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Venice Group Blocking Storage for the Homeless

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The Venice Stakeholders Association is challenging plans that would give the homeless a place to store their belongings

A key part of Venice's ambitious plan to combat homelessness is under threat as a neighborhood group is challenging the city's right to convert an empty senior center into a storage facility for homeless residents. The Venice Stakeholders Association says the deed on the property and a court order from 1950 limits its use to a playground or recreational facility.

Fair enough. But that doesn't seem to be the real reason the group is upset.

Mary Ryavec, president of the historically not-all-that-friendly-toward-the-homeless VSA, says the site in question has been a "crime generator for years." She tells City News Service (via My News LA) that adding a storage facility, which would also include offices for a case worker to connect visitors with badly-needed services, would "attract hundreds of transients to the site ... just exacerbat[ing] the problem."

It's not entirely clear why this might be the case—or if there is a problem in the first place. A brief analysis of crime data compiled by the LA Times suggests that so far this year only two crimes have been reported on the stretch of Pacific Avenue where the senior center is located.

A count released earlier this year found that more than 2,500 homeless people reside in Council District 11, which includes Venice. Since the homeless don't have permanent residences where they can store their belongings, these items often end up on streets and sidewalks. District 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin argues, "we have a choice between the status quo of allowing sidewalks and streets full of encampments, or offering people a safe place to keep their personal belongings while getting them connected to the services that will get them off the street permanently."

As Bonin considers how to proceed with the proposed storage facility, Venice will continue to move forward with other parts of its homelessness plan. This includes, among other things, a proposal to construct affordable housing at the site of a city-owned parking lot.