A report of antibiotic infections among homeless people in Venice is exaggerated, says L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stated last week that it was investigating a report of multiple cases of antibiotic-resistant infections in Venice. The investigation was launched after a community group, the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA), quoted the Los Angeles director of a Bay Area homeless services organization saying at least six people in the area are taking drugs to counteract MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

VSA claimed the nonprofit, Lava Mae, which provides mobile shower services to the homeless, reported the possible cases at its mobile setup at Third and Rose avenues.

Bonin’s spokesman said that Lava Mae director Jasmin Mouflard had been misquoted. In an email, Bonin called the report of numerous infections, including VSA’s contention that possibly three other people had sores consistent with MRSA, a “rumor.”

“At a recent community meeting, when discussing the benefits of providing people living on the street basic hygienic services, a Lava Mae employee mentioned that some of the people who Lava Mae serves in Venice had prescriptions for medication to treat staph infections,” Bonin said. “This mention of medication has fueled a rumor that quickly spread in Venice about an outbreak of staph infections.”

VSA has long opposed homeless encampments in Venice and Bonin’s efforts to balance the needs of the homeless with those of homeowners. Mark Ryavec, president of VSA, is challenging Bonin for his council seat.

Mark Ryavec in Venice; Credit: Ted Soqui

Mark Ryavec in Venice; Credit: Ted Soqui

“These encampments pose a public health and crime risk to residences, and they ruin the quality of life for people who live right there,” Ryavec told L.A. Weekly. “It’s an unconscionable situation, and it’s one of the reasons I’m running for City Council.”

Ryavec said he interviewed Mouflard and that he stands by the information on the infections attributed to her.

Bonin’s office states that information was incorrect and that these infections have not been verified by officials. Weekly reached out to a Lava Mae spokeswoman but did not hear back.

“Some people have used this rumor as an argument against providing services to the homeless,” Bonin said. “Rather, I believe that this situation highlights the urgent need to help people who are forced to live on the street by providing them services such as basic hygiene and medical care, as well as resources that will help connect them with housing opportunities.”

LA Weekly