By Jon Wolff
Westside news outlets have praised L.A. City Councilmember Traci Park for her recent actions to clear encampments of unhoused people in and around Venice. The local press has disregarded the harsh tactics that were used to carry out these actions because they felt that the end results justified the methods. They have congratulated Councilmember Park for removing many unhoused persons from the streets and placing them in safe housing. But the true story is far different.
In a recent conversation with a man who has worked closely with the Venice unhoused community for a number of years, the Beachhead learned the facts of the results. His testimony is the subject of this article and his name is withheld by request.
The people in the area around 3rd Avenue and Hampton Avenue were displaced under sudden and harsh circumstances. The police forced them out of their tents in the pouring rain. Their possessions were seized and their tents were trashed. It is alleged here that this displacement came at the request of Google and Gold’s Gym, and that St. Joseph’s Center received $500 for each person they removed from the tents.
The people were promised that if they gave up their tents and their personal property they would receive safe shelter in a motel in Inglewood. Park’s office dealt directly with the motel without the certification of the Health Department. The people found the motel rooms to have mold, roaches, and bed bugs. Ceilings were falling in. The doors to the rooms were not secured, and St. Joseph’s staff would often enter the rooms uninvited.
The people did not receive toilet paper. They had no food, and the gift cards for local markets never came. Many of the people had medical issues, but no medical aid was available. The organization Common Ground passed out syringes, but no doctors were called to attend to the the sick and suffering.
The people were daily harassed by sheriff’s deputies. And although the motel catered to Inglewood’s prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers, the sheriff’s deputies would ignore them and instead go into the rooms of the displaced people.
After much disappointment and broken promises of stable housing, the people preferred to go back to their tents in Venice. And many have. They felt that the tents were safer and cleaner than the motel.
The man whose testimony inspired this article is currently making safety checks on the people. He is a native of Venice and he has rapport with the people. His experience working with them when they were on 3rd Avenue proved more effective than anything the Councilmember’s office could provide.
For years, Venice has had a tradition of caring for the unhoused in the community. The successes that local Venice advocates achieved with the unhoused on 3rd Avenue should have been the example that the City could follow. But Traci Park thought she knew better. Now we’re starting over again.