Los Angeles officials have faced scrutiny for their decision to prioritize speed over cost when establishing a new tent village for homeless individuals in East Hollywood. Each individual tent in this city-sanctioned project reportedly cost a staggering $44,000, raising eyebrows over the expenditure.
In total, the expenses for the tent village amounted to approximately $4 million, encompassing the costs of fencing, bathrooms, and staffing facilities. An additional $3 million was allocated for catering services and round-the-clock staffing per year, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Critics argue that these costs are excessive for a temporary solution.
Urban Alchemy, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, operates and maintains the camp village. The organization currently oversees various camp villages across Los Angeles County, each with its distinct style and amenities. The White Duck 8-by-10-foot canvas walk-in tents at the East Hollywood location offer higher-quality accommodations, including raised wooden platforms, full beds, and storage lockers.
The organization, which started out with a $35,983 grant in 2018 to maintain the city’s public toilets in 2018, sees these tents as a way to “create shelter quickly and cheaply without compromising the benefits most valued by people accustomed to living on the street — privacy, nourishment, security and a sense of autonomy,” according to the LA Times.
The nonprofit grew rapidly from there, and in 2021 brought in $51 million in revenue from contracts for street outreach and shelter operations in Los Angeles and other cities like San Francisco, Austin, and Portland.
They initially employed former prisoners because of their “ability to read people in unpredictable situations.” However, with the group’s rapid growth causing some potential issues over the training of its staff, lawsuits have emerged accusing some of these employees of abusive behavior.
But despite the controversies, LA officials appear to be content with Urban Alchemy’s work. In 2021 the city hired the organization to manage then-Mayor Eric Garcetti’s CIRCLE program, which accepts 911 calls dealing with unhoused people “under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who are wandering the streets without clothes, causing noise or loitering.”
The East Hollywood tent village was established on a parking lot that will be the site of a public housing facility in the future. While it addresses the immediate need for shelter, critics have questioned the effectiveness of such temporary measures in responding to homelessness in the long term. Advocates for the homeless argue that investing in affordable permanent housing should be a priority for a sustainable solution.
One of the most pressing challenges in addressing homelessness is the severe shortage of affordable housing in Los Angeles County. Urban Alchemy points to this issue as a major factor in the limited number of guests transitioning from their safe sleep villages to permanent housing. This shortage has contributed to an increase in unsheltered homelessness in the US, with people resorting to sleeping in cars, parks, or train stations, now accounting for approximately 40% of the homeless population, up from 31% eight years ago.
Information for this story was found via the Los Angeles Times, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.