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Venice homeless encampment sparks online war of words

April 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The growing homeless population problem in Venice is pitting neighbor against neighbor. A Venice beach woman is furious that a community blogger posted her name, address, and photo of her home on his website.

Some people are calling a relatively new homeless encampment at Venice Beach "Skid Row West." There are some advocates for the homeless who are working to make sure the homeless can stay in Venice Beach until the city finds a better solution.

But the president of a homeowners association says that supporters of keeping the homeless on one particular street should welcome the homeless on their street, which is why he posted their home addresses on his website.

Disagreements over how to handle the homeless population in Venice Beach are about as common as bikinis on the boardwalk. But an advocate for the homeless here says her political opponents have crossed the line.

"This is below the belt. This is immoral and it should be stopped," said Linda Lucks, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

Lucks is talking about a website from a group that calls itself the Venice Stakeholders Association. The group recently posted the home addresses of people that it says are preventing the police from cracking down on homeless encampments.

"I want that website down. I want an apology," said Lucks.

"There's nothing that's not public record here," said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association. Ryavec says the names and addresses of those listed, which include the mayor and other city officials, aren't going anywhere.

"All these folks that are preventing the city from enforcing existing laws, they need to accept responsibility for the consequences of their stopping the enforcement," said Ryavec.

At issue is the homeless encampment on the 300 block of 3rd Avenue. The couches, tents and shopping carts that line the sidewalks started showing up in February once the LAPD started enforcing an ordinance that prohibits overnight camping in Venice Beach Park.

"Right now the people that are sleeping are in a manufacturing area, so no, it's not good, but they're not in front of people's houses," said Lucks.

Lucks says she fears for her safety, and has filed a police report, citing a state law that prohibits online bullying.

"I don't want to be the next Gabby Giffords," said Lucks.

"If she really was concerned, she wouldn't go on television and say, 'Oh, my address is over here on this website and I'm really concerned about it,'" said Ryavec.

But behind the war of words is a very real problem: growing tension between those who live on the streets and the homeowners who live near this encampment.

"I have a 2-year-old and I don't feel very safe with all of these people like living on the street out here," said Venice resident Debra Keaton.

"If this was in front of the people's businesses that are speaking up in their favor, if they were outside their businesses, they'd have them kicked out in a second," said Venice resident Justin Crowe.

Missy Lang has been living on a stretch of 3rd Avenue for the past several weeks.

"I don't want to sleep in front of somebody's house, but if it's at night and I pull it down in the morning, what harm is there?" said Lang.

Other homeowners and some people who work out at Gold's Gym say they've been harassed and attacked by people on the street.

The LAPD says they have stepped up patrols in this area. They have made more than 100 arrests in the area since February. But in terms of taking down the encampment, the LAPD says it's a complex issue, due largely to several legal challenges that are still pending.


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