New LA program moves man living in bus into apartment

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Alfred Adkins locking down his old "home" across the street from his new one.

Alfred Adkins moved from his home in a bus parked on the streets of Los Angeles Thursday to a one-bedroom apartment in Venice. Adkins, 65, is the second person to take advantage of a new L.A. program that aims to move people who sleep in vehicles into more permanent homes.

Adkins worked for years cutting meat in grocery stores, but says he couldn’t save enough money to put down a deposit on an apartment.

He says it costs more to live outside than it does inside. To make his point, Adkins compared buying eggs and cooking them at home to eating at fast food restaurants.

He said, a dozen eggs cost the average consumer $2 – "for me to eat the same amount of protein that you eat, I gotta go to McDonalds, or something, to spend at least $1 for every time I want a hamburger."

"You bought theoretically six breakfasts for two bucks," he said. It's an equation that's contributed to keeping him on the streets.

There are other costs too, he said, "and then you gotta move your vehicle all the the time. That’s a gas, you know."

For years, Venice and other areas of West LA have contended with people who live in RVs, vans and buses parked on neighborhood streets. Earlier this year, Los Angeles City Coucilman Bill Rosendahl and the LA Homeless Services Authority launched a program that tries to move people out of vehicles and into more permanent homes. The program hasn’t worked exactly as planned, but the first participants began to move from the streets into homes this week.

During a quick tour, the 65-year-old Adkins proudly showed the bed, sofa and armchairs inside his old home: a 1985 GMC school bus he bought a year and a half ago from the government for $500. It was parked right across California Avenue from his new home: a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment: his first in 12 years.

Then it was time for a lease-signing ceremony: a photo op with LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl. Rosendahl offered a housewarming gift that recalled Adkins' earlier economics lesson: a half dozen eggs.

Adkins said before the school bus, he lived in a van and before that, another van.

"Police keep taking your vehicle, and it’s cheaper to just get another vehicle than it is to get it out of that jail," he explained in another lesson in homeless economics.

A new Los Angeles city and county program helped him land a subsidized apartment. It’s doing the same for about 40 more people ready to move out of their vehicles. it's called "Roadmap to Housing." A group called People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) contracted with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to administer the program. PATH CEO Joel John Roberts says it's about more than housing.

"We help them move in, and even after they move in, this is supportive housing," Roberts says. "So we actually support them and meet with and make sure they’re okay and develop relationships and help them connect in the community and all of that."

Linda Lucks, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, says the six-month-old program has fallen short on a goal many of her constituents had counted on: to provide safe overnight parking lots for the people enrolled in the program.

"So if you enrolled and you’re being processed for vouchers , you would have a safe overnight place to park so that you wouldn’t be harassed," Lucks says.

Lucks is disappointed that it’s become politically tricky to secure those parking lots. But she adds that any day a homeless man can move indoors is a good day.

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