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Town Hall Over Proposed Temporary Homeless Facility Heats Up Venice Beach

VENICE (CBSLA) — The councilman representing the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles fielded tough questions from constituents and reporters regarding a controversial, temporary homeless shelter proposed in the area Wednesday, the latest in an ongoing battle across the city.

"We were never consulted about it in the first place," one Venice resident told Councilman Mike Bonin at the evening meeting.

"That's why we're here today," replied the councilman.

He was just one of the persons in a packed house trying to get answers out of Bonin regarding the yet-to-be-built A Bridge Home facility, which Bonin's website calls "a temporary, safe, secure, humane alternative to neighborhood encampments."

The shelter, which would be built on a former 3-acre Metro bus yard on Sunset and Main would provide housing for up to 100 homeless people at a time, with 24-hour access, showers and round-the-clock security on site. However, Bonin said it was about more than that.

"This isn't for 100 people only; this isn't people staying in here permanently," said the District 11 councilman. "Some folks will take longer, and some folks will be done more quickly."

When pressed by CBS2 News reporter Crystal Cruz about how he would ensure that people would actually use the facility, Bonin said, "I'm gonna be answering the questions from my constituents."

Hundreds of homeless people live in and around the beach community, and as many of these discussions have gone in L.A., it comes down to "compassion" versus proximity.

In Koreatown last month, hundreds of locals shut down Wilshire Boulevard over a proposed shelter on a city-owned lot there.

However, not all residents are against the idea in Venice.

"We need to house homeless people. We have a lot of homeless in L.A.," said Lawrence Scarpa. "We should not be afraid to have them; they are people."

However, unlike Scarpa, many others predict the demise of the neighborhood were homeless people allowed to be housed there. Appearances seem to be a large part of the discussion.

"My hope is that the security that surrounds the development does not look like an armed camp, because that will give people the assumption that perhaps there will be trouble," said resident Jane Singer.

"We're very concerned about this being introduced here because we believe it's gonna be a magnet for even more homeless," echoed Mark Ryavec.

"We're just asking for a vote," said one man holding up a "VENICE SAYS NO!" banner.

Regarding Cruz's question to Bonin, CBS2's Dave Lopez earlier put the question to the homeless, themselves. The responses were mixed.

"If there was a shelter that you could go to, would you go to it?"

"No," said one woman on the Venice Boardwalk.

"Some would, and some wouldn't," said another man.

"Why not?" Lopez asked a man who said he wouldn't go.

"Hell no. Look, first of all, we're urban refugees, we're not homeless."

The shelter could open as soon as December and could stay open for as few as three years.

Bonin and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti are featured in a video touting the proposed shelter.

Bridge Home Venice by David Graham-Caso on YouTube
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