Committee for Homelessness chair gives city council a nudge

Alex Fisch, chair of Culver City’s committee on homelessness, was at the city council meeting on Monday to make sure that they were aware of the 85 percent jump in the city’s homeless population, according to the figures released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority last week.

The mission of the committee is to monitor the services that the city is providing, making sure it’s getting its money’s worth while trying to address homelessness and also communicating with the public. The city and the committee have been working towards the plan released by the county called “Approved Strategies to Combat Homelessness.”

“My purpose to be there last night was to announce that I’m the chair and let them know what the numbers were like, and what we’re working on,” Fisch said the following day. “We had drafted an ordinance to give a preference in bidding for city contracts to certain types of organizations, including organizations that are trying to employ homeless people. They’d been sitting on it, so I figured that, since the numbers were so bad, it might catch some attention from them and get that on that agenda, and that was successful.”

Since the release of the LAHSA’s numbers, there has been some debate about how accurate they are, based on the fact that the statistics were gathered at a different time in the evening compared to the previous year. Fisch said that, while that could mean that the percentage that the number has risen isn’t as great, it also only means that there was a bigger problem last year than those numbers suggested.

“It‘s a tidal wave,” he said. “A total failure of the way that we house people. It’s awful. I think most of the new homeless numbers – a part of it is there were people there who we were missing because we were going too early – they weren’t settling in until a little later, and so this year we caught those people. There are also new people, and it’s 100 percent a poverty issue. If you look at where the numbers increased, more than anything else it’s vans and RVs. To me, that says that people are desperate, they’re trying to stay close to their jobs and their families, so they let go of their house or their apartment and they’re out in the RV. Most people have gone through tough times at some point. It’s easy to imagine, with housing prices the way they are.”

Fisch says that it’s important to keep the public informed about what is going on and, while there are still plenty of misinformed opinions on social media, people are realizing that not every homeless person is a lazy drug addict.

“I think that there’s less and less of that thinking,” Fisch said. “People are recognizing that homelessness is multifaceted. There are many reasons why people are out there. I think now that the price of housing is affecting even people who consider themselves middle class and are in fact probably upper middle class, people understand that the price of housing is a huge part.

I know that some people suggest that maybe it’s because Culver City PD is nicer that neighboring police departments. I think that the PD has come a long way in being progressive and more humane in dealing with people who are on the streets. One of the county’s initiatives is to expand that to first responders all over the city, trained to respect people’s civil rights.”

Still, Fisch acknowledged the community’s concerns.

“Nobody wants an encampment, but that just shows how much harder we have to work,” he said.