In August, City Council unanimously approved the 2021 Master Siting Plan to Address Homelessness, which attempts to involve the entire city in creating a fair share of participation among council districts and neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the plan falls short in some parts of the city for a variety of reasons.
What does this mean for our district and neighborhood? Currently, we have two shelters operating in Oak Park – one for families and one for LGBTQ+ youth. In addition, the X Street Navigation Center, with 100 beds, is scheduled to open in September.
Included in the plan are 20 priority sites throughout the city. In District 5, the priority sites are the Florin light rail station, for safe parking; and a privately owned lot on 29th Avenue just west of Franklin Boulevard, for tiny homes.
Included in District 4’s list of priority sites are five sites under the W/X freeway between 18th and 24th streets, which would be used for up to 200 tiny homes and could have the capacity for 400 individuals. These sites require Caltrans and U.S. Department of Transportation approval.
You can view the plan in its entirety at https://bit.ly/2VX4IVV
As you can imagine, there has been justifiable concern from residents and businesses along the W/X corridor that have struggled with homeless issues over many years.
My advocacy for these sites will focus on addressing implementation concerns impacting the community.
While we have learned a great deal from the shelters at the west end of the W/X corridor, I believe we are still developing our capacity and expertise in operating these facilities.
I will argue that we take it slowly to make sure that we get it right and that we open only one site as a starting point while continuing outreach to the community.
We cannot, as a city, have residents continue to live unsheltered. We also must support our businesses while at the same time recognizing the needs of our neighbors by ensuring safety and shelter for all.
The homelessness issue encompasses every aspect about who we should be as a community. I truly hope that as a community we can be patient, civil, compassionate and persistent as we move forward to provide shelter, permanent housing and long-term stability for those currently on the streets.
My support for this approach may not be popular with everyone, but as I have always done, I will vote my conscience and principles.
I am always open to new ways and approaches. If you have a better idea, I’d like to hear it. Nevertheless, I will always keep my eye on the end goal – getting as many unhoused neighbors sheltered with services to support and transition people to permanent housing.
Rest assured that, as I work towards this goal, I will balance my responsibilities of representing my district and of doing what is best for the city as a whole. While it won’t be easy, it is the path forward to success.
Jay Schenirer is the City Council member representing District 5.