Abbot Kinney Blvd.

An Open Letter to the Community

By Deborah LaShever

Fellow Venetians,

I am a resident of Venice and a shop owner on Abbot Kinney. I am writing to you from my heart about our homeless crisis in Venice. It has come to my attention that a local man has been sending letters full of blatant lies and hate regarding the people in our community that sleep on our streets out of necessity.

In them he threatens Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl that if he does not clean things up in a week he will take matters into his own hands. That was late February.

Many of us are very concerned about these letters from this man who has reached out to many local people and organizations to spread his hateful spirit and personal agenda. They have leaked out and have now gone viral. That is how I, myself, happened to read them.

This hate has been spread throughout our beloved community and beyond. I am appalled at the tone of these letters and the support he is garnering from others inside and outside of Venice who are contacting Rosendahl in support of him and others like him.

Fellow Venetians, do not listen to hatemongers! We are better than that!

Instead of being part of a real solution to these problems, involving humans who desperately need our compassion and assistance, people like the man I refer to above are intent on harassing these citizens, who have human and civil rights exactly like we all do. I ask you from my heart, please stay out of this issue if you have nothing constructive to contribute. Do not support and contribute hate. This prejudice, greed and callousness is what is wrong with the world. Do not, yourself, perpetuate it! If this man, and all of us, will use our time assisting rather than being intent on discarding other human beings, we will find the joy of doing something for another rather than being people that live life self-seeking. And Venice and the world will be a richer place. And we will feel really good about ourselves and our lives.

I, like you, have a deep financial and personal investment in the welfare of Venice and I love Her as much as you do. I firmly believe that we need to create a good, solid solution that works for everyone. If it doesn’t work for everyone it does not work.

Just to let you know, others of us in Venice are currently working on a viable solution, to propose to Rosendahl in the next weeks, that is a compassionate and encompassing one. Let us do our work. Please stop involving yourselves if you are not intending to contribute to real solutions. Pushing these people around does nothing, as the history of the issue in Venice proves. If you want to help, wonderful! There’s a lot to do! If you have great ideas, fantastic!  We’d love to meet and talk with you, let’s incorporate them!

But instead of trying to help or going through proper channels, the man I am speaking of evidently took things into his own hands. Per Rosendahl’s office, on March 7, an “anonymous” call came in to the Department of Sanitation which began the raid, that occurred with police presence, on the street encampment off 3rd Ave. and Rose Avenue. This man’s own letters basically implicate him in being the one to start the raid on the 3rd Ave. encampment and the devastation of about 50 people who lost everything they had, which wasn’t much.

Lifesaving medication, which they have no money to replace, glasses and contact lenses, family photos that are irreplaceable, drivers licenses and social security cards, rain proof tarps, water, pet supplies, their artwork, their musical instruments, blankets and sleeping bags, books, journals, jackets–everything–was just taken away from them and thrown in garbage trucks to be hauled to the dump. I was out there myself, that very cold night after the raid, handing out blankets that were provided by the Legal Clinic on Rose for the victims. It was like a war zone. People were literally in shock.

Can you imagine if you came home and everything was gone? Everything you owned in the world was gone? And, you had no money to replace anything? What if it wasn’t a natural disaster that did this nor a war, but rather another person in your community? Do any of you really want to support that? Really?

For his own mean spirited and perceived personal gain, this man devastated 50 people’s lives and cost the city bad press and sorely needed money. He took police and city employees’ time for his own personal agenda. This is true criminal behavior. Sleeping on the sidewalk out of necessity is not. The LAPD and the Sanitation Department have better things to do for the whole community than to cater to the whims of one or two hard hearted people.  What did they gain, after all? Nothing. The un-housed are back on 3rd Ave because they have nowhere else to go. What did they lose? Everything. Literally everything. Every shred. And that is no exaggeration.

Why don’t people find out how they can help with this issue rather than spending their time making it worse? I hear so much lately about people being up in arms about bullying. Well, what the hell do you think actions like the 3rd Ave raid are? Not just bullying one-on-one, but bullying one part of our community by other parts of our community. That is really horrifying if you stand back and look at it.  There are other solutions. Resorting to this crap is just lazy and callous. Where is your humanity? For God’s sake! So you have money and a cool house in Venice, so what? You have no heart, so really, you have no class.

I believe Gandhi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members,” and Churchill said, “You measure the degree of civilization of a society by how it treats its weakest members.”

Listen, there are definitely problems surrounding this issue. Of course! No one would deny that! But we do not have to resort to barbarism! I completely stand for the fact that if anybody can find creative, humane solutions, Venice can. We are an incredible assortment of people with amazing talents and resources. We can absolutely do this. Yes, we are just that cool.

Apartheid is officially over in the entire country of South Africa. How hard could it be to stop social/economic apartheid in our small community?  It may help to remember that no matter how great things are going right now, you are just one small catastrophe away from you yourselves having to sleep out there on that cold, hard cement, shivering, hopeless. That’s how most of the people you see out there got there, one small catstrophe. And if it were you, think for a moment about how you would want to be treated? Worse than animals?

Good People of Venice, we must each take responsibility for how the most destitute among us is being treated. No longer can we stand by and let these injustices occur!  You would step in if you saw someone beating a dog wouldn’t you? (I know you would!) Then, eons worse, how can you let your community’s un-housed be abused time after time after time? Do not endorse this by doing nothing. Take a stand with me that we will no longer let this happen in our own community. We are better than this! We want a humane and compassionate solution that works for everyone in Venice. Call or email Bill Rosendahl today. It will take five minutes. Thank you! And I truly hope someone helps you when you are in need someday. Because, as you know, there are times in everyone’s life when they are needy in some way. Councilman Bill Rosendahl: 310-568-8772 or cd11.lacity.org.

Deborah LaShever is the owner of the Bohemian Exchange on Abbot Kinney Blvd.  

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