Narrowing Down the List of Potential Homeless Sleeping Zones

 Volunteers and members of the Malibu homeless community congregate before a CART lunch.

A document recently shared with The Malibu Times shows the short list of properties where homeless people may be permitted to safely sleep and access services in or around Malibu.

The internal document created by Malibu’s homeless working group—which consists of about a dozen city employees and volunteers—shows preliminary assessments of different locations for a possible “alternative sleeping location,” (ASL)—if an ASL is approved at all, which it has not yet been.

Malibu Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas explained that a list of potential locations was requested by Malibu City Council at its most recent special meeting focusing on homeless issues, which took place Feb. 25. 

“If council were to approve going forward with the ASL, then these are some potential locations to help them in the discussion, but the actual creation of the ASL is yet to be voted on,” she said.

“Nothing is happening yet,” she concluded. “It’s all theoretical.” 

The public safety manager said that Malibu resident Paul Davis had spearheaded the effort by pulling together suggestions that residents, including council members, had sent in.

The draft document will be finalized and then given to the newly-created homeless task force in mid-June for further vetting.

The locations still up for consideration included the Christmas Tree Lot, the “Staging Lot” at Latigo Canyon and PCH, the County Lot at the western edge of Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu City Hall, the Chili Cook-Off Lot, the Salvation Army in Calabasas, the Malibu Creek State Park parking lot and King Gillette Ranch, also in Calabasas. Locations that were deemed “unusable” include the Old Malibu Riding & Tennis Club, Charmlee Wilderness Park, Trancas Canyon Park and the Malibu Bluffs Park Parking Lot. 

Criteria these locations were evaluated against include law enforcement accessibility, average distance from already existing homeless populations, access to volunteer support, natural barriers to residences and children’s camps and schools, and access to retail, banking, pharmacies and groceries. 

Another criterion the homeless working group included was “Library Offset.” 

“Homeless people often hang out at the [Malibu Library] because it’s the only place they can go to use computers, the restroom [and] charge their phones,” Dueñas said. She went on to say that a potential ASL would have these same amenities in the hopes that it would attract homeless people away from the library so that families and residents could use the library more comfortably. 

But, she said, locating the ASL far away from the library would make it less likely homeless people would actually go to it; instead, they would just keep going to the library. Sites such as the Chili Cook Off Site and Malibu City Hall scored high in the “Library Offset” because they are close enough to the current library that it wouldn’t be out of the way for unhoused individuals to go there. 

Council Member Steve Uhring raised concerns during a phone call with The Malibu Times about the draft document’s benchmarks used to weigh the pros and cons of each site.

“My biggest concern is the lack of meaningful criteria they used to determine where the homeless shelter should be,” Uhring said. “By that, I mean there’s nothing in there that talks about how close it is to schools, playgrounds, residences—nothing in there that talks about, ‘Will this location minimize the negative impact on Malibu residents?’”

When it was pointed out to Uhring that at least one of the locations deemed unusable—the Malibu Bluffs Park Parking Lot—was deemed so due to its proximity to schools and a playground, Uhring said he still did not feel there had been enough consideration about impacts on the surrounding community. 

He explained that he felt the criteria did not prioritize housed residents: “There was no gravitas put into those questions. There was nothing that said, ‘Let me really understand if I put a homeless shelter there what the impact on the surrounding community is going to be.’” 

“I don’t know what that solution is yet,” Uhring continued. “All I know is when I read the criteria on the report that says, ‘This is where the homeless shelter can be,’ they haven’t done that.”

The draft report, or a revised version, will go before a full meeting of city council later this year.