VENICE (CBSLA) – A grandmother who has lived in Venice for over 45 years has gone viral, her emotional plea, put out on social media, about the more than 200 tents set up at the Venice Boardwalk homeless encampment has gotten over 10,000 views in two days.
“I have raised my children here. I love the beach. I love the world we live in, but it’s not safe anymore. And my grandkids, who I adore, are afraid to come and visit me. Do you understand that? That is hell for me,” she tells the camera with a voice quivering with emotion.
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Heidi Roberts, another Venice local, shares her frustration. She and her husband have tried to find a solution, privately funding shared housing for some 160 homeless individuals over the past three years. Still, Roberts’ says that even Venice, for it all it’s “live and let live tendencies” has had enough.
“We’ve reached a tipping point where it’s gone beyond what the community can tolerate and what the community feels safe with. And I think when your personal safety becomes at-risk, it becomes really hard to maintain that level of empathy we’ve always had,” Roberts told CBSLA’s Laurie Perez.
Across town, Justine Gonzalez, is watching what’s happening in Venice. Gonzalez, who has worked as a homeless advocate, saw the same thing in Echo Park where hundreds of unhoused people set up tents during the pandemic. In fact, she had a family member living in that very encampment.
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“It’s hard to get folks out of a cycle of trauma,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not as simple as, ‘Hey, why don’t you house these people? Hey, why don’t you take care of it?’ It’s a very difficult situation.”
In March, though, the city did find housing for more than 200 people living in Echo Park leaving many to wonder and hope that Venice will be next, for the sake of both the unhoused and the housed.
“I believe this is a community that can repair,” the Venice grandmother says in the viral video. “This living on the boardwalk is not okay. Get the darned tents away from here because, you know what, it’s not safe.”
Roberts said that the people who suffer the most are those living on the street.
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“…I mean, they’re the people who really suffer. Three years ago, it was three people dying a day. Last year, it was four people dying a day. This year, it’s five people dying a day,” she said.