Unhoused individual set up camp on Boardwalk

Unhoused individual set up camp on Boardwalk (Staff photo/Venice Current)

While encampments surge and the number of homeless now living at the beach soar with tents not socially spaced and most individuals mask less, doesn’t an immediate vaccination of the un-housed population here in Venice protect everyone?

While the current “stay at home order” logically applies to those with a residence, what is being done to protect the most vulnerable during this pandemic and why aren’t service providers and city government officials adding the homeless to a “prioritized” category of individuals that need to vaccinated sooner than later?

Venues like the Venice Bridge Housing Shelter have many individuals that have lived in those quarters for months, and few are moving to permanent and supportive housing. And while service providers are being vaccinated who work at that facility, doesn’t it make sense to vaccinate individuals in a place where the length of stay has no limit?

For the logic or decision not to place these people at the front of the line continues to be the “back of the line” thinking of LA’s dysfunctional political leadership!

For we know very little of the success rate of current homeless strategies and solutions, for that information is somehow kept from public view to gage if the current policy initiatives actually work.

For how do you invest in programs and initiatives that do not generate any results at all?

Even more disturbing is that those charged to solve this crisis within a pandemic don’t seem to be fazed by that hard reality! 

On a ZOOM call Thursday evening with the East Venice Neighborhood Association (EVNA), I asked what has been the success rate of moving the homeless from bridge housing to permanent housing and the representative from Councilman Mike Bonin’s office simply replied, “I don’t know.”

How can the Venice community get behind any serious public policy effort to address this massive and out of control population of distressed individuals forced to live on the streets in the most filthy of conditions when the policies in place are not required to succeed or at a minimum, display any semblance of results?

And since results don’t seem to matter, why not at least protect these individuals and prioritize them and get them in the front of the line for vaccination since exposure for them is so chilling and obvious?

Those who live in a “group setting” like bridge housing can be completely vulnerable and their ability to access health care nominal at best. Many homeless individuals also can carry high rates of co-morbidities making them both “at-risk” and “high-risk” and that’s bad news for anyone in constant contact with them!

In fact, CDC guidelines have the Venice Bridge housing center at 75 adults and 46 youth placements, down from the normal bed occupancy of 100 adult and 54 youth which places this location at 78% occupied.

If all occupants were vaccinated, that’s 33 more individuals off the street.

The time for bold action and results was yesterday.

The entire homeless community of Los Angeles and Venice must be prioritized for vaccination now.

There is no reason why this process cannot commence and it’s just good policy to offer early accessibility given the current intolerable conditions that exist in the streets of this community and so many other places here in Los Angeles. 

Our new President Joe Biden is taking swift action nationally to end this human health catastrophe.

It’s time those here in Los Angeles follow his example and begin the vaccination process of these individuals now to protect not just the most vulnerable, but all who come in contact with them in this battle to end this moral scourge where Venice is now ground zero for this homeless epidemic is now more lethal and dangerous than ever before!