News & Politics

L.A.’s Homeless Racket

Jeff Lewis/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Gentle readers, will your vacation travels bring you to Los Angeles this summer? You’ll want to visit Universal Studios and Disneyland, surely, or maybe take a stroll down the beach in Malibu or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. And you’ll want to see the wildlife at the Los Angeles Zoo, which at last has reopened after being shut down during the pandemic. But if it’s truly exotic life forms you wish to see, you can’t go wrong with a day trip down to Venice Beach, the zoo that never closes, where you’ll be treated to a spectacle that would have had Marlin Perkins cowering in his Land Rover

The Venice area of L.A., just south of Santa Monica, has undergone a transformation over the last 25 years or so, going from amusingly seedy to boho-chic as actors and other Hollywood types started moving and driving up prices. A three-bedroom house a block from the beach can be yours for just $2.4 million.

The seediness never entirely gave way to the chic, but a more sinister transformation has been in progress for about the last three years, one that has taken seedy to new heights (or lows, if you prefer). Before you splash out $2.4 million for your beach retreat, you may want to make sure you won’t be sharing the property with one or more of the local homeless, who seem to have multiplied in the area lately. This has caused alarm and consternation among those who, having spent so lavishly to buy homes in the area, would prefer not to share the space with the feral drug addicts who have laid claim to much of the famed Venice boardwalk.

The blame for the degradation of Venice (and much of Los Angeles) can be widely shared among the incompetents in Los Angeles municipal government, but few would argue that city councilman Mike Bonin doesn’t deserve the largest share. Bonin is something of a patron saint to the city’s homeless population, encouraging millions in public spending to be lavished on various “solutions,” which oddly seem to solve nothing but instead produce more and more homeless people.

Venice residents regularly beseech the police asking for something to be done about the crime, litter, and unsanitary conditions in and around the homeless encampments, but the police say they are hamstrung by Bonin and others in city government who do not want laws enforced against “people experiencing homelessness,” the linguistically awkward term now used to describe those for whom the word “bum” was once considered apt. “Please,” the law-abiding residents say, “get these people away from my doorstep, which they persist in mistaking for a toilet.” 

“Can’t do it,” says Bonin. “It wouldn’t be compassionate.”

So some found it strange, not to say hypocritical, when one of Bonin’s staffers sought a way to rid his field office of a man who had been camping outside its front door. “We have a person permanently staying in front of our office,” wrote the staffer in an email to the city attorney’s office, “who is both disruptive to our ability to work and blocks the entrance. Would this be considered an interference with the business trespass? Please let me know as soon as possible.”

As one would expect, when the, shall we say inconsistency, came to light, Bonin’s office issued a groveling apology:

Councilmember Bonin didn’t know about this and it isn’t how he personally would have handled it. He believes our response to homelessness and encampments on public property needs to lead with housing and services, not enforcement. That’s what he was fighting for today at City Hall, and that’s the approach we are taking as we are housing dozens of unhoused residents of Venice Beach this week with our Encampments to Homes program.

Encampments to homes, you say, Mr. Bonin? Then what is your plan for people who, like the fellow interviewed in this news report, say they have no intention of leaving their seaside tents? The man had been offered housing before, he tells the reporter, but found it “unacceptable.” He went on to say how he objects to the pesky rules imposed by homeless shelters. “I’d rather stay here,” he says.

And why wouldn’t he? His necessities are paid for the taxpayers, some of whom pay millions to live in a place where they can look out their windows to see him living for free. And what the government doesn’t provide is delivered by the myriad “homeless outreach” programs that, no matter how much they receive in government grants and charitable donations, always plead for more because the “crisis” is always getting worse. The city’s budget for various homeless programs in the coming fiscal year comes to an astounding $791 million

“We spend so much on the homeless,” Mike Bonin and his ilk say, “we can’t understand why there are still so many of them.”