Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Down and out

When wracked by insomnia at 3 am, I comfort myself by thinking how lucky I am to be lying in a comfortable bed under a solid roof - safe, warm, and secure.

I'm just finishing up Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge, in which the 12-year-old Mosca Mye spends much of her time cold, hungry and certainly homeless.  In Holly Goldberg Sloan's I'll Be There, brothers Sam and Riddle aren't exactly homeless, but one can't really say they have a real home either.  And in Tim Wynne-Jones' Blink & Caution, two teens are living very rough indeed.

We've always had a large homeless population in Venice, but it seems to have gotten bigger or at least more visible over the last few months.  During my daily early morning run on Ocean Front Walk, I've seen the number of sleeping bags and encampments double, treble - and now it's quite astounding.  And by 7:30 am, the sleeping bags are rolled up and folks have melted into our usual summer crowds.

Many of these sleeping folks are young, and some are clearly teens.  It's uncomfortable at best and terrifyingly dangerous at worst.  Great organizations like the Los Angeles Youth Network help some youth but not all.

Libraries can provide daytime shelter from the elements, computers, non-judgmental librarians, information, and policies that allow homeless teens to get some form of library card (even one that just lets them get online and perhaps check out a limited number of items).  Because the issue is clearly not going away.

I shot this video while biking along the Ocean Front Walk at 6:30 am this morning.


  1. Great sobering post and thanks for the (sad) video.

  2. OMG. This is heart-breaking. I'd suggest you send it to our Councilman, but he'd probably just initiate some kind of crackdown or cleanup that doesn't address the real issues here.

  3. Chilling and sad! Especially the portion where they have all the umbrellas set up... it looks like a tent city.

    This problem seems so intractable... we have a large homeless population at my library and it is exhausting, dealing with their needs on a daily basis. Most are mentally ill and/or drug addicted. Asking people to leave because of their smell is not uncommon.

    I was at a social gathering recently, and was laughing with a librarian friend about the antics that the crack whores have been up to lately. Onlookers were horrified to see us speaking so callously, but honestly, you get inured to it after a while. I'm amazed at how most people completely insulate themselves from the homeless - it's just not part of their daily consciousness.