Liberal politicians, nonprofits, and the top homeless services agency in Los Angeles issued a joint statement Monday calling on L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to back off his threat to clear the Venice Beach boardwalk of homeless camps by July 4, urging him instead to allow “seasoned and knowledgeable agencies” to take the lead.
Earlier this month, the Sheriff’s Department (LASD) began implementing an incremental plan to “compassionately reclaim and regulate public space” along the world-famous tourist attraction. Villanueva says he was forced to take action because local elected officials have “handcuffed” the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which patrols the Venice neighborhood.
According to the sheriff, the lax policies have lured more homeless people from out-of-state to the boardwalk area, creating a “hot mess.”
“By inserting himself into the Venice Boardwalk re-housing efforts, The Sheriff is engaging in political theater in a community where LAPD has primary jurisdiction,” the statement reads. “The Sheriff’s Department was not invited by LAPD to provide services of any kind at the Boardwalk, and Sheriff Villanueva’s actions will only prolong the time it takes to move individuals into housing, an outcome that does not serve anyone in the community, housed or unhoused.”
The statement was endorsed by L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, L.A. County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, and some the sheriff recently labeled as “the architects of failure,” including L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, and the L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LASHA).
In the statement, Villanueva’s critics claimed: “research validates our approach.” It added that “studies demonstrate that outreach efforts led by armed law enforcement officers are less effective than outreach led by service providers with the expertise and experience to connect people to appropriate services and housing.”
Villanueva says the “failed formula applied year after year to address the problem is NOT working” and has questioned the transparency of “the numerous political activist 501(c) organizations” involved.
“Over the last 10 years, both the city and county of LA have spent in excess of $6.5B on homeless programs, only to see the unhoused population grow from 39K to +80K,” Villanueva tweeted on Tuesday morning. “It’s time to end the deception and the failed policies that only lead to more death and destruction to our beloved communities.”
(2/2) beloved communities. It's time to regulate public space, not abandon it as we see in Venice, Hollywood, Olvera Street, and elsewhere. City of LA, it's never too late to start doing things right. The LASD is committed to the safety of ALL communities in Los Angeles County.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) June 29, 2021
“It’s time to regulate public space, not abandon it as we see in Venice, Hollywood, Olvera Street, and elsewhere,” Villanueva continued. “City of LA, it’s never too late to start doing things right. The LASD is committed to the safety of ALL communities in Los Angeles County.”
On Monday, Councilman Bonin, a progressive who represents the Venice neighborhood, said a new outreach effort “formally” began targeting the boardwalk encampment that offers the estimated 200 transients living there “homes, not handcuffs.” His office expects the drive to take up to six weeks to complete, working in partnership with a nonprofit called St. Joseph’s Center. Teams will reportedly provide homeless people assistance in obtaining housing and mental health services.
According to FOX 11 News, “Those who live in the oceanside encampment will be given the choice of accepting the offer or moving out of the area.”
Villanueva and his deputies say they have assisted more than 15 people living at the boardwalk in finding housing, while Bonin credited teams from St. Joseph’s Center for helping “19 unhoused people move indoors.”
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