Homelessness in Brentwood
BCC Homelessness Task Force
Co-Chairs, Michelle Bisnoff & Carolyn Jordan
Link here to resources and current strategic plan here: BCC Homelessness Resources and Strategic Plan
A Brief History of Homelessness in Brentwood
Generally speaking, Brentwood has few homeless individuals living vehicles or hillside areas and our annual homeless count rarely tops 60 people. Only 1 family was classified as homeless (in 2014) since Brentwood began participating in the annual homeless count 7 years ago.
However, Brentwood has a long term issue with homelessness along San Vicente Blvd and Bringham Street. The encampment is located on County-owned sidewalk adjacent to the VA fence. Based on data from County outreach teams from 2015 – 2020, about 50% of the homeless along the fence are Veterans. However, not all Veterans qualify for VA benefits due to their discharge status or other factors and the VA requires all Veterans to adhere to sober living guidelines if they are on campus; therefore, some Veterans are not ready for that lifestyle change and remain on the sidewalk. In those cases, Veterans are served by the County of Los Angeles homeless outreach team for our area, which is based at St, Joseph Center in Venice, and Veterans may apply for HUD VASH housing vouchers to live independently. The other 50% of homeless individuals in the encampment tend to be long term, transient homeless, 90% are adult, white males, who drift in a fairly recognizable pattern from DTLA – Brentwood – Pacific Palisades – Malibu – Santa Monica and back again. The BCC uses data from long term outreach stats provided by St. Joseph Center, Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to track this community.
The BCC also tracks homeless outreach stats on a quarterly basis. From 1/2019 – 1/2020 about 8% of all homeless individuals in Brentwood engaged with outreach workers and/or accepted services of some kind. The other 92% chose not to engage or accept services. Street Outreach from the VA Homelessness Team takes place on Monday and Thursday; the County team visits on Tuesday and Friday.
We’re often asked “Why don’t we do what Pacific Palisades has done regarding homelessness?” The question should actually be “Why doesn’t the entire City of Los Angeles do the same as the Palisades, which has their own dedicated police officer who warns and enforces petty crime issues related to homelessness in their neighborhood?” The data from the Palisades is clear: Without full time law enforcement, there is little impetus to “accept help or move along”; homeless individuals often simply want to be left alone and will move on if subject to continuous enforcement action. The BCC has lobbied for years at the City, County and LAPD level for dedicated homeless outreach, without luck.
The BCC also hears the frequent comment: “I’m afraid of the homeless”, “they are aggressive and dangerous”, “homeless are mentally ill and violent”. Generally speaking, homeless individuals in Brentwood had not been prone to violence or dangerous conduct until about 2017, when we began to see an uptick in homeless – on – homeless assaults, drug use, harassment and assaults of residents, and the Skirball Fire occurred, which was started by a homeless individual in a hillside area. As an FYI: crime stats for the County sidewalk next to the VA are not counted by the City of LA, they are collected by the LA Sheriff, which owns enforcement of the sidewalk and conducts early morning drive by’s for enforcement. Regardless, it is always wise to be mindful of your surroundings, especially near the encampment. Conversely, for many years the Brentwood community rallied around a homeless gentleman, Wendell Brown, who wrote poems in exchange for tips near Vicente Foods. Wendell was a gentle soul and exemplifies how hard it can be for homeless individuals to accept services: after local affordable housing developer, Tom Safran, arranged an apartment for Wendell, he chose to sleep in the apartment building parking lot for months before going inside. After Wendell passed away, the community dedicated a sculpture to him located next to Vicente Foods.
The Sheriff also plans and executes the sanitation clean ups of the sidewalk encampment, as well. The clean ups were planned 2x per month until Covid virus shut things down. The BCC has provided the encampment with additional garbage bags, trash cans and we’ve enlisted County help for the removal of bulky items. We hope the sanitation and power washing resume once “Safer at Home Guidelines” are lifted.
WHY ARE THEY ALLOWED TO CAMP ON THE SIDEWALK?
Litigation on behalf of homeless individuals resulted in the City agreeing not to enforce the no camping ordinance in the Municipal Code until there are enough beds to serve 36,000 homeless individuals. The City is currently short about 20,000 beds. Recall, however, that the sidewalk of the Brentwood encampment is owned by the County of Los Angeles – not the City – and the County allows 24/7 camping. Current litigation is dealing with this issue and we should see the results of a settlement shortly which may change these rules.
Brentwood has conducted the annual Homeless County in conjunction with the City and County of LA every year since 2014. Our homeless community is very different from the rest of the City: it is made up of 90% white males, 50% US Veterans, no families, no young adults and the majority have PTSD with a secondary issue, such as alcoholism or drug use. You can always find stats for homelessness at this LINK.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
1. Read through the BCC resource guide and strategic plan at the link at the top of this page to get an understanding of where we are to date and find the best place for you to contribute time or talent to assist us.
2. Remember this issue when you vote.
3. Report all instances of garbage, violence or petty crime using the BCC Resource Guide contacts.