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Leave Homeless on the Beach

November 01, 1987

As a resident of the Venice beachfront, I would like to offer support for the use of the beach as a campground for the homeless. I truly cannot think of a better place for them. It is beautiful, empty, has public bathrooms and is eminently suited for camping.

I feel that the situation of the homeless is far better on the Venice and Santa Monica beaches than it would be elsewhere, and their encampment really does not disturb anyone. Would not most of us prefer to be camping on the beach than to be in a dreary shelter on a night-by-night basis?

Since the establishment of the campsite, the homeless have disappeared from benches under the beach pagodas, where they used to look quite miserable. Indeed, some have come up with extremely innovative shelters on the sand.

It disturbs me greatly to see homelessness become an aesthetic rather than a humanitarian issue. It is wrong to advocate getting rid of homeless people because they are not pleasing for richer people to look at.

In the Westside article (Times, Oct. 25), Pierre Denerome complained that he had lost clientele at his beachfront restaurant, Lands End, because of the homeless camped nearby. I have been a patron of Lands End ever since I can remember and it has always been one of my favorite restaurants in Venice. However, the one thing that has turned me off about the restaurant has been Mr. Denerome's harsh remarks about and to the homeless, which started years before the current situation.

I have heard complaints that the homeless attract crime. The solution to this problem is not to remove the homeless, but to give them police protection, like any other citizens. Once again, we must fight against the human impulse to blame the victim.

I think that a constructive solution would be to provide social services (including job counseling and community mental health facilities), medical services, police services, clothing and food to this group of homeless. I am sure that this would be less expensive to the city than having, in addition, to provide shelter.

At the same time, there could be regulation of issues such as drugs and garbage, which are valid concerns of the surrounding community and, I am sure, of the homeless themselves. Because Venice is a very diverse community, there are plenty of people in a position to contribute food, clothing and a good word to these people. We must all stretch ourselves to make sure that we are good neighbors to what Carol Berman has termed our "neighbors without walls."



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