On February 22, 2020, Venice’s A Bridge Home transitional shelter held its first and last public open house to a mixed crowd of the curious, the supporters, and the skeptical and bitter few. Flustered city employees scrambled while seasoned service providers shined and the crowd got a sneak peek of something very special.
The official opening came on the 25th with a formal ribbon cutting by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin. A few lucky new residents started the move-in process and, shortly after, the word of what was inside spread through the neighborhood quicker than outreach workers could keep up. The location has everything anyone would need. There are washing machines, private showers, computer labs, even a dog park. With a comfortable environment and a staff dedicated to placing everyone in housing, A Bridge Home immediately became the talk of the town.
The process of admission allowed roughly 20 people per day to slowly move in after a doctor’s screening and required immunization. The ever present Nimby question of “people not wanting help” was quickly stifled as back lists for back lists were filled and everyone was more than eager to enter.
I was lucky enough to help sign up a number of people with the help of St. Joseph’s center, but after many years of living unhoused and going through traditional shelters myself, I had worries about telling friends of 10-20 years to trust something new. My doubts and worries quickly faded when I was able to help a friend check in after he lived on the street in Venice for over 10 years. While standing at the door saying goodbye I saw a bunch of smiling familiar faces and good friends hanging out inside. Everyone seemed filled with a sense of hope like I’ve never seen before. Even those on the outside waiting to get in all had a new outlook on life. Though there were still plenty of concerns, you could see the feeling of the weight lifted off their backs and a glimmer in their eyes that’s been missing for years. A little bit of hope, and allowing people to be where they love, truly goes a long way.
This project tore our neighborhood apart, from scaring off politicians, to hundreds of thousands wasted in emotional lawsuits and even questionable bomb scares. Now A Bridge Home has quickly become the bandage to those seemingly irreparable wounds and, hopefully, many others in the future. A Bridge Home is the best opportunity Venice has ever had, but unfortunately, we only have it for 3 short years, and plenty more people still need help.
As a community needing this to work, as much as the people it serves, we must continue to encourage this project and beyond. A Bridge Home Venice was approved, built, and filled through encouragement, and this and what’s to follow will only succeed through it too. If you know someone in need of help, encourage them to go check it out, and if you know someone still fighting against it, encourage them to get over their misconceptions and find out the truth. If you know our politicians, tell them to listen.
While I still have plenty of worries with the City or a service provider messing things up, and the LAPD mistreatment outside of Bridge currently like those of 50 years ago with personal vendetta’s intact, I can sleep comfortably knowing that at least the people inside we set out to help will sleep better than they have in years. And those waiting to get in finally have something positive to look forward to.