For the first time in years, Steven Styne has a roof over his head.
The 52-year-old has been homeless since 2014, when he lost his West Hollywood apartment. During the pandemic, he tried to find housing for his mother and himself, but those plans failed.
Then a driver crashed into the SUV he was in and completed it. Styne knew some friends who were staying along San Vicente Avenue, near Beverly Center and the luxury complex developed by former mayoral candidate Rick Caruso. Styne started sleeping there in February.
On Wednesday, Mayor Karen Bass took to LA’s Beverly Grove neighborhood to speak with residents of the San Vicente camp — located across from Beverly Hills — and to follow her latest activity Inside Safe Initiativedesigned to move homeless people off the streets and into motel rooms and hotels.
Styne took a seat at a motel room on 108th Street and Broadway. He had already packed two small suitcases and two backpacks.
“I need to get off the street,” he said. “Even though it’s far away, I still want to give it a try. At least it’s a door to lock and a shower. I can sit and I can focus again. It’s hard to do that here.”
According to a press release from the mayor’s office, Inside Safe is part of Bass’ efforts to get people inside their tents and prevent campers from returning. The program has brought more than 1,200 people indoors since it was launched in December.
By Thursday afternoon, sanitation workers were clearing one side of San Vicente, which once housed a row of tents. On the grassy median across the street, a cluster of about four tents remained.
Relocating the residents of the San Vicente campground is the mayor’s 16th Inside Safe operation, and the second to be carried out in Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky’s district, which includes parts of the Westside.
Yaroslavsky admits that all the tents that make up the San Vicente campground are on the Los Angeles street side. No one over there is in the city of Beverly Hills.
When asked why, she said there was at least one reason: “We are providing housing.”
“When you have disparities in how cities solve a problem, you have people who naturally move aside. [of the street] — or asked to move aside, she added.
In a statement, Beverly Hills Mayor Julian A. Gold said all of the cities that make up the Westside are “doing their part to help those who are homeless.”
“For its part, the City of Beverly Hills spends hundreds of thousands of dollars providing services including accommodation to those who need it, a responsibility we take very seriously.
According to Bass, San Vicente Avenue is classified as a “challenging” camping site for both those living in tents and those who work and live nearby. It took her team months to find hotels that were affordable and accepted the homeless.
Several grassroots groups that provide aid to the homeless in LA have criticized Inside Safe, saying that homeless residents are not provided with adequate social services — and sometimes meals. eating — after they were transferred to the motel rooms. Those groups repeatedly criticize the city for moving homeless people to locations far from the neighborhoods where they work or socialize.
Bass admits that the motels are far from the camp, but insists that her priority is getting them out of the tents.
“Our goal is for people to stay close to where they camp, and we can’t always do that,” Bass said on Thursday. “Given that this is an emergency, in my view we don’t want to leave people on the streets.”
Even after the tents were cleared, residents and nearby business owners expressed concern that the tents would return.
“They’re worried about that, and I understand because they’ve seen the number of tents come and go and they’ve seen the number of tents, especially in the last few weeks, increase because people know we’re going to have to wait. become the residence of the people. ‘ said Bass.
That would explain why at least 25 residents were displaced from the San Vicente encampment on Thursday, according to the mayor’s office, when fewer than 20 people lived there before Inside Safe.
Mima Adams, 55, who runs the Mima Spirit Store on San Vicente Avenue, said it started with one tent in June 2022 and increased to half a dozen more. She said her business took a hit for a year because people were afraid to go near the camp.
“I don’t know how long they can keep them there,” she said. “I hope and pray that it will be a permanent home for these people because it breaks my heart to actually see them out there and their living conditions.”
Styne returned to the campsite on Thursday afternoon to watch over a friend’s tent and make sure none of his belongings were thrown out.
“It’s stigma,” Styne said. “They are saying we are driving customers away. There are some mental illnesses. No one harms anyone. No one gets in the way. Worst case is some mess.”
Among the homeless was James Boss, 30, who loaded his belongings on a bus on his way to a motel. Boss has lived along San Vicente Avenue since February. Before the bus drove away, he locked his bike and planned to go back to get it.
“I can’t get a job here,” Boss said. “They didn’t want to hire homeless people, so that barrier was removed. I can finally generate my own income and put myself in a better situation.”
Marie Carpenter, who has lived in the camp for two years, said her youngest son was killed last year while they were living in San Vicente. The 57-year-old has tried in the past in shelters and other housing, but dislikes being around people who use drugs.
Carpenter sat on the sidewalk and waited for his turn to board the bus.
“I’m just tired,” she said. “I don’t want to get out of here anymore.”