The question to be answered is, does one L.A. resident have more rights than another?
If there are two UCLA graduate students sharing an apartment on Bringham Street, which is across from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) in Brentwood, should they be able to go to a parked car, without watching a homeless man urinate in the street?
Can a woman feel safe walking to her car while a man with a meat cleaver, who has mental issues, walks up and down the street?
Can a family living in an apartment expect their children to go outside without seeing a woman having sex? And not to see people doing drugs in the alleys?
Is it reasonable not to expect a homeless fire in an apartment parking lot? Apartment residents have watched transients chopping wood with an ax on the L.A. County side of Bringham and then dragging the wood across the street and setting it on fire.
Welcome to Brentwood.
L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath was at the Democratic Garden Party on August 6 and asked about the Brentwood encampment, which one resident says is in flux and varies between 10 and 30 people.
“We received an update on Friday afternoon that we got some people off the streets,” Horvath said. “We are moving to get people into services quickly.”
On apartment dweller told CTN, “Strangers sit in the space by our mailbox and directly in front of two female tenants’ entry steps. They loiter and leave trash and the women are scared to go outside.”
Encampment dwellers use water and hoses from the apartments.
One long-time area resident said, “I like to walk to local stores and services, I find the encampment a deterrent in neighborhood walkability. Sidewalks are blocked with tents, garbage and personal property of the campers and I can’t get through. Imagine how people with disabilities must feel.”
Much of the activity has been caught on security cameras and residents say that calls to Sheriff Robert Luna and to LAPD often have a slow response time or no response. (L.A. County is responsible for enforcement on the sidewalk next to the VA where the encampment sits, L.A. City is responsible for Bringham Street and the apartments and businesses across from the encampment.)
The Brentwood Community Council (BCC) indicated this encampment is the single biggest issue communicated to them by residents and businesses. Messages express concern for personal safety.
Former Sheriff, Alex Villanueva and his crew are credited with clearing an encampment of more than 40 people in that area in November 2021. A stabbing in September 2021 was the second homicide because earlier, a 34-year-old man was arrested after running over and killing a man living in a tent.
This editor visited the site on August 9, which is when she saw the man urinating in the street. The tents and what appeared to be a bicycle chop shop made the sidewalk inaccessible.
Tents and garbage start by the west gate of the VA and extend north. The VA gate was open, and veterans moved easily in and out of that property.
Many Brentwood residents feel that the VA should take greater action because “this is not how homeless Vets should be treated.” And as one Brentwood resident observed, the Vets who have moved inside the VA grounds “should not be subjected to this scene as they go between the VA Campus and the Brentwood community.”
This editor chatted with one vet, who had set up a business near the gate. He wanted to know if this editor was interested in a bike. That vet was housed on the VA campus in a tiny home. (In Venice, that was an ongoing problem that people who were housed in the Bridge Housing, kept a “business” on the street or a dual residence.)
That vet told the editor that the VA was not helpful and that someone had died in housing yesterday and that in the past few months 20 people have died inside because of overdoses. Another Vet came up to the man and asked if he had thought about the deal. The guy said, “not yet.”
CTN went to the VA Welcome Center and asked if someone had died last night—or in the past few months. CTN asked if vets are kicked off the VA property, which is what some residents had heard.
A peer support specialist, a former addict, someone who was incarcerated before turning his life around, was straightforward with his responses. No deaths, and “No, Vets are not kicked off the VA,” he said.
Some Vets do not want to follow the rules, and then are “discharged.” But discharge means they are given a different agreement to see if that will help them.
“It’s a go-or-grow contract,” the specialist said. “Even if you break a rule, you can be held accountable. We don’t tell them to go on the street. Vets make their own choice.”
He also told this editor that addicts and alcoholics are good at lying. They lie to themselves about their disease/their actions, and they lie to others. “I’ve been there,” he said.
CTN was told that a VA social worker routinely goes out to the West Gate area and that one would be sent out again to check on the status of vets. But if a vet doesn’t want a place inside, they can’t be forced to move off the street.
Bringham apartment dwellers deal with defecation and trash dumped in alleys and carports. One person wrote CTN “We put up with DAILY screaming. It is stressful and permeates our environment, night and day.”
The Brentwood LAPD Senior Lead Officer has offered to patrol the alley, but until the County takes care of the encampment, problems will continue.
CTN contacted Horvath’s office and public spokesperson Constance Farrell wrote in an August 8 email, “Our office is working directly with the leadership of the VA Campus to bring veterans outside the property into housing onsite. This work is active, and we expect those in the encampment today to be brought indoors soon.
“We are also directly engaged with nearby residents who keep us informed on the status of the encampment so we can ensure that appropriate outreach is being led by the VA,” Farrell said.
The BCC had asked for a HOST cleanup from the Sheriff’s office. Members were initially told that LA County Public Works, the entity that provides clean-up resources needed, had put the Brentwood area #61 in queue, which essentially puts the date for a cleanup in March 2024.
Horvath’s field deputy, Zachary Gaidzik, told the BCC, that he didn’t think the community would have to wait until March for a cleanup.
The BCC received assurance from Gaidzik that a number of solutions are being explored to get vets inside and off the sidewalk and the area cleaned.
The Council had been assured that Horvath had been briefed and that she is prepared to do what is necessary to move things along as quickly as possible.
Both Gaidzik and a Sheriff’s Deputy have told BCC that there is scheduled Friday meeting with a HOST Deputy, County Supervisor’s representative, LA City representative, and VA representative to address next steps.
Maybe then another question can be answered: do apartment dwellers have rights to public safety?