Culver City turns parking lot into tent village for homeless

Twenty tents have been erected in Culver City, to help house the homeless, in what the city is calling the "Safe Sleep" program.

Kirkpatrick Tyler with the non-profit group Urban Alchemy is part of the effort. He says the village, put together in what used to be a city parking lot, is meant to feel welcoming and comfortable. There is even a "Hello" welcome mat.

Each tent sleeps two people, meaning the village can house up to 40. Culver City is estimated to have approximately 300 people living on the streets. Culver City Mayor Albert Vera said the Safe Sleep village cost an estimated $3 million.

"Every city is suffering from housing and ultimately it is a housing issue," Vera said. "However until we build that housing we need to do something."

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According to Tyler, many homeless people won't go to a shelter, "becaue they can't take their partner, or they would have to sleep separately from them." At the Safe Sleep village, the two-person tents ensure they can sleep together. The village also does not allow drugs or weapons.

Tyler said people's three major concerns are their partners, their pets and their possession. The Safe Sleep village has a dog park. Pets are allowed. And, as a result, Tyler said it not only encourages people to bring their pets, but also discourages them from walking their dogs in the neighborhood.

In the neighborhood there’s mixed reaction to the facility. 

"I can’t do anything about it," said Louis Estevez. "If they’re going to come, they’re going to come I guess."

Tim McKenna wants to give it a chance, but doesn’t like that the place will have no curfew, so residents can be out at all hours.

"I don’t know about just letting them come and go as they please," he said. "[Because] that sounds like to me… these are the kind of people that are in the situation they are in more or less from their own fault."

Keoni Kaku, who works around the corner says he worries about possible car break-ins in the area. 

"It's my car. I want to be sure nothing is getting stolen," Kaku said.

Vera said that while he understands the concerns, the village will have 24/7 security, along with the Culver City Police Department's special enforcement watching the area.

Tyler said he hopes community members will come to him to voice their concerns and start a dialogue.

"We’re willing to be held accountable," Tyler said "We are interested in being good neighbors and we would much rather have conversations now than our first conversation being because there was an incident."

The first residents in this transitional housing are expected by the end of July or beginning of August.