Backs Against The Ocean, Homeless People Persevere on OFW

By Greta Cobar

The poor are getting poorer and are being pushed further and further, until they reach the end of the rope, or the end of the world, also known as Venice Beach.

In the last few months hundreds of people have moved onto Ocean Front Walk (OFW), where they set up camp, almost shoulder to shoulder, night after night. Although this can be seen as a nuisance to the residents, a reason for the increased amount of trash on the Boardwalk or a danger to all because of the violence, drug use, prostitution and fearsome off-leash dogs, it actually is the reality facing our so-called “richest country” in the world.

Meantime the rich are getting richer, paying fewer taxes, getting more government money, widening the income gap and eliminating the middle class, increasing the number of children and adults living under the poverty line. The high unemployment rates reported are actually almost double by more accurate accounts.

When one reaches the end of the rope, and he or she is not allowed to hang on, what happens? Where do I go? What do I do? I don’t see how I’m gonna make it. Most of us have been asking ourselves these questions.

The Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA), responsible for lobbying against the now ex-RV dwellers and for posting overnight parking restriction signs against the rulings of the Coastal Commission, is now putting its efforts into getting rid of everyone who’s been pushed to the end of the world and has nowhere else to go.

John Henning, the attorney representing VSA, has sent a letter to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich advising that the city consider OFW, the cemented area between the grass and the residences and businesses facing the ocean, as part of the Venice Beach Recreation Area (VBRA). Categorizing it as such would make sleeping on OFW illegal pursuant to L.A.M.C. section 63.44(D), which makes it illegal to sleep in a city park. According to Henning’s letter, the Jones Settlement (2006), which allows people to lie on certain parts of the sidewalk between 9pm and 6am, would not apply to OFW if the area is considered to be part of a city park.

Linda Lucks, President of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC), stated that she will oppose any police action against the people sleeping on OFW until they are offered an alternative. She is currently trying to open the West L.A. homeless shelter on October 15 instead of the scheduled annual date of December 1. For such a change to take place additional funding has to be allocated to run the shelter for the additional 45 days, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has to approve the change.

Both Councilperson Bill Rosendahl and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have provided funding to open the shelter earlier than previously planned, and Linda Lucks is scheduled to meet with LAHSA October 4 to seek the commission’s approval.

Although all shelters should be open year-round, the West L.A. shelter only has enough space for 150 persons and covers the entire West L.A. area, not just Venice. Meanwhile, there are a whole lot more than 150 people currently sleeping on OFW.

Venetians have historically been tolerant of alternative lifestyles and many old-time OFW residents were attracted to Venice because of the unconventionality of it all. However, the mayhem and never-ending noise that now takes place outside their front doors and windows every night is not much appreciated. But if Carmen Trutanich deems OFW to be part of a city park, nobody will be allowed to even walk in the entire area, which means that residents will not be able to enter or leave their homes and businesses will have to close earlier.

Previous efforts have attempted to displace people, such as cleaning out downtown to make space for the rows of condos occupied by wanna-be-cool yuppies. But as more and more of us are falling through the non-existent nets, we will be forced to get off our comfortable asses and take over Wall Street, OFW and whatever else we have been robbed of. And I can’t wait for the day when Libya sends troops to help us chase away the merciless, greedy ruling class and take over the government.