Published On: Wed, Jun 23rd, 2021

Los Angeles County sheriff urges leaders to declare state of emergency over homeless crisis


Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Wednesday defended his move to dispatch deputies into a busy Los Angeles neighborhood while asking local leaders to declare a state of emergency to combat the region’s homeless crisis.

In a news conference, Villanueva asked the county Board of Supervisors to issue the declaration as the homeless issue, specifically in Los Angeles’ Venice Beach neighborhood, continues to worsen. With a declaration, the county would be able to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

Homeless outreach teams with the sheriff’s department were recently dispatched to Venice to address an influx of homeless encampments along the area’s famous boardwalk near the beach. The area is under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

RESIDENTS IN LOS ANGELES’ VENICE NEIGHBORHOOD FRUSTRATED OVER LARGE HOMELESS ENCAMPMENT, SHOOTINGS, STABBINGS

Videos uploaded daily to social media show homeless people along the beach fighting, harassing passersby and, in some cases, setting fires and committing violent crimes. Residents and business owners have complained of unsanitary conditions and a dangerous environment as encampments continued to expand amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Do I want to be in Venice? Of course not,” Villanueva said. “Do I have to be there? Yes because the system, the way it’s set up, and the architects of this failed plan are forcing us to take a different approach.”

He blasted Los Mayor Eric Garcetti and all five county supervisors, whom he called the “architects of failure,” for hampering the LAPD in preventing people from camping on the beach and sidewalk. 

Homeless encampments line the boardwalk on Venice Beach in Los Angeles. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Homeless encampments line the boardwalk on Venice Beach in Los Angeles. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
(Reuters)

“What’s the number one failure of local government, at the county and city level? he asked. “Why every measure fails? We see the problem get bigger and bigger every year, because the city and county decided they will not regulate public space. When you don’t regulate public space, it will be occupied by somebody from somewhere.”

Los Angeles City Councilmen Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice Beach, said Tuesday that he was committed to removing homeless encampments from the boardwalk by August. Beginning Monday, housing services will be offered in an effort to relocate up to 200 people, he said.

“The current situation is intolerable, and we must end it. Nobody deserves to live, or die, on the street; and all Angelenos should be able to enjoy our neighborhoods, beaches, and parks,” Bonin said in a statement. “We can do better, and this program creates a model for bringing people together to house those in need and reopen our public spaces, using a humane and proven approach.”

In 2020, a homeless count showed a 12.7% rise in homelessness despite an increase in the number of people being housed, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

Villanueva also defended his decision to move his deputies into Los Angeles, saying his responsibility is to “preserve peace” while political forces have “handcuffed the LAPD.”

Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department's HOST, Homeless Outreach Service Team, walk with a homeless man in Venice Beach. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department’s HOST, Homeless Outreach Service Team, walk with a homeless man in Venice Beach. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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In a previous statement to Fox News, the LAPD said it was “committed to working with all of our public safety partner agencies and elected officials to improve the safety of our communities, including efforts to increase outreach and provide needed housing and supportive services in the Venice Beach community and elsewhere.”

Fox News reached out to the Los Angeles County mayor’s office, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department but did not hear back. 



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