LOS ANGELES — What once was a beach and boardwalk overflowing with tents reflecting LA’s struggle with the homelessness crisis has now become a clear green field — with barely a tent in sight.
Spencer, a basketball player who frequents Venice Beach’s courts, says tents or not, the boardwalk is sacred ground for him, a place to enjoy his passion on the weekends.
“To be able to come here is a stress relief, especially during a pandemic. I’ve been playing here for years, and just to come here and be able to relax and play ball on the weekend, there’s nothing like it in the world,” said Spencer, who requested to be identified by his first name only.
As Spencer warms up for a game, a young singer entertains tourists for tips and a local student practices his violin supported by the ocean breeze. It’s the vibrant energy Venice Beach is known for, and Spencer says, while he felt bad seeing the homeless encampments being cleared this past week, he believes both the homeless community and the Venice Beach community are now better off, making it a place more comfortable for tourists.
“Venice Beach is not a place where homeless people have to actually live, because it’s a historical place. This is a place where tourists come, and the government should help us,” he explained.
And the government, in this context Councilman Mike Bonin, has been leading the efforts through the Venice Housing Initiative.
“This is a program that has removed 191 people in just over a month, off the streets, and on a pathway into permanent housing,” Councilman Bonin said.
While there once was a line of tents here with unhoused individuals watching basketball games along the Venice courts, Spencer says he is happy to see the city intervene. He hopes the new shelters will keep the unhoused community safe, especially throughout the pandemic.
“Whatever it takes to help people, we’re all united, we’re all people, we should work together and try to help the community,” he said.