Crime & Justice

As police shooting sparks anger, early report shows homeless population in Venice has increased

Venice Beach has long been a refuge for the city's homeless.
Venice Beach has long been a refuge for the city's homeless.
Rebecca Hill/KPCC

The shooting of an unarmed homeless man by police this week comes as preliminary numbers seem to show an increase in the number of homeless there, according to city officials. 

"I think we're going to see about a thousand people living on the streets or in their cars, which would be a pretty sharp increase for us in Venice," said Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, referring to preliminary numbers from a biennial count of homeless in Los Angeles. The full report is due out Monday.

The last count in 2013 turned up 1,327 homeless in Bonin's entire Council District 11, which encompasses  not just Venice but also large swaths of the west side. 

Los Angeles is one of the least affordable cities in the nation and Bonin said it doesn't have enough temporary shelter.

While Venice has long been a refuge for the homeless, residents said they've noticed an increase since the financial downturn.

"There was a big uptick after the 2008 debacle when people lost their homes," said Sylvia Aroth, who sits on the local neighborhood council. "There's been a bit of a laissez faire attitude here towards them than in other communities, where they're just sent to jail."

Paul Hibler, who's lived in Venice for a decade, said he'd like to see the growing population addressed - but not pushed out.

"I'm not against homeless people, I'm against homelessness," he said. "I don't say make it somebody else's problem. It's all of our problem."

Friends said Brendon Glenn had only been living on the streets of Venice for about a month when he was shot by an LAPD officer Tuesday.

LAPD Charlie Beck has said he's "very concerned" about the shooting, which took place about 11:30 pm and was caught by a nearby surveillance camera. 

At a public forum about the shooting Thursday night in Venice, residents booed city officials who tried to assuage the crowd with promises of an investigation.

"As in other cities where there's been an incident with an officer-involved shooting, it also exposes other issues in a community," Bonin said.

He said while developers benefit from local rules that allow special permitting for buildings that include affordable units, officials don't know if they go to the right people, he said.

"These units get abused," Bonin said. "Someone rents out the affordable unit to their nephew, who's a student at USC and works at Starbucks. So they meet the income qualification, but it's really not what it was meant for."

He's proposed linking affordable housing units in the city to a new database that prioritizes services for those who need them most.

That system, known as "coordinated entry," takes demographic information from homeless individuals, along with their specific service needs, and can link them with a bevy of services. But some have complained the program's emphasis on the most desperate is wrong-headed.

The city council's newly created committee on homelessness is expected to take up that proposal in the coming months.

Bonin said there's also a need for more shelter beds to get homeless a place to stay while they await more permanent housing.

Correction: A previous version of this story identified Brendon Glenn using an incorrect first name. KPCC regrets the error.