It was a celebration held at Rose Café in Venice on January 13 at 8 a.m., as residents thanked Mayor Karen Bass and Councilmember Traci Park for helping homeless off the street into temporary housing.
Before the City officials arrived, one resident said, “It’s a new day.”
Another resident told Circling the News, “Murray [his dog] hasn’t had the chance to pee on the street in three years.” Prior to last week’s cleanup on Hampton Street, there was no room for residents to walk on sidewalks.
Earlier in 2021, this editor had been warned by residents of the dangers of the encampment, that some tents had been taken over by gang members, that there were drug sales and other illicit activities, and that I should not walk it without an escort.
Today there was joy.
Residents had organized coffee and doughnuts to give outreach workers, sanitation workers and Los Angeles Police Department for their effort to house people who had been living on those sidewalks near Bridge housing.
“This is a great day in Venice, California,” Bass said. “There are 40,000 unhoused on our streets and five of those people don’t wake up every day.
“We need to get people off the street and relocated, not shuffled from one neighborhood to another,” Bass said, emphasizing that help was being offered and that “We have to address why people become unhoused.
“People of Venice can reclaim those streets,” said Bass who had declared homelessness an emergency her first day in office. She has launched “Inside Safe,” which gets people off the streets and into temporary housing, until they can receive permanent housing.
Bass pointed out that it is difficult to get an actual number on the streets, because no one knows how many people are in each tent.
Initially, St. Joseph Center workers had estimated that there might be 60 people in that encampment, but they moved 96 into temporary housing.
“This is only one area that was cleared in two weeks,” Bass said, noting that the area around the Bridge home is now tent free because of that outreach.
Bass once again emphasized that it was not acceptable that five people a day were dying on the street.
“Once people are gone, we don’t want other tents to repopulate, we want people to reclaim the street,” she said, noting the Venice issue is personal because as a bike rider, she’s one of the people who used to ride her bike along the path. “This is not a stunt, this is a serious issue.”
A member of the media questioned how moving people to temporary housing was helping.
Bass responded that something had to be done, and as far as effectiveness, “We are building the plane as we fly it.”
She pointed out that County has followed her lead in declaring an emergency, that she had spoken to Governor Gavin Newsom, and accompanying her today was Susan Rice, who is President Joe Biden’s Director of Domestic Policy Council. “City, County, State and the Nation,” Bass said. “Biden wants to reduce homelessness by 25 percent in the U.S. The place to start is L.A., the epicenter.”
Bass said that she and Traci had “locked arms since Day One” on dealing with the crisis.
Representing Council District 11 Park said, “as a resident of Venice, I have seen firsthand the issue. Venice, which is just 3.3 square miles, has the largest concentration of homeless outside of skid row. “We want to thank our partners, St. Joseph’s, L.A. Sanitation and our public safety officials (LAPD).”
Park said, “We are going to continue to partner to see those moved to interim housing receive the help they need.”
Connie Brooks, a Venice resident thanked the officials for coming and said, “Mayor Bass and Councilmember Park have given us the greatest New Year ever. Over the past three years we asked the City for help and never got it.
“It’s been devastating for all of us watching those who are left outside on the sidewalks,” she said. “Today is about expressing our gratitude.”
After officials spoke, a resident told CTN that “It is happy to have some good news. Venice is a caring community and has always supported people in need.”
He explained that allowing people in need to go uncared for under the guise of freedom, had proved ineffective. “The policies have been causing so much damage. It allows people to get worse, rather than better.”
But he said if one expressed that viewpoint against the prevailing politicians, “you were demonized.”
He added, “If you were a private citizen that allowed what the City did on its streets: elder abuse, homicide, child neglect and animal cruelty, you would be arrested.”