Safe Sleep Sites Coming Soon
May 18, 2023
Safe Sleep Sites Coming Soon
Following Culver City’s prohibition on camping in January, the city directed staff to develop a safe camping program, colloquially known as safe sleep sites. At these sites, residents would have access to restrooms, showers, garbage collection, access to laundry services, health care and more. This program aims to reduce loss of life, eliminate encampments and provide greater access to resources for the homeless community.
After Culver City voted to prohibit camping officials announced in February they would move forward with a safe sleep site at a city-owned parking lot at 10555 Virginia Avenue, east of Overland Avenue. To develop the site, the city contracted with Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that has developed other safe sleep sites across the country.
Urban Alchemy is an organization that aims to transform traumatized urban spaces through supportive and compassionate care. They primarily employ the formerly incarcerated and homeless to work in their safe sleep sites and throughout their organization. This aligns with their philosophy that those with lived experience are the most equipped to support those struggling with homelessness.
“I come from a service profession background,” said Kirkpatrick Tyler, the chief of community and government affairs of Urban Alchemy. “And what we offer at Urban Alchemy is really built on a foundation of love and respect. We don’t have an us and them mentality; it’s all us. I think more than tents or tiny homes or your own room, that is what draws people in. We use a harm reduction model and trauma-informed care to govern and create our pathway to connecting with residents.”
Tyler remarked that the safe sleep site in Culver City is an exciting opportunity to take the model one step further, elevating it into what he calls “healing villages.” The idea behind Tyler’s healing villages is to create a space conducive for residents to work through the trauma and pain of their homelessness experience. Not only does he want residents to have access to restrooms, showers and shelter, but he also wants them to have access to wellness resources, from art therapy to yoga.
“Culver is a great place (for a healing village) because the site is a bit smaller than most of our other sites,” Tyler explained. “But the council members were really interested in rallying the community to be in support of the folks that are living in that site, so we think it's a great opportunity to engage with different modalities of healing.”
The city detailed that there will be a maximum of 40 residents at the safe sleep site and that, for the time being, no campers or RVs will be allowed. The shelters will be constructed with a palette system, with each tent residence placed on top of a wood and metal palette. Pets and couples will be allowed to reside together, and each resident will get to choose the color theme of their tent, giving them a sense of ownership over their new home.
Urban Alchemy expects the Culver safe sleep site to be ready sometime in mid-June to early July, though it might be sooner, depending on construction.
Tyler said that the city has shown a dedication to making the site warm and welcoming for residents. For example, he recalled that when city leadership came by Urban Alchemy’s safe sleep site on Lincoln, they were very interested in exploring ways to improve the model to create a better quality of life for Culver residents. Tyler said that when they found out Urban Alchemy’s palette platforms were 10 feet by 10 feet, they requested the platforms at the site in Culver City be increased to 12 feet by 12 feet to give residents more space.
Another reason Urban Alchemy has had so much success with the Safe Sleep Sites across Los Angeles and the country, Tyler said, is because they try very hard to engage with the housed residents surrounding their sites to build trust and confidence in their model. As much as possible, Urban Alchemy gets boots on the ground to engage with local businesses and nearby residents.
To those who might be hesitant about Culver City’s new safe sleep site, Tyler said, “This is the time where we all agree that something has to be done. The time for displacing people and sending them away is long gone, and we’ve seen that it doesn’t work. Now is the best time possible to really be of service to each other because we’re all neighbors, whether we are in a house or unhoused.”
he Culver City safe sleep site will be loosely modeled after the Lincoln safe sleep site in Los Angeles. (Urban Alchemy/Submitted)