Despite widespread objections from elected officials, community nonprofits, homeless service providers and advocates over the last few weeks, the LA County Sheriff has not backed away from his threat to “clear” the Venice Boardwalk of unhoused individuals by July 4. A broad group of community leaders has issued the following statement calling for the Sheriff to permit seasoned and knowledgeable agencies to lead efforts to link people experiencing homelessness to services and housing without the disruptive impact of law enforcement:

Homelessness cannot be solved by pushing people from one community to another, nor can we arrest our way out of homelessness.

That is why we are deeply concerned by Sheriff Villanueva’s assertion that he will ask people living on the Boardwalk to move, and if they refuse, arrest them. Pushing people from one community to another doesn’t solve homelessness. It turns homelessness into a shell game.

Arrests that criminalize homelessness would be equally destructive and pointless: Those who are arrested will be transported from the Venice Boardwalk to the jail downtown and then released; Those who elude arrest will disappear into the surrounding Venice neighborhoods, disrupting months-long efforts by outreach workers to establish relationships and maintain contact with people experiencing homelessness so they can be re-housed.

Research validates our approach. Studies demonstrate that outreach efforts led by armed law enforcement officers are less effective than outreach led by service providers with the expertise and experience to connect people to appropriate services and housing. With the launch of the Encampment to Home, we have the resources to substantially augment the services and rehousing efforts for those who live on the Boardwalk.

By inserting himself into the Venice Boardwalk re-housing efforts, The Sheriff is engaging in political theater in a community where LAPD has primary jurisdiction. The Sheriff’s Department was not invited by LAPD to provide services of any kind at the Boardwalk, and Sheriff Villanueva’s actions will only prolong the time it takes to move individuals into housing, an outcome that does not serve anyone in the community, housed or unhoused.

Signed, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, LA County District Attorney George Gascon, LA County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, LA County Alternate Public Defender Erika Anzoategui, LA City Councilman Mike Bonin, LA Homeless Services Authority, Safe Place for Youth, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Venice Catholic Worker, Venice Community Housing Corporation, Venice Equity Alliance, Venice Family Clinic, Venice Justice Committee.