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Homeless Encampments and The Tragic Demise of Venice Beach

Homeless Encampments
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EDITOR NOTE: Liberal-leaning cities, believe it or not, can offer an attractive balance of fiscal responsibility and bohemian flair, as long as it maintains a careful balance. As soon as you tip the scale too far toward the liberal end, even the slightest change in policy can bring about a city’s demise. Take San Francisco and Venice, CA--two cities that were once attractive tourist destinations thriving by way of a productive commingling of art and capital. Both cities are now rife with homelessness, crime, and violence. Both cities saw a shift in their policies that not only attracted the homeless population but that defanged law enforcement’s capacity to combat crime (especially in San Francisco). The policies have produced a wasteland of homeless encampments where the two seemingly opposed cultures of capitalist and bohemian lifestyle once thrived in a symbiotic fashion. We’re seeing this now in our own federal government--a dismantling of the balance between the liberal and conservative ends of social politics and economy. And with inflation rising, driving a deeper wedge between Americans, is the current Biden imbalance about to produce a wasteland in what was once a thriving country?

World-renowned Venice Beach has long been a place where visitors, residents, and business owners commingled with artists, musicians, and entertainers from all over the country. Over 10 million tourists visit the California beach’s famous boardwalk each year, drawn in by the ocean view and the unconventional lifestyle of the neighborhood’s eccentric community.

But the famed destination no longer circulates in headlines for its wacky tourist attractions or local eateries. Instead, the beach town has become known worldwide for its flourishing homeless encampments, burgeoning filth, skyrocketing crime rate, and increasingly violent transients. 

As city officials dawdle, the beachside town is falling to ruin, residents say, overwhelmed by the homeless that are making their lives a living hell.

Their cries for help have gone largely unheeded—until now. Earlier this week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced a July 4th sweep that aims to clean up the mess.

For residents who have been trying to get local officials to act for months, the action can’t come soon enough.

During a recent trip to Venice, Villanueva said the tents need to be cleared by Independence Day, after reports of crime, arson, and filth went unaddressed for months. He blames elected leaders for not handling the issue.

“When I was out there in Venice, I talked to a shop owner, and he was fit to be tied,” Villanueva told The Epoch Times.

“He’s tired of politicians, tired of people in the city doing nothing. And it’s impacting his ability for customers to come in, [with] the cost of people trying to break into his business and people causing scenes, fights, [and] outside fires. It’s like a third-world country.”

But not all locals approve of the sweep. Some activists quickly criticized the move on social media. “Why is this @LASDHQ dressed like this to do outreach? Why do they have guns?” the People’s City Council asked on Twitter.

For some residents, the uptick in recent violent attacks by the homeless on workers, residents, and the elderly are justification enough.

Cleaning Up the Mess

Within the last two weeks alone, there have been three reports of alleged attacks by the homeless.

A 70-year-old man, a small business manager, and a security guard were all victims of random attacks, according to local reports. It was the final straw that caught the attention of law enforcement—even though residents say the problem has been bubbling to the surface for months.

Butch Say, a traveling transient who sings rock ‘n’ roll on the boardwalk, has called Venice home for the last two years. He said people like himself are attracted to the neighborhood by its welcoming culture and the weather—but even he’s noticed that things are getting worse.

“It’s nutty, but they like it. And that’s part of the reason a lot of people come here,” Say told The Epoch Times.

Say watched on June 8 as 18 officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Housing Outreach and Services Team (HOST) descended on the boardwalk, cleaning up trash and alerting the homeless of the upcoming action.

“The trash is going to fill right back up in a few days,” Say said with a chuckle.

HOST stepped in to mitigate the chaos that has been ensuing in the area, and tried to connect homeless individuals with housing and other stabilization resources ahead of the July 4th sweep.

Say said this was the first time he’d seen the Sheriff’s Department in force.

“You never see him. It’s usually LAPD [the Los Angeles Police Department], and they’re cool. They roll by and they just keep the peace—which is not much more you can ask from them, because this is on nonstop, 24-hours-a-day going, this lifestyle, and it gets crazy,” he told The Epoch Times.

“Some people, you know, [do] too much drugs. They’re up for days—weeks—and they’re just psychotic, running around screaming at … invisible trees and whatever.”

Deputy Lewis, one of the officers on duty that day, told The Epoch Times, “To be honest, I didn’t know about Venice Beach until 6 a.m. this morning.”

But Lt. Jeff Deedrick, who led the HOST team, was bothered by the recent attacks.

“Our mission is humanitarian; this is a crisis, and this is bad. And the acts of violence here have been significant,” Deedrick told The Epoch Times.

“It was heartbreaking to see the gentleman the other day get punched in the face in broad daylight. That can’t happen. We have to have a civil society. And it needs to be to where everybody can enjoy this place.”

Read more on Epoch Times

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