Los Angeles, COVID, and a homeless beach tent city

Venice Beach in Los Angeles is known for its relaxed, tolerant lifestyle.

There were once a few people living in tents along the city's famous boardwalk.

However, the pandemic fuelled the rise of Americans without housing.

Now, the tents are a city of their own, just one example of a growing displaced population in Los Angeles.

City authorities eased rules and allowed people to sleep along the beachfront, while officials worried that dispersing communities would spread COVID-19.

Kenard Durr works as a vendor on Venice Beach and was once without housing himself.

He says he's never seen the issue balloon like this in three decades of being there.

“When COVID hit, it was a whole different ball game, maybe like ten times, ten times the amount of homeless people. There had never been homeless on the hill, on the grass, to the point that the locals are like, hey, what's going on?”

With an influx of people migrating to the beach, conditions have grown worse.

Venice officials looked to another LA neighborhood, Echo Park, for solutions.

Last month, a city initiative offered shelter to a nearly 200-person encampment there and virtually all of them accepted, but those who declined faced a removal operation, with police officers clearing structures and tents, despite protesters flooding Echo Park to stop them.

Venice city councilman Mike Bonin says the focus should be on finding housing, not police action.

“Let's work on getting the damn housing and get people housed. If you are talking about hundreds of police officers in riot gear, coming and taking over a neighborhood, arresting people and closing off a major public park in the city of Los Angeles, then no, I'm not in favor of that at all."

Not everyone agrees.

Mark Ryavec is a Venice Beach activist and advisor who believes Echo Park should be a model.

“Why are they not doing it here and bringing this park back to public use and helping all of these people? You know, we have assaults and fires and some deaths out here routinely. They all need that help, and the public would like this back. It should never been allowed to slide and get into this terrible condition."

The question remains how Los Angeles can relocate tens of thousands of people without trampling their rights.

On Monday, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed one step: a nearly $1 billion budget to provide beds for those who need them.

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