From Venice Resident Brad Neal:
A few weeks ago, a group of neighbors got together with our local elected officials to figure out how to work together to create a safer environment in Venice, in part due to the rapid increase of encampments on Ocean Front Walk over the past couple of months.
For those of us who need to use the boardwalk after dark out of necessity for work/ while working or that live adjacent to the boardwalk, you know Ocean Front Walk can more often than not resemble a post-apocalyptic “Mad-Max” style zone of lawlessness past dusk. Drugs, drink and general lunacy have taken over, making it incredibly unsafe for people who live in Venice, visitors to our community and also the truly “Venice” homeless (who are not part of the nomadic “crusty punk” groups) alike. There is no reason any of us should feel our safety is in jeopardy for simply using our city streets.
I went to Rosendahl to share my opinion that OFW (and Venice) had quickly degraded to a dangerous and tragic state. He listened and suggested I collaborate with Linda Lucks and a few other concerned community members to form a task force to help create a safer environment in our community.
Very quickly, we got Rosendahl and LAPD’s Captain Peters down to beach in the wee hours to witness the OFW drama first-hand. We also gathered a bunch of community members to stand with us and request help with one united voice. Believe it or not, we were not only listened to, we were actually heard.
Within weeks, the city freed up over $100K (from a variety of Council office funds and Mayoral funds) to open an emergency 50-bed homeless shelter on October 15th – a full month-and-a-half earlier than the winter shelters typically open. Today, that concept was approved by LAHSA, the organization that will administer the program. (The meeting was full of colorful politicking, grandstanding and agenda-promoting – but I’ll leave that to others to comment on. Suffice it to say that Rosendahl rocked and overcame the abstentions standing in the way.)
Next week, the City Council needs to give it the official OK and in just a week and a half, there will be at least 50 beds available for people living on the streets of Venice – with provisions for more if needed. The West LA Armory will be a place where they can sleep safely, eat a decent meal and grab a shower. Plus, they’ll have access to services that can help them transition back into society if that’s what they looking to do.
For Venice, this is an important and necessary step. This temporary shelter will fill the gap until the Winter Shelters open in November and will be specifically for homeless currently living on the streets of Venice and Westchester. It is the proverbial “carrot,” meaning that if people do not choose to accept this temporary solution, they will be subjected to the laws that make it illegal to sleep on the streets and they will be cited by LAPD and will no longer be allowed to camp out of OFW. That would be the proverbial “stick.”
This shelter may not be the most ideal long-term solution to homelessness, but it’s a great way to help the entire community of Venice – both those who live in homes and those living on the streets – NOW. As one commissioner put it, “let’s not let perfection stand in the way of better.”
This is a great first step that so many worked so hard to make happen. Many, many thanks go to Councilman Rosendahl and his team, Linda Lucks, and the Mayor’s office for finding a way to make this happen. And tons of thanks go to you guys in the community who have been so persistent.