Homeless Police Magazine in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Illustrative image. Photo: Wade Mcmillan / Bigstock

Los Angeles beaches are world famous, and one of the most charming is Venice Beach: a seaside community, isolated from the big business, where the wealthy buy properties to relax or retire, and a favorite destination for bohemian artists. .

This heavenly place is now the epicenter of an unprecedented homelessness crisis in the region, making it resistant to tourists and even the locals themselves (largely high-ranking Google employees, who have desks near).

All along the waterfront, from the sand to the sidewalks and sidewalks, you can now see camping tents, cardboard boxes or wooden cabins that serve as shelters for hundreds of people.

For the most part, passers-by are not people who have lost their homes because of an economic problem, but long-term homeless people, drug addicts or the mentally ill.

The New York Times spoke to some of these homeless people. John Simpson, 64, for example, explained that he had lived on the streets for 30 years and that his family had kicked him out because of alcoholism. Assisted by a social assistance team, he was allowed to take his bottle of vodka with him.

The high concentration of homeless people in Los Angeles can be explained in part by the economic crisis of the pandemic and in part by the permissive policies of the state which allow the use of certain drugs and which does not have an adequate policy. to solve the homeless situation. people. .

In Los Angeles, it is not uncommon to see people walking around naked, urinating in public places, or using drugs. Today, more than a quarter of the homeless population in the United States lives in California (11% in Los Angeles, according to a 2020 report from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development).

The crisis disrupts business

The situation has also hampered local businesses, Patrick Liberty, who has owned a clothing store near the beach promenade for 27 years, told the Wall Street Journal that the cabins had done so much damage to his business last year. than the pandemic.

“People came to Venice because of the beauty of the place, they noticed the view they had from our store,” he said. “Now it’s like walking under a viaduct: it’s ugly, dangerous and it stinks.”

The crisis in the Venice Beach neighborhood prompted the community to seek a solution for the homeless for the first time.

About 200 homeless people will participate in a 6-month program in temporary housing with social services and vouchers included to help return people to their home communities.

The move is being organized by the NGO St. Joseph Center, which hopes to reclaim part of the old beach landscape, but the local government has not announced any action for those who refuse to leave.

The NGO hopes that the reluctant will convince themselves to leave when they see well-cared-for friends and colleagues: “When people live a long time in inhumane conditions, they get used to it. Reversing it takes time. the managing director of the St. Joseph Center told the WSJ.

If the Venice Beach action is successful, there are plans to export it to the rest of the state.