LA 2020

Epic Failure of Program to Clean Up Venice Homeless Camps

During the lockdowns, Venice went from having a few homeless people hanging out on the boardwalk and around town, to being completely overtaken with massive homeless encampments. You can see the extent of it in the first portion of the video and photos below.  

Recently in response to community pressure and international embarrassment in the media, the city of Venice has been clearing away the homeless encampments on the boardwalk.  They made a big deal of finally doing something about it and have videos up on YouTube of garbage trucks, bulldozers and crews cleaning away all the tents and trash.

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But many have said all it is doing is moving the problem elsewhere.  We concur.  The homeless didn’t vanish.  They didn’t find homes.  They just moved. And the programs put there to provide “housing” for the homeless are nothing but very expensive jokes.

As you approach Venice there number of beat up RVs lining the streets along with some tents.  On Main Street directly in front of the Google offices in Venice we find a good sized RV encampment that occupies both sides of the street.

It’s even worse on the street behind Google and in front of the famous Golds Gym.   The homeless have completely taken over the street, wandering in front of the cars, blocking traffic and such.  Golds, which has only recently been able to reopen after the long lockdowns now faces the additional problem that the encampment discourages customers from coming into the area. 

This illustrates an irony.  A few years back, Venetians were upset by the tech companies Snapchat, Google, Facebook, etc moving into the area.  As the highly paid upper level employees and executives of these companies moved into the area, housing costs and rents SOARED – pricing out many of the very people that had once made Venice a desirable community and top tourist attraction.  Now we see one of the very companies that drove up the rents surrounded by the the tents and RV of the homeless.

The same situation has occurred in Silicon Valley with large homeless encampments springing up around the big tech campuses.  This isn’t as odd as it seems.  Where the tech companies have moved, they have driven housing costs out the roof.  For the elite upper level programmers that are highly paid, that’s no problem.  But, as was pointed out in an article about the encampments in Silicon valley, the tech companies are notorious for converting jobs into gig work or contract work.  This allows them to side step any of the laws relating to employment, benefits or minimum pay. 

The average rent in Venice is over $3400 per month! It’s worse in Silicon Valley. The national average for gig worker earnings is $2750 per month. It’s difficult to find a better paying job due to the high number of jobs being converted to gig work.

Just beyond the RV encampment at Google Venice is a fenced in area with a guarded entrance that resembles a concentration camp.  It’s the Pacific Sunset Bridge Housing project for the homeless.  This is basically a LARGE tent with 100 beds inside it. There are also 54 “bungalows” for homeless youth.  This opened in February 2020 with an upfront development cost of $8.3 million.  That works out to $56k per bed.  That is 56k per bed in a tent!

How do you make it cost that much?  

There are 10 of these bridge housing facilities in Venice!  Yet Venice is still full of homeless people!  I also learned that a number of the homeless have been put up in area hotels, such as the Cadillac on the boardwalk and the Ramada Inn on Washington Blvd.  Some of the homeless in the Cadillac were soon kicked out for violent behavior.  They are back on the streets.  A woman who lives near one of the hotels described her life as “living in a war zone” after the homeless were moved into the area.  I also doubt tourists booking a room at one of these hotels are very happy to see who they are staying with!

The Pacific Sunset homeless project doesn’t seem to reduce the problem, but rather seems to actually draw more homeless to the area.  Residents complain that crime has soared since it opened and their quality of life has been destroyed.

The boardwalk has been largely cleaned up, but just two blocks off the beach the problem remains.  Despite massive clean up efforts and 10 bridge housing projects, there are still large parts of Venice that working people and tourists can’t enjoy due to the encampments.

I don’t see any one magic bullet to dealing with the homeless crisis.  It is a symptom of the overall decay of our society on many fronts.  

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The situation in Venice illuminates another interesting aspect of the problem.  That is how the richest corporations in the world seem to feel they can’t afford to pay a very large percentage of their employees fairly.  I’m not advocating new laws.  I’m also not advocating for a socialist utopia where everyone is paid the same regardless of the value of the work.  Socialism doesn’t work.  But neither does slavery. It’s illegal to designate people who are actually employees as sub-contractors.  But for some reason because it is done via an App, our elected officials and regulators have turned a blind eye to the violation.

I realize that there are so many other reasons.  Drug addiction, mental illness, trauma etc are big factors behind homelessness.  I’ve talked about them too. But I’ll close this with a question.  If you were to enter one of these programs said to get the homeless off the streets, how motivated would you be to clean yourself up and get new skills to land a gig job that won’t earn you enough to pay the rent?

No amount of expensive tents for the homeless will solve the problem until we address the factors that are creating the problem. There are a lot of them.  The time to start fixing them is now.

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