Many of the unhoused people lived near the 405 Freeway underpass on Venice Boulevard have waited years for permanent housing and services.

They had also been living through what has been called a “campaign of harassment” from the city of Los Angeles, which has conducted multiple sweeps there in recent weeks, requiring people to dismantle their encampments, often with police present to ensure they do so.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the 29th “Inside Safe” operation led by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s office in that area, with about 50 people removed from the encampment. They were taken to interim shelters or permanent housing. However, many did not know where they were going before they got on the city buses there to transport them. Soon after the Inside Safe operation, Culver City set up a fence on their side of the freeway underpass, and Los Angeles city put up a notice saying a major sweep was planned for their side. 

It is taken for granted that housed people can reasonably demand basic details about upcoming operations or projects that will drastically affect their lives. But unhoused people are typically given little information, let alone a say, about what happens next to them — even though, given their precarious situations, small mistakes can typically lead to more significant consequences, and they have the most to lose if something like an Inside Safe operation is not successful.

It’s been 10 months since Bass started conducting Inside Safe operations, and today about 10% of Inside Safe participants are in “permanent” housing, according to a data prepared by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) as part of an Oct. 13 report to the City Council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee. (The data begins on page 13 of the Oct. 13 report.) 

This analysis of the data argues, however, that only 2% of the housing counted by LAHSA as “permanent” is actually permanent, since the majority of people were placed in “time-limited subsidies”, a short-term financial assistance previously known as “rapid re-housing,” that runs out in a few, usually two, years.

A higher percentage, 15%, are homeless again, according to LAHSA’s figures.

The encampment straddles the border of Culver City and the city of Los Angeles. One man, formerly a constituent of the Los Angeles side, now on the Culver City side, said he wishes public officials would reach out more to people in encampments and talk to them more directly. Culver City has an anti-camping law, but officials there have so far held off on carrying it out as they work on creating an encampment clearing protocol that can meet constitutional standards.

Sebastian Hernandez, a volunteer with Palms Unhoused Mutual Aid (PUMA), described the recent string of sweeps on the LA side of the Venice and Globe encampment, as a “campaign of harassment.”

In sweep operations, residents typically only have 15 minutes to pack up everything they have and leave. 

Given it’s cross border placement, the encampment was in an area represented by LA city councilmembers Katy Yaroslavsky and Traci Park, and Culver City’s mayor and council. Two weeks ago, LA Public Press spoke to one unhoused constituent of these politicians, just before the city of Los Angeles posted a notice of a “sweep” to clear all belongings and tents on the boulevard — something that usually results in the city throwing out many of people’s most important belongings.

This constituent said there should be more advanced notice, beyond just the three days, as well as more of an “open dialogue” so encampment residents can better understand what the “agenda” is going to be.

“These are people’s lives,” he said. “I mean, aren’t you at all curious?”

The city of Los Angeles, which has jurisdiction of the streets on one side of the encampment, posted a notice for a major sweep that had been scheduled for Oct. 18. It was downgraded to a trash-pickup. Palms Unhoused Mutual Aid volunteers had been questioning if there was a plan and asked for more details about the sweep, which was being scheduled amid a severe shortage of affordable housing. (Photo by Elizabeth Chou, LAPP)

LA Public Press interviewed this constituent on Oct. 9, just before the City of Los Angeles posted a “major sweep” notice scheduled for Oct. 18 that would have required people remove their tents for several hours. That operation was later downgraded to trash pick-up, and then the encampment became the site for an Inside Safe operation on Oct. 24. 

This interview has been edited down for clarity:

Q: So as far as you know, like, what information is actually out there that is useful for you to know about what’s going to happen in the next week or so?

A: I’ve been told, as far as information, well when they do the flier sometimes, they tell us, like, ‘Okay, in three days, we will come out, you know do a city clean up, it’s going to be a major cleanup or minor clean-up,’ whatever.

And basically, the difference is, a minor cleaned up, next week, you know what I’m saying, you put all your trash onto the street. That’s on the LA side. If it’s going to be a major clean up, ‘We’re throwing out your tents, we’re throwing out everything. You’re going to get 15 minutes, get up and get out.’ You know what I’m saying?

Anything you can get out in 15 minutes you can keep, anything else goes in the trash, no matter what. But I mean, over here on this side — on the Culver City — it’s a little different, they run it differently. It’s usually like a Tuesday or something like that. And it’s a lot more easier to process, because they expect you to bring out anything you don’t want, throw it out on the street, whatever you want to keep throw it on the curb. Then you go back to your lives, you know? So it’s a little, I don’t know, a little more human, I guess.

Q: What kind of big questions do you think [public officials] need to answer about what’s going on?

A: Well, if they’re making plans, you would think they would try to like, communicate that, it seems like, with a little more advanced notice than like three days, you know? In consideration … just open dialogue, understanding their agenda and everything … But I mean, these are people’s lives. I mean, aren’t you at all curious? I always say.

Q: Yeah, yeah. I mean, they probably learned a lot of things they would have wanted to try to improve, right? Or avoid.

A: Ideas come from everywhere right? It seems like talking with somebody, even for one afternoon, could help us bring our understanding closer, maybe we’ll be able to assist them without any harmful outcome to anybody, or even as a bridge to, you know what I’m saying, to a better future.

Q: Have you seen public officials kind of screw up because they didn’t try to do more dialogue?

A: All the time, all the time. With public officials, we never really hear or see them, really interacting with everyday, regular people. Everything is a little more structured. I’m not saying it’s any individual’s fault. The process itself has its boundaries. We all need to do what we can do, to reach out to the next person.

Q: Yeah, it sounds like maybe they need to be more responsive and more communicative of what people are saying to them?

A: Also, I’m sure they can employ somebody. I mean, there’s a lot of people who will volunteer to do it for free, just to pass on information coming from City Council — ideas. It’s not so hard to say, ‘Hey, Miss Jenkins, how are you doing? What’s going on with this, what’s going on with that? Would you like your trash getting picked up?’ Just something, you know what I mean? Is there anything I can do to make things a little easier for you and me? Something. I don’t know.

Q: Yeah, exactly.

A: Don’t think the answer is going to be so outrageous, that the other side would be totally opposed to it. No answer is going to be so outrageous that it’s going to be insulting to anybody. In fact I think it’s probably going to be really, really, probably, common sense.

Q: Are you worried at all that they may try to take the easy way out? Like do you think they’ll go try to do more enforcement, versus like actually trying to help people? Do you feel like they might take a shortcut and just… 

A: It’s a realistic concern, yeah. It is a very, very realistic concern. I’m mean, they’ve done stuff like this before, in the past. And, just this past cleanup, watching across, from over here, from watching across the street, I watched the cops trying to restrain a lady, a female. Basically she’s coming from Sepulveda, this way so, and she was walking irate. They already got the tape around …  as if it were a crime scene. You know she’s irate, and once she stormed past, the police took her stuff, you know and they all pretty much gang-tackled her, three guys on one female, you know. Like they had her handcuffed, and sitting there. Like okay, ‘We could take your ass to jail, but I won’t take you to jail, but before we do that, sit here and watch us destroy your life.’

Q: I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on that. I know it’s a serious matter, what they’re talking about doing.

A: I hope some people take it seriously, more so than others, you know, and realize we are human beings that deserve to live, you know what I’m saying? And everybody deserves to live a basic, good life.

Q: It really shouldn’t be happening that commonly, you know? It’s wrong.

A: It shouldn’t even be a topic, huh?

Q: I know right? I’d rather be doing something else.

A: For real.

Q: Thank you so much. And is it alright if I put your name on the story. It’s up to you, if you’re okay with that. I can also just leave it out. Maybe have a first name or …

A: … I’m not interested in any kind of credit.

Elizabeth has been on the local government beat since 2006, and likes making her friends take public transportation for her birthday.