the meantime, the Westwood Neighborhood Council's Homelessness Task Force is considering more local approaches. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Westwood community leaders are attempting to address homelessness locally amid countywide efforts to alleviate Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis.

The Westwood Neighborhood Council’s Homelessness Task Force held a meeting Thursday to discuss ways to improve resources currently available to Westwood’s homeless population. Council members and nonprofit leaders said they think the community should provide housing and material assistance to homeless individuals.

The WWNC is hoping to work with local nonprofits to request the City Council construct a walk-in access center for homeless individuals that provides laundry, mailing and medical services, said council president Lisa Chapman.

Chapman said the neighborhood council would need to work with an organization that has experience creating access facilities. She added the walk-in center would likely be funded by Los Angeles County Measure H, which voters passed in 2016 to provide services for homeless individuals, as well as grants from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Donovan Wilkes, an outreach specialist for Block by Block, an organization that provides services for Westwood Village, said he thinks it is important to have a walk-in access center in Westwood because the closest service centers are located in Santa Monica.

“For the west LA area, particularly Westwood, there are not a lot of access centers like that,” he said. “It would be a great start … for people in such a vast area.”

However, community leaders and experts said they think it is unlikely Westwood will build housing to address homelessness.

For example, city Measure HHH, which passed in 2016, will help build and repurpose buildings to house homeless individuals, but funding from the program will likely not go to projects in Westwood because of its high rent, low available space and lack of support for new housing projects, said Joan Ling, a lecturer at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“You need to find sites, neighborhoods that will accept these projects,” she said. “Now that we have a little bit of money to work with, the challenge really is that nobody wants the housing to be built in their own neighborhood.”

Chapman said she thinks Westwood does not have space for any additional housing projects.

“I would love that. … I don’t know where it would be,” she said. “We are in such a dense area and I just can’t even imagine any property around here that would be doing this.”

Some organizations are already taking steps to address homelessness in Westwood.

Damián Mazzotta, founder and chairman of The Shower of Hope, which brings portable shower trailers into communities to provide hygiene services to homeless individuals, said the nonprofit hopes to expand to Westwood.

The Shower of Hope currently provides hygiene services three times a week in Highland Park, South Pasadena and Huntington Park. Mazzotta said the organization hopes to provide its services to Westwood residents on a weekly basis, but has yet to finalize a location.

“The idea is to start … as soon as we can find a partnership for a location, and as soon as we get support from the (neighborhood) council,” he said.

Block by Block provides homeless individuals with food and hygiene products, in addition to sanitation services for Westwood Village, Wilkes said.

Wilkes said Block by Block also provides homeless individuals with paperwork to help them obtain free government identification cards. ID cards are essential for homeless individuals to access government resources, he added.

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