UPDATED 12:27 PM PT – Saturday, June 12, 2021
The Los Angeles County Sheriff has taken it upon himself to address the homeless situation in one local neighborhood. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has taken heat from city council members after making efforts to improve the homelessness issue in the city.
Villanueva made recent headlines as he and other deputies made their way into the Venice Beach community in an effort to clear the growing homeless encampment along the beachfront. He has pledged to clear the encampments from Venice Beach by July 4.
One city council member took aim at the Sheriff on Twitter by calling the presence of deputies in the area disruptive and counterproductive. Villanueva responded by blasting the irresponsible decisions from the board of supervisors, Mayor of Los Angeles and city council. The Sheriff clarified he was not trying to cause problems with the Los Angeles Police Department, which has jurisdiction in Venice Beach, but rather help fix an issue residents have been concerned about.
“I’m not going to blame LAPD whatsoever. I think they can definitely do the job. They’re more than capable, have good leadership,” he explained. “However, if they’re hamstrung by politicians that don’t want them to do their job, well then they’re left in a very, very bad situation.”
Our efforts to improve the quality of life in Venice Beach have begun. This is a humanitarian mission not just a “clean up.” Robert is a 76 year old https://t.co/Zt2tHHiow1 veteran who faced an unfortunate time in his life; resulting in living on the streets for years. pic.twitter.com/dkT3XzjR17
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) June 9, 2021
The situation escalated when authorities recently arrested a homeless woman who they claimed pulled a knife just a few feet away from a city councilman on the Venice Beach boardwalk. A boardwalk performer was also attacked.
Recent reports noted the homeless population in California has ballooned from around 134,000 in 2019 to more than 161,000 today, with 60,000 in Los Angeles alone. Critics say a proposal for $12 billion in spending on homelessness has only worked to entice more homeless people to move into the state.
In February, California’s state auditor slammed the state’s mismanagement of the issue and claimed at least nine agencies oversee 41 different programs, while no entity oversees the state or is responsible for developing a statewide plan.
California has spent around $13 billion dollars on the homeless problem over the last three years. In some cases, its the homeless individuals themselves who are turning down help.
Reports say when Los Angeles deputies and social workers hit Venice Beach, their help was turned down by all but one person, a veteran identified as Robert. Robert ended up back on the beach the next day after allegedly turning down housing by Veteran Affairs. Social workers express difficulty to help the homeless because they have the right to refuse housing.
LAPD Chief Michael Moore has called on the city council to end a moratorium that won’t allow officers to enforce a no camping law in the city. The LAPD recently issued a statement ensuring the department’s commitment to work with all public safety partner agencies and elected officials to improve the safety of our communities.
In the meantime, residents in the Venice Beach area are applauding Villanueva and hope his action will limit drug use, harassment, assault and other violence near the iconic board walk.