Venice Car People

Posted on June 21, 2014 by

Beach Front Walk in Venice at sunrise looks like coastal California’s refugee camp with sleeping bags, tents and cardboard covers sheltering hundreds of poor, mostly unemployed “residents,” some disturbed and deranged.

Homeless on the beach in L.A. is still homeless but might be the most tolerable option.  The warmth and beachy, bohemian atmosphere make this last stop in the west a prime destination.

Many come by car, van and motor home, loaded with possessions and sometimes with just enough room to drive and sleep.  When these vehicles are parked and become home-base for transients, they pose an ongoing nuisance and worse for Venice property owners and renters who complain that car people and street people congregate, urinate and defecate all over the neighborhood.

City officials have tried to contain the problem with ordinances banning “car living” but this week a federal appeals court said the law is too broad and discriminatory.

Los Angeles won’t challenge the ruling but will, according to City Attorney Mike Feuer “commit ourselves to grappling with the issues that create homelessness in the first place.”

Could L.A. learn from its coastal neighbor, Santa Monica?  Though its population of 89,000 (compared to L.A.’s 3.8 million) and its robust tourist and business-driven tax base make problem-solving a lot easier, Santa Monica has a “collaborative approach (to homelessness) which spans prevention, outreach, permanent housing, transitional housing and shelter, and supportive services.”

But, in any case, regional cities and counties alone can’t restore the economy or cure mental illness.  And even if times and conditions improve, no one can stop people from chasing the California Dream all the way to the ocean.

Comments (6)


  1. John Connolly says:

    If you squint just a little at the picture above, you can just make out Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell and Ol’ Charlie Grapewine perched in the front seat of that Ford Model T Truck, just-arrived from Oklahoma, peering with hope and fear at the promise of California … ‘n prolly lookin’ fer an EPIC handout … used to try to turn them pesky, dirty Oakie Vagrants ‘n Reds back at the Cal-Azona border too. Well, they grumpily let some of ‘em in … after all SOMEBODY’s gotta pick them grapes-o-wrath, ‘n cabbage rows even if they are a nuisance ‘n threat to private prop’rty. … Kinda a shame they’re white folks tho.

  2. Don Keefer says:

    It’s important to remember that Reagan was the Father of Homelessness: Almost as soon as he took office, he emptied the nation’s mental wards, and all of a sudden, in the early 1980s, New York City was full of people living on the streets.

    Karmically, maybe that’s why Reagan’s latter years saw him helpless and drooling in his shoes himself…

    As for what to do about it, these rich beach communities (yes, there is wealth in Venice, too) should at least find room in their budgets to provide free public toilets — if not on humanitarian grounds, then for sanitary and economic reasons (ie real estate prices).

    If that’s too much of a stretch for the selfish and well-esconced citizens of the area (many of whom were enthusiastic supporters of our recent mideast wars, which generated so many now-homeless vets), well, then let them live with it. It’s their neighborhood, and their Disgrace.

    Free public toilets (the bare minimum for a ‘civilized’ country) have been a success in European tourist destinations (especially Paris, with its legendary “pissoirs”), and would alleviate some of the stench, suffering and humiliation occurring every day and every night on the streets of Venice.

  3. RICK CHERTOFF says:

    I second the above comments and appreciate your putting this up, Lou. We shouldn’t lose sight of “the trees” which is our political system where capital outvotes people and 2 parisitical (redundent) Capitalist parties over which we have little control. The money and jobs have been sold out from under us and we have to break loose of this system to get them back. Brat got elected by organizing and, in addition to scape-goating immigrants, correctly fingered Cantor as a tool of Wall Street. Good demonstration of si se puede that the left can do, as they’ve done in Seattle. Higher wages less homelessness. N’est pas?

  4. scott shuster says:

    SUPPORT THE HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS! (Clipped from Bilal Ali on FB)

    Today the war on the poor suffered a substantial defeat. Today the 9th Circuit confirmed that people who have lost their homes and are forced to live in their cars should not be criminally punished for doing so. The decision represents another affirmation of humanity over hostility in the trend against criminalization of homelessness. The Los Angeles Times addressed this trend in its editorial ‘Can begging be banned?’ last October. It began, ‘A war is being waged over panhandling, as cities and states pass tighter and tighter anti-solicitation laws to control transients and deal with chronic homelessness.’ Referencing a 77 year old woman arrested for ‘loitering to beg’ for $1.25 in bus fare, and citing the 100 or so cities that have placed restrictions on panhandling, the editorial emphasized that while perhaps “understandable… it is not acceptable to pass sweeping legislation criminalizing the behavior of individuals who are engaged in peaceful pleas for money or help.”

    Sweeping legislation, and an intensely hostile climate, is exactly what many homeless people face in their daily efforts to get by. The Western Regional Advocacy Project’s (April 2013) street outreach fact sheet reveals that between 66-81% of homeless folks surveyed were arrested or confronted by law enforcement for acts such as sleeping, loitering, sitting or lying down. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s (2011) report on criminalizing homelessness noted a 7-10% increase in laws banning panhandling, camping, and loitering. As the U.S.-based International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies recognized in a recent resolution supporting homeless bills of rights, ‘criminalization measures penalize necessary, life sustaining activities … when individuals engage in such behaviors due to their homelessness’.

    Stunningly, ordinances preventing the sharing of food – including by church-based organizations serving food to those in need– are being enacted across the country (including in New York City, Philadelphia and Houston) and considered elsewhere (for example, Los Angeles). In the worst recession since the Great Depression, with pervasive poverty – approximately 47 million people are on food stamps and a living wage is increasingly harder to come by – it is unfathomable and immoral to seek to remove access to food from anyone who might be hungry.

    Efforts are similarly underway to curtail the availability of safe public spaces. Palo Alto, for example, recently passed an ordinance imposing criminal penalties on those who slept in their cars. Cities are transforming public spaces to make them less and less friendly to transient populations: closing parks earlier; locking public restrooms; and even selectively and aggressively enforcing littering and jay-walking laws. All of these laws discriminate against and target homeless folks.

    But criminalizing homelessness does not solve homelessness; only homes solve homelessness. Criminalization measures actually perpetuate homelessness through increasing marginalization, creating arrest records which make it more difficult to obtain employment or housing, and misusing scarce funds to pay more for police, jail, medical and court time than it would cost to simply provide permanent and adequate homes for homeless individuals and families.

    We are undeniably facing a domestic human rights crisis as millions of people are unable to live, or are denied, a life of dignity. The local laws and ordinances – often misnamed as “Quality of Life” or “Nuisance Crime Abatement” policies – not only prevent homeless men, women and children from meeting their basic needs; they represent an attack on our collective humanity. As the L.A. Times says, this is not acceptable, and in order for the current trajectory to be reversed, we need to speak out.

    As human rights advocates, we believe in fundamental rights for all people, without discrimination. Whenever rights are denied to anyone in our community, it is our duty and our responsibility to educate our communities about human rights, speak out to defend those rights, and make sure that all of us can live in dignity, with our basic needs met. We can ensure this by promoting policies that respect, protect and fulfill all our human rights. Today, as laws target some of the most vulnerable members of our communities – those who are homeless – we are again called upon to do just that.

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