Homeless camps, trash and crime have transformed Venice Beach over the years. As many as 2,000 people sleep in tents, cars and sometimes residents' front yards. So, what is the solution? And, will it be a repeat of Echo Park Lake?
"Los Angeles Times" staff writer Ben Oreskes joined host Lisa McRee on "LA Times Today" with more on the city's plan.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk has become the latest focal point in LA's homeless crisis.
"It is regularly leading the nightly news and is angering residents, tourists and business owners. Through the pandemic, the problem there has worsened in the sense that it has become more visible. Many of these people were always homeless, and I think many of us believe that homelessness did increase during the pandemic. But, because of limits on enforcement of municipal ordinances, the number of tents on the boardwalk has skyrocketed," Oreskes said.
Along with the pandemic making homelessness more visible, Oreskes said it also reduced the number of services delivered to people on the street.
"The shelter was shrunk because of virus restrictions; they did not want many people in these shelters for fear that it would spread. Also, rules about where one could sleep and leave a tent were limited. And the result of this was that many people moved out to the boardwalk. And, at the latest count, there were about 200 tents running from the border with Santa Monica a mile south. And, this has created a confrontation between locals, tourists, business owners and the unhoused. Many of them are experiencing a deep mental health crisis, substance abuse disorder. The result has been images that have captivated and angered many people who live across Los Angeles. It has also put a lot of pressure on local officials and created this confrontation that we have seen in other parts of the city and county," Oreskes said.
Crime has also skyrocketed since the pandemic began, but Oreskes said most victims had been homeless people.
"There was a 50% increase in robberies, assaults and trespassing in 2020 than the other year in the Venice Beach area. Burglaries have also increased by 15%. I'd also point out that most of the time, the victims tend to be homeless. We have also heard from residents that have been assaulted, mugged and people have come onto their property. But at the same time, 19 homeless people died in Venice in 2020; eight were the result of overdoses, three were homicides, two by gunshot and one by blunt trauma," he added.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin told Oreskes that there need to be more services and more efforts to help homeless people.
"At the same though, he made it clear to us that camping here should not be allowed and that they do not want the people to be here. But again, he was reluctant only to view this in comparison to Echo Park, but it is hard to ignore that comparison. For him, he looked at that moment in the city and saw it as deeply traumatizing. There were too many cops in his mind, and he wanted this to be an effort that serviced forward, and the cops were not present. His view of that is that this is traumatizing to the people on the streets, and nothing good comes from it. So, in his mind, we will flood the area with resources, and we will do our very best to get everyone to move voluntarily, whether it is to different shelters, interim housing and permanent housing. The goal should not be to arrest anyone, but the goal should also be to make everyone feel comfortable and safe-going," Oreskes added.
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