Civil Rights

Open Letter About Public Urination, Stuff on Sidewalks … and Parking

By Deborah Lashever

If you are concerned with the urination and defecation in your neighborhood, lobby Bonin to install more public restrooms! Do you realize that we have 16 million visitors a year and about 20 public restrooms – that all close in the early evening and open at 8 am? Not one public restroom anywhere in Venice except the Boardwalk – with the exception of Vera Davis Center and the Library during the day and NOT EVEN ONE at night anywhere! Where do you think all the tourists go? And on First Friday where do all the food truckies go? And after the bars close? Please do not blame the unhoused people for the mess. They are not responsible for the thousands of tourists who “do their business” all over Venice because we do not have enough public toilets! In one hour three weeks ago I saw 6 tourists pee in the parking lot by the handball courts because the lines for the bathrooms were 25 people deep. It was a Saturday but not even the Summer yet!  Unhoused people need a place to go too. You act like they are being criminals because they have a basic human need! Can you ‘hold it” for 12 hours? Did you know that the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights – that the U. S. signed onto – states that access to hygiene is a basic human right? This is not a homeless problem but is being blamed on them. This is the city’s bad. Simple solution: more bathrooms! (There are many designs that take the fear of using them for prostitution and drug abuse away, by the way, so that well used excuse is null and void at this time.)

“Cleaning up” by taking all the belongings of unhoused people is inhumane as well. When the raid on 3rd Street occurred a couple of years ago the police threw away all the unhoused people’s I.D.s, birth certificates, irreplaceable photos of relatives, family Bibles, essential medications like heart pills and blood thinners, pet equipment, blankets and sleeping bags, clothing and everything they owned. They do not have a place to store their stuff so that unsightly pile on the sidewalk is all they have in the world! Just because you wish you didn’t see it should they lose everything? Is this justice? If you really want the stuff off the sidewalks lobby Bonin for a bigger voluntary storage program like the one we have on the Ocean Front Walk by the paddle tennis courts. It has been working at twice the capacity since November. The volunteers are in danger of being injured because of all the lifting and hauling we must to do for lack of room. We could store many, many more people’s items but we do not have the space! We do not have to resort to criminalizing the poor with all the “clean ups” on OFW and other places in Venice!  What a waste of the city’s time and money! There are inexpensive, easy, humane solutions!

It may surprise you to note that there is NOT ONE emergency bed in all of the Westside of Los Angeles and embarrassingly scant services of any kind in Venice. It is not true that unhoused people do not want help. They just do not want it in Skid Row or Lancaster. I hope you realize that Venice is their neighborhood too. This is their community. Many have been here much longer than you. The solution is to give some assistance to get them on their feet – not to bitch about how wrong they are for being poor! I hope you never have to live on the street yourself, but if you do I hope people are kinder and more compassionate to you than you are being now. It is not all about you in your million dollar place with your tender sensibilities – these people are trying desperately to merely survive! That sidewalk is hard and cold! Why don’t you help them? How would it actually hurt you if you did? How would it help all of us if you used your money, your contacts and political will to help?

Parking? Try diagonal lines on our widest streets. Almost twice the parking at hardly any cost! No passes needed.

There are simple solutions – with the will. The problem is that people want to go on with the upgrading of their seemingly important and busy lives, not wanting to be part of the solution – but just wanting the “problems,” as they define them from their narrow point of view, to magically go away by throwing police at them! Poverty is not a criminal activity and so cannot be solved by police intervention!

Please, please help with humane solutions! Don’t just talk and talk and talk about the problems! Ticketing, throwing homeless people in jail and taking all their stuff costs us all many, many thousands of dollars a year per person and does not fix anything – but hurts quite a lot! Buckminster Fuller said it best when he said, “To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” Please join us – or at least support us – in creating that new model. Lobby Bonin for humane solutions for unhoused people and to stop the criminalization of poverty.

Storage container - VCHC

Above: Storage container for the house-less, currently located by the paddle tennis courts

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