Now that the homeless are prohibited from camping overnight on Ocean Front Walk in Venice, many have migrated to other spots in the beach town. After numerous complaints about trash, city workers, accompanied by police, raided the new areas last month and confiscated unattended belongings, prompting a lawsuit from a civil rights attorney.
According to the suit, filed on behalf of 11 named homeless people, employees of the Los Angeles Police Department and the
Department of Public Works seized property found on 3rd Avenue in Venice that included birth certificates, food stamp eligibility cards, prescription medication, wallets with cash, and even laptop computers. Bystanders apparently insisted that the items had not been abandoned. Nevertheless, they were carted off to a landfill. After intervention from Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, some people were able to retrieve some of their belongings from the dump.
The city is currently barred by injunction from seizing the property of the homeless in the downtown skid row area, and rightly so. Nor is there any reason why officials should be able to sweep through Venice and collect the belongings of the homeless there. The bags and carts of street dwellers contain the essentials of their lives. People sometimes park their belongings on sidewalks while they go to shower or find a meal. Confiscating them is an unsatisfactory solution to the problem.