Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Homeless Encampment Near Whole Foods Market in Venice, Lives On Legal Limbo

Does the land belong to the City or to the market? No one's sure, so no one clears them

Directly to the West of the Whole Foods Market on Lincoln and Rose lies a strip of land that looks like a sidewalk. A rather wide sidewalk, crowded with a dozen or so tents pitched, and homeless people strumming guitars, chatting or sleeping.

The 50 or so homeless people living on the 7th Avenue strip are mostly unaware that they are the beneficiaries of a legally ambiguous situation. "It's legal to camp on this sidewalk" said Roger, a 26 year old man with glasses staying in a tent on the property. He had no doubt his small community violated no law by camping on this particular sidewalk.

The shopping center houses several stores other than Whole Foods, including a laundromat and a CVS pharmacy. Its owners rent to the Amazon owned grocery chain. However they believe that it is part of the City of Los Angeles easement to maintain the Seventh Avenue sidewalk. The City of LA however, considers the land to be private property, hence outside their jurisdiction.

Since homeless people encamp beyond the fence that practically speaking defines the Western border of the shopping center, WFM apparently does not view the homeless people as their concern. It's unclear who should clear or maintain the sidewalk, so no one does.

As Westside rents have skyrocketed, more and more people have found themselves unable to afford adequate housing. Some are unwilling to work 40 hours a week, just to pay rent. A one bedroom in Venice rents for $2700, twice what it did seven years ago. Across Seventh Avenue from the homeless encampment are houses that rent for $5000 a month for 3 bedrooms.

It is often noted that Amazon Inc owns Whole Foods Market, and that their founder and biggest shareholder is the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos. In effect, Bezos pays the rent for the sidewalk on which Venice's homeless dwell.

Wikipedia defines "Homelessness" as "the circumstance when people are without a permanent dwelling, such as a house or apartment. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing."

Some point out that local homeless people, many of them anyway, have adopted that lifestyle voluntarily, because they find it less stressful than working a low wage job to pay high rents.


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