The first phase of the LA County Sheriff's surprise landing in Venice Beach is under way, and their homeless outreach team appears to be directly speaking with each individual living on the beach in an attempt to assess what services are necessary to clear the beachfront encampment by July 4th.
The surrounding residential and commercial streets are home to nearly as many unhoused citizens, but not in one as concentrated area as the beachfront tourist destination.
I live in Venice Beach, very close to these videos. If something actually happens I believe most Venice locals, housed and unhoused, will be shocked and for the most part happy. The recent escalation in violence has been just awful. Arson, guns, stabbings, and random attacks on street performers and passers-by now punctuate our days.
Deputies on Tuesday had some early successes, connecting several people with nonprofit groups that provide housing and other services. They were small but significant wins that were both celebrated by community members and dwarfed by the massive scale of the problem.
"It's just outreach, but it's more than LAHSA has done," said Vicki Halliday, a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council, referring to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
The effort raised questions about whether Villanueva is overstepping his authority. Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said the Sheriff's Department has jurisdiction across L.A. County, but that city officials and the LAPD typically take the lead on handling issues within the city of L.A.
"It is problematic if the sheriff is unilaterally taking the lead on issues just because the city is within the county," Levenson said. "If he's critical of their efforts, he should work with them … It should not be a turf fight."
If anything in LA is consistent I would expect someone to sue the Sheriff before very much gets done.
Venice Beach remains pinched between many litigious, well-intentioned special interest groups all insisting the homelessness crisis be solved in only their way. Folks are dying on the streets every day, encampment fires erupt nightly, while our leaders repeatedly point out that this is a complicated humanitarian crisis and try to build an undersized shelter that'll open in 2 years next to an elementary school.
I regularly speak with a few of my unhoused neighbors. My dog is very friendly and we get to meet folks in the neighborhood. My conversations show that some people will find the Sheriff's department very helpful, it'll connect them with resources they couldn't find and may improve their situations, some will stay until they are marched out.
We are all hoping the vast majority of folks can find something better and safer.