I have loved being a resident of Venice ever since I moved there over 7 years ago. It’s a real community, featuring people from all walks of life, ranging from artists, hippies, nature lovers, health nuts, techie folks, and executives. People seem to care about the community here more than other places I have lived – there also is a genuine vibe that’s unique to Venice when it comes to social impact.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a close friend who shares my love of our ‘hood. She is a volunteer for Venice Community Housing, a neighborhood organization that provides low-income housing and services for the homeless, at-risk youth and others in need in our community.
JH: How did you get involved with this non-profit? What is your background?
NG: My background is in magazine journalism as a writer and I met my husband, architect Steven Ehrlich, in Venice, and after we built our home here we supported the legendary and now defunct Venice Garden Tour. One of the founders of the Garden Tour, Linda Lucks, introduced me to VCH by taking me to one of its facilities, a transitional center which shelters homeless women and children and helps them get jobs and find permanent housing. I began working as a volunteer there.
JH: Is homelessness getting worse in Venice and why do you think that is?
NG: Homelessness has increased 23% in Los Angeles since 2016, and it is especially acute in Venice, where more than 1,000 people live on the streets and beaches. The factors are many and complex, but primarily there’s simply a critical shortage of affordable housing for low-income families.
Venice has a rich legacy of racial and economic diversity—it’s DNA makes it a lively melting pot. As tech firms have moved in and income levels risen, I believe we need to preserve the social fabric of our community. I believe we must do what we can to help the less fortunate among us.
JH: You have an annual fundraiser called The Venice Design Series, tell us a bit more about this and how people can attend.
NG: Five years ago, a team of us led by Linda Lucks launched a curated series of private tours and events that meld the best of Los Angeles architecture and design, food and culture. We offer mini-adventures that transport you to places you haven’t seen, experiences you’ve never had, with really nice people and great food.
You can check them out and purchase tickets at: venicedesignseries.org/events/
JH: VCHP also offers youth services – can you tell us a little bit more about these programs?
NG: YouthBuild is a really inspiring program. It’s VCH’s on-site charter high school that provides people aged 18-24 the chance to get a high quality education with diploma, job training and placement, and leadership development. Being around these kids is to witness amazing transformations happening to young lives.
JH: Since its inception what kind of impact has Venice Community Housing had on combating homelessness and helping with job growth?
NG: VCH provides and manages 216 units of affordable housing in Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey. Residents have access to services for disabilities, substance abuse and mental health issues. With the help of a new infusion of public funds designated for affordable housing, VCH is developing two significant housing projects in Venice which are going through the approval process.
JH: How can people in the community volunteer and what can our readers do to help the homelessness issue?
NG: There is so much need and so many ways to give! Read about opportunities to tutor at-risk youth, provide meals for sheltered families or be a public advocate for homelessness initiatives at vchcorp.org.