Michael Flowers

Michael Flowers, 63, was homeless for more than a year in Redondo Beach when he acquired temporary housing on Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by David Rosenfeld)

The Redondo Beach City Council this week set aside $30,000 in federal grant funds to rent five apartment units in a private transitional housing complex in Wilmington, an action that caused outrage Wednesday, Dec. 16, from the Los Angeles City Council member who represents the Harbor Area neighborhood.

The units, beginning Jan. 1, will temporarily house those who are homeless in Redondo Beach until they can secure a permanent place to live with the help of an outreach coordinator. The complex is managed by Swami International, which provides off-site security and 24-hour monitoring through surveillance cameras.

Each unit has a bed with shared bath, kitchen and living spaces. The 28-unit building is also used by other organizations, such as Self-Help and Recovery Exchange, Collaborative Housing, and Exodus Recovery.

There is some risk to Redondo Beach, however. For one, Redondo Beach could be held liable if one of the residents causes property damage, City Attorney Mike Webb said, which case managers need to be mindful of.

Recipients, though, must be psychologically stable, not a danger to themselves or others, and able to take care of themselves to get one of the spots.

The initiative is the latest in a series of actions to proactively combat homelessness in Redondo Beach, which also has a 15-unit Pallet shelter complex going up this month. The city has also launched a model court diversion program, and supports an ongoing homeless outreach coordinator and counseling services.

“Just like the Pallet shelters, we are trying everything we can to make people experiencing homelessness and the quality of life of residents better,” Webb said, “and this is something that will do that,” Webb.

City officials have justified renting units in Wilmington rather than within its own borders due to the high cost of housing in the beach cities. The Wilmington units will cost $750 per month. The complex is also within the same Service Planning Area established by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority.

But sending the city’s homeless residents to Wilmington poses a second risk — drawing the ire of Los Angeles.

 

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he was livid when he first learned of the decision, and said he will explore whether Redondo — and other cities he said aren’t doing enough — could face legal action. The councilman also said he reached out to LAHSA.

“It’s immoral and unethical,” Buscaino said in a phone interview. “The city of Redondo Beach ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

Buscaino has long criticized surrounding South Bay cities for not doing their share to address homelessness, though he did credit Redondo with approving 15 Pallet homes.

“What we’re seeing is affluent white communities across this region push the homeless problem into communities of color,” he said. “We’re outraged; this is not a regional approach to solving homelessness.”

There’s no reason, Buscaino said, that Redondo couldn’t do what Los Angeles city has done in amending city ordinances to allow for longer stays.

“We’ve used park gyms, we’ve identified ‘safe parking’ locations,” Buscaino said. “If Redondo Beach can tell me they have nowhere to build temporary shelters, maybe they can use their own City Hall; let’s start there.

“It’s inhumane,” he added, “to push this homeless crisis to other jurisdictions.”

Webb, though, called Buscaino’s comments uninformed and unfair, saying it miscasts Redondo Beach’s efforts toward combating homelessness.

“We’re trying,” Webb said. “We found apartments that are available. I don’t think Redondo Beach should apologize for getting any person experiencing homelessness housed. I think his comments may be better directed to other cities that aren’t doing as much as what we’re doing.”

One of the first recipients of the Wilmington housing will likely be 63-year-old Michael Flowers, who has been homeless in and around Redondo Beach for the past year. Housing outreach coordinator Lila Omura got a call about Flowers on Tuesday. He was set to spend is first night in a motel on Wednesday; he will remain there until the first two Wilmington units become available.

“I am just overwhelmed that somebody went that far to offer a hand up,” Flowers said. “I’m not looking for a hand out but a hand up, some help.”

Redondo Mayor Bill Brand said he was proud at how quickly city staff, including Quality of Life Prosecutor Joy Abaquin, moved to help someone who had been homeless in the city for some time.

“Hopefully our success with helping our homeless here in Redondo Beach is a model for other cities in the area that aren’t doing nearly as much as we are.” Brand said. “The most important thing is we want to help people in Redondo who want the help.

“Most people just want to get back on their feet,” he added, “and they need some assistance and this is exactly what they need.”

Flowers, for his part, said the simple pleasures in life were starting to sound enticing.

“To unlock my own door, walk in, turn on the TV, start the shower, then sit down and watch a movie,” Flowers said. “I am grateful for that. I’m looking forward to it immensely.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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