Homelessness – Here We Go Again

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By Mark Lipman

If you think you are tired of reading about homelessness, just imagine how tired we are of writing about it.  Yet again the Venice Neighborhood Council has commissioned a committee to deal with this issue.  Perhaps as a show of displeasure, only 3 people, other than the government officials scheduled to speak and members of the press even bothered to attend the first meeting of the Homelessness/ RV Ad Hoc Committee on September 18 at the United Methodist Church.

This comes as a stark difference to the throngs of hundreds who normally pack these events. On top of it, all the key local organizers have boycotted the committee, claiming it lacks credibility and is purposely designed to accomplish nothing.

Indeed, the committee itself appears very divided, split evenly between those who want to help those who are without a home and those whose set goal is to banish the poor from Venice.  This was seen quite clearly in the opening minutes, when the mission statement, written by Mark Ryavec, the committee co-chair, which repeatedly refers to homeless people as indigent and specifically blames this one group for all of society’s woes, such as “safety, noise, crime and sanitation,” was read, causing a near mutiny amongst several of its members.

During the meeting all of the same speeches and pledges that we’ve heard a million times were given, with the usual emphasis that no money was available and that we should look for developers to partner with, yet failed to observe that the developers are a major part of the problem, because they are in business to make money and not help people.

Santa Monica, with all of its hate crime legislation, such as the criminalization of shaving or brushing your teeth in a public restroom, was held up as an example to follow.

No one mentioned the 38 recommendations for addressing the problem of homelessness, which came out of the last Homelessness Task force (see Beachhead, August 2008).  

Mike Newhouse, President of the VNC, told the Beachhead that they are waiting to see what comes out of this committee first before any decision would be made on the 38 recommendations, but expected them to be fully considered before the end of the process was complete.

Additionally, there was no mention of the $10 billion available for affordable housing through Proposition 1C funding, or whether Venice could be eligible for any of it.

The meeting ended with some very emotional public comment.  Terry, whose RV was actually in the process of being broken into by the LAPD at the time, told of how if you were homeless you were not allowed to eat, sleep or got to the bathroom, or you would get arrested.  Diane, a 50 something year old Venice native, born and raised here, then pleaded for the city not to drive her away from her home just because she was poor.  Don Geagan, of Veterans For Peace, followed by enumerating on the plight of homeless veterans in our community and our duty to help them.

Yes, it is true, the sad fact is that homelessness is a crime.  It is a crime committed by our government and the wealthy elite of our society upon the poorest and weakest of society, who they punish because they feel guilty for having to look at it – for having to look at what they have done to the people of this once great nation – and just look out because you could be next.

If you are feeling outraged, please do stay calm. Although we in Venice will be seeing no help for this or anything else in the foreseeable future, the Wall Street bankers, who brought us this housing crisis, are sure to receive their bailout to the tune of $700,000,000,000.

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