A team of city sanitation crews, police and homeless outreach workers recently descended on the homeless encampment found under the brick archways of the Sunset Boulevard bridge that crosses over Silver Lake Boulevard. Rusty Millar of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council would like to find funds to keep the underpass clean on an ongoing basis but it’s clear the homeless will be back. The underpass is one of several spots where people living on the streets have found shelter in Silver Lake, which is better known for its hipsters than its homeless. In late October, volunteers now being recruited will fan out across the neighborhood’s underpasses, empty lots and alleys to get a better idea of the size and conditions of Silver Lake’s homeless population.
The goal of the first-ever Silver Lake Registry is to identify the most vulnerable of homeless residents and get them off the streets and into housing, said Jeremy Sidell with People Assisting the Homeless. Sidell said he expects the survey to identify at least 100 homeless persons in Silver Lake, and his agency is prepared to house 26 of those.
“We are trying to take a chunk out of the homeless people living on the streets,” he said.
Sidell said Silver Lake’s homeless have clustered in the area in part because it’s easily accessible to Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles, where the main shelters and homeless service agencies are located. Many neighborhood homeless residents have also come to depend on the generosity of Silver Lake residents and shoppers. “It’s a very generous community of people who can give hand outs,” he said.
There are also numerous underpasses as well as wooded lots and fields where the homeless can live out of view. “We will focus on these hot spots,” Sidell said.
Similar homeless surveys and registry have been undertaken in communities ranging from Hollywood to Whittier. Instead of simply counting heads, the volunteers will go out with a seven-page questionaire to try and get as much information as possible about the homeless, including health and mental conditions and the number of years on the street. The information gathered by the volunteers will be entered into a database and measured against a Vulnerability Index to help determine who is in most need of housing.
Path is seeking about 150 volunteers to help interview the homeless during the early morning hours and help process the information. Silver Lake resident Dorit Guerrero, who has volunteered at homeless shelters in downtown and Pasadena, plans to volunteer.
“We don’t have many service providers,” said Guerrero. But “my first thought about Silver Lake’s homeless population is that it is small enough and concentrated enough to be conquered.”
An event to raise awareness and support of the Silver Lake Registry will be held on August 2. Click here for details about the kickoff and how to volunteer for the survey.