A video update on the Venice Beach homeless encampments

Originally published at: A video update on the Venice Beach homeless encampments | Boing Boing


I wonder how much of a solution permitted tent encampments could provide. But in an area like Venice Beach where property values are so high, I imagine that there’s not a lot of vacant lots around.


Our Councilperson suggested several locations that should work but the residents around the locations blew gaskets in moments.



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Having grown up here and experienced all the ups and downs Venice has had over the last half-century, I am finally willing to say “I have never seen it this bad.”

I’m now in L.A. after a year-long absence, and can sadly only agree. The geographic spread and growth in size of the encampments is evident everywhere, to a degree it just wasn’t in early 2020. As you say, it’s jarring and shocking even if you’ve lived in L.A. all your life.

When “Hoovervilles” popped up in the early 1930s, they were seen as shameful evidence of failed economic policies. Now, they seem to be grudgingly tolerated as the price L.A. pays for maintaining insanely high property values for homeowners and landlords.

Local discussion, between housed and unhoused folk, seems to revolve around a theme that many of the unhoused do not want and will not accept City or State provided housing.

That theme is BS, disproved again and again by the Housing First approach. It’s true that many if not most unhoused people don’t want to live in old-style city or state shelters, which are dirty and dangerous and treat everyone as bad actors underserving of privacy or autonomy. But that’s not the only option.

The only solution at this point is for the municipalities and county to start buying up the many defunct motels dotting SoCal and the many vacant lots where development has stalled, then refurbish the former and put tiny-home villages on the latter. One motel or village per parking district would alleviate the problem. The NIMBYs are already fighting that in L.A.

Also, these Housing First solutions have to be specialised in a non-stigmatising way if they’re going to work. Site safety rules and support services will vary when it comes to serving the needs of (to give a few non-intersectional examples) drug addicts, the mentally ill, runaways, ex-cons, individuals who’ve just had bad economic luck, and families who work and go to school in the city but are priced out of renting. Unfortunately, politicians and organisations who are invested in the old one-size-fits-all model of serving the unhoused are resisting that change.


Yikes. When I lived in L.A. there were already plenty of homeless folks in Venice but I remember walking along the boardwalk alone, at night, in business casual attire without feeling especially threatened. It was a place that had grit but also magic, I even proposed to my wife there. It’s heartbreaking to see it become a place with so much human suffering.


We always ask what are we going to do about the houseless crisis but rarely ask what are we going to do to stop swelling the ranks.


I currently work in Housing First. While it isn’t a panacea full of wonderfulness and no downsides, yes it is lightyears more effective, and cost effective too for that matter, than other approaches. But realistically, the solution isn’t one social policy or another, its the underlying massive downward mobility destroying the middle and working classes. I think something a little more substantial than just more and better social programs is needed. Perhaps something involving guillotines and pitchforks.

Housing is, or ought to be, a right, not a reward for compliance nor a lottery of birth or luck. Or what else is a society for?


You might be surprised. High land values create vacant lots, in many cases. Zoning that doesn’t allow land to be developed to where a development pencils out and low property taxes on unused land is what we see a lot of this in cities like Seattle and the Bay Area.


Yes, these are as much ‘economic refugee camps’ as they are homeless encampments. Many of our friends are simply not well able to fit into today’s lousy economic system. People shouldn’t have to have a job that someone else values in order to be able to eat and sleep safely, and have reliable access to health care.

People are not choosing to be born into this shitty economic system and it is no one’s fault there isn’t a job existent for them that’ll pay for survival in it. Folks that are not willing or able to participate in the system aren’t breaking any rules of physics, they just aren’t working to generate tax revenue and increase shareholder value.


We hear a lot about The American Dream in this country, but there’s also an American Nightmare that people don’t like to talk about: falling out of the middle class into poverty. These modern-day Hoovervilles are evidence of the growth of that larger phenomenon over the past decades.


I have several well-educated but under-employed friends in their mid-forties who would definitely fall into this category if not for the support system of their parents and friends. Folks without a decent education who aren’t fortunate enough to have such a support system don’t stand much of a chance in this country, and haven’t for years.


Sacramento is not so different

" a reward for compliance"

That is what has vanished in too many cities. The age old reward for (at times, literally) slaving away one’s youth, and healthy adulthood, would be a home; or at a minimum, a place of ones own to be peacefully in.

It’s gone. Take any three child family even - one does well; the other breaks even; and the third is somehow unable to barely tread water in the early 21st century.

We laud the successful one; keep doing the same things with society and economics; and the flailing one gets tossed not unlike the trash in so many of the places they end up.

Pretty dismal; and nothing like any of us ever imagined in the early 21st century.


and the high cost of land is at the root of it…some future history will discuss in greater detail how the founders wanted this country to be ruled/owned by the propertied. The story of the USA is inextricably bound with property, as land and people. The people were eventually freed but the land remains locked away. Imagine thinking you can own land…might as well try to own time. Land’s value is a function of time, anyway. And no one really cared about either until it was possible to make money out of them (land rents and the time clock/billable hour).


Howard Zinn covered that decades ago, but your point remains valid in that it will be decades still (at best) until that view becomes the standard in American historiography.


if that land was owned/controlled by the municipality (city/county) they could blow all the gaskets they like…but then maybe this whole problem would have been averted anyway.

Even where it is owned by the city/county/state pushback from neighbors can stop a project. Huge numbers of parcels in Cleveland and Detroit are under the control of the cities or landbanks and we see projects stopped regularly. The elected officials pushing the project still face reelection from the angry NIMBY mob. We also had the issue of people burning down the tens of unhoused people on public land. Our problem on that front isn’t as big or visible, but that’s not because of good policy for the unhoused, but because we still have some low cost housing at the bottom of the market to keep some people off the streets.

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