Kevin Cody

Redondo Beach gets proactive in proposing homeless shelters

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A slide from a presentation to the Redondo Beach City Council last week shows a proposed location for a transitional homeless shelter in Redondo Beach. Photo courtesy of the City of Redondo Beach

by Rachel Reeves

The Redondo Beach city council, last week, voted unanimously to direct staff to continue working out the logistics for a temporary shelter for unhoused individuals in Redondo Beach. 

Mayor Bill Brand noted that Redondo Beach has been proactive about addressing houselessness, an issue every city confronts, and that despite contention he and his colleagues are committed to working toward meaningful solutions.

“In all cities, the homeless problem is not going away,” he said. “In fact, it’s probably going to get worse.”

City Attorney Mike Webb began Tuesday night’s conversation by explaining that because there are no shelters for unhoused people in Redondo Beach, police officers are unable to enforce ordinances prohibiting sleeping in parks or on beaches or other public property. He referenced Martin v. City of Boise, a 2018 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court that found it unconstitutional to charge people for breaching these ordinances when they do not have other options. Webb also said a court order in Orange County had prohibited law enforcement from transporting homeless individuals across Service Planning Areas, or geographic zones, for purposes of shelter placement.

“Ultimately, it’s unconstitutional to tell someone they cannot sleep or stay in a public area when there’s no alternative for them,” Brand said, in summary. “There’s no perfect solution here, but we’re looking for solutions. Frankly, we are doing more than most cities just by doing this. A lot of cities are turning a blind eye to this.”

A look at the inside of a Pallet unit, intended to provide temporary housing for unhoused individuals. Photo courtesy of Pallet

Project Roomkey, a collaborative effort by the state, county, and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, has allowed people experiencing homelessness to stay in hotel and motel rooms to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Currently, more than 30 people from Redondo Beach are part of that program. Some nearby locations will no longer be offering rooms beyond October and, in some cases, November. 

“I felt it was important to bring it before you because this is a policy decision for the mayor and council before we have a worst-case scenario — 30-plus people returning to the streets of Redondo,” Webb said Tuesday night. He explained that city staff identified Pallet as a potential partner. Pallet is a company dedicated to building access to housing and employment by offering cheap units containing beds for people experiencing homelessness, and hiring employees who were formerly homeless or incarcerated to build them. The units, which can be assembled in half an hour and last 10 years, start at $2,450.

Webb said the CARES Act allows for its funds to be spent “caring for homeless” through the end of 2020, assuming unhoused populations have been disproportionately impacted by novel coronavirus. Money could also come from Measure H, he said. Following construction, the city would own the units, which are collapsible and easily moved. To start, 15 units are being proposed, Webb said. Staff had identified a dirt lot behind the Aviation Gym as a possible location. Presently the gym is not being used, because of the pandemic prohibition against large indoor gatherings.

Webb stressed this would be a temporary solution, not a long-term home for unhoused people. Service providers, including housing navigators and mental health counselors, would be engaged in the effort to get people out of the shelter as quickly as possible.

“It’s humane — you have toilet facilities — but you’re working … to get people out from there and into an apartment,” he said.

“This is not some way for Redondo Beach to become some sort of magnet, you know, to serve all homeless people’s problems everywhere and house them for free and feed them for free — this is not what this is about,” Brand said. “This is about helping people transition who have a variety of problems, whether medical problems or just down on their luck, so that we maintain the quality of our life in our communities while still helping people to whatever extent we can.”

Patrick Diller of Pallet told the mayor and council that most residents in Pallet shelters across the country stay for three months, and many for shorter periods. He added that nowhere have there been issues with people living in the units disturbing neighbors and that almost all of them have 24/7 security.

Diller referred to the case of Sonoma County, where there are 65 units. Initially there was  pushback from residents. But since the units went up there have been no complaints, he said. The council voted to make the shelter permanent. 

Residents of Redondo Beach and neighboring cities submitted written complaints about the idea ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, which the council acknowledged.

“The shelter should be put at the [city council’s] homes,” one person wrote in an email. Another echoed this sentiment: “Put the shelter near your home.”

People called during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting to express their concerns about concentrating unhoused people near a gym and near grocery stores. One person was concerned for employees at the nearby Northrop Grumman. One said it shouldn’t be Redondo’s problem. Two council members noted that a lot of these comments came from people outside Redondo Beach.

“Folks, we’re trying to solve something and until we do that there’s going to be more homeless… none of us likes to deal with the issue,” Councilmember Todd Loewenstein said. “It’s a very uncomfortable thing but it’s something that we have to do. We can’t turn our backs on people. It’s coming to our neighborhood. Because of Martin vs. Boise we are handcuffed on this, so while you say don’t erect these, well, what’s your solution?”

The mayor and council ultimately decided that staff should work out the details, including a location for a temporary shelter.

“It can be scary to start something new … nobody wants it in their in their backyard or neighborhood because they’re worried about public safety … but I think we’re also finding through the anecdotal stories from Homeless Court that these are just people, you know, who are suffering,” Councilmember Christian Horvath said. “And when they get into services they actually are able to live as normal human beings like we would consider our own neighbors. They’re suffering through addiction or mental health issues but maybe they just need medication or to sober up and. Services get in there so there’s a human element here and  I realize everybody who is speaking today is not coming from a place of non-compassion and is coming from a place of fear, but I think we’re on the right path here.” ER



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