Camp: The space near the Venice library has been cleared of campers. Clara Harter

Notorious among Venice residents for its fires, fights and a shooting incident, the approximately sixty tent encampment at Centennial Park is now no more. 

Following an intensive outreach period, all unhoused residents accepted temporary housing placements or left the area by the end of the day on June 13.

The intervention is spearheaded by the Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office and the outreach work is being led by St. Joseph’s Center, a homeless service provider that has been engaging with park dwellers since the encampment took root in November 2021. 

“The Mayor’s Office is currently leading a housing operation in the park and the Abbot Kinney Memorial Library, which are closing for repairs after engagement efforts and housing placements conclude this week,” said Press Secretary Harrison Wollman. “Outreach began in March of this year, and as of May 31st, everyone living in the park has been offered housing and services.”

According to data from St. Joseph’s Center, of the 66 people who left the park, 41 moved into interim housing. Housing placements are split into 33 motel placements, six Project Roomkey placements, one bridge home placement and one shared housing placement. 

An area cleaning by LA City Sanitation is scheduled to take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 14 and paper notices of the cleaning were delivered by hand to campers and posted around the park. LAPD, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the Department of Parks and Recreation are also part of the collaborative intervention.

The encampment started out as a handful of tents pitched on the grassy median of Venice Boulevard in front of the Abbot Kinney Memorial Library. For residents who have watched the encampment and its related issues grow over the past nine months, the ongoing intervention is a welcome relief. 

“I am pleasantly surprised that action is being taken… and I hope that they’re getting the support that they needed and that it won’t just be moved to another area of town, the encampment, but also I hope that they stay on top of it and don’t let it happen again,” said Linda Martinek, President of Friends of the Venice Library, a nonprofit organization that fundraises to support library programming.

The Friends of the Venice Library and the library itself have ceased all in-person programming and special events due to safety concerns. According to Martinek, the library has had significant staff turnover and often inconsistent opening hours as staff members have requested to transfer to different branches following verbal, and at times, physical assault by park dwellers. 

“I know the security guard has had problems with people either not wearing their masks and then getting mad and attacking her, and I think it was the janitor whose car was almost hijacked, and staff, especially the senior librarian, they receive death threats almost every day and it’s awful,” said Martinek. “I’m sad for those working conditions that they’re under.”

The encampment has become a dangerous area not just for residents and library staff, but also for the unhoused individuals living there. 

“It’s a very dangerous, volatile situation where people are getting hurt. There’s a lot of fights that go on; you see them because we see the videos from neighbors,” said Connie Brooks, local resident and Board Member of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District. “They’re not pleasant places to live, especially as time goes on, and I feel strongly that we need to help everyone.”

A near-fatal shooting incident took place at the park at 3:15 a.m. on Feb. 14 and left one homeless individual with a severe leg injury. On the night of May 27, a tent pitched against the library burst into flames, ignited a palm tree, and was only stopped from spreading to the building by a speedy LAFD response. 

Following the conclusion of the Encampment to Home program, Centennial Park will be closed to the public while the Mayor’s Office oversees a repair and restoration project. The Friends of the Venice Library are asking for a fence to be placed around the library’s immediate periphery to prevent a similar phenomenon from taking place again.