Family’s Scare Highlights Unresolved Homeless Issues In Venice

VENICE (CBSLA.com) — Jacqui Battaglia will likely never forget the night a stranger charged head-first into her glass door in Venice.

It was last April, she says, when the single mother of two and her young daughters awoke to the sounds of a man’s screams from outside their home.

Battaglia said she looked out her window and she saw a man go right through their glass door and up the stairs.

No matter how hard she tries to forget, she says the images will always haunt her.

“There was not only smashed glass everywhere. His blood was everywhere,” Battaglia said. “From floor to ceiling. There was just blood everywhere.”

Battaglia recalls running and getting her kids out of bed.

“I ran. Got my kids out of bed. Got my cellphone. And ran for my back door,” she recalled.

The terrified family called 911 from a neighbor’s house, where they could hear the man tear their home apart.

“He went into the bathroom and he pulled out our two-pedestal sinks by his bare hands,” Battaglia said. “I believe he was on drugs. He just randomly picked our house to target.”

Battaglia shudders to think of what could have happened had her family not escaped in time.

“It had been so close for my kids and I,” she said.

Battaglia said the homeless man is in a mental hospital. She has since moved to Santa Monica.

“As much as I love Venice, as much as I wanted to say in Venice, I just couldn’t guarantee our safety there,” she said.

But as CBS2’s Peter Daut reports, her story is not unique to Venice.

In September, a young woman climbed onto the roof of her home to evade an intruder, also believed to be homeless.

The man was seen in images that made international headlines on the roof. He was arrested.

“People are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their homes, and that’s been shattered,” Mark Ryavec, the president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, told Daut.

Ryavec claims that the area surrounding the famous boardwalk is turning into a “lawless skid row” and is full of trash, drugs and violence.

Ryavec says not enough is being done to stop it.

“The word on the street throughout the country is ‘It’s really easy to be homeless on the beach in Venice,’ ” Ryavec said.

The association is suing the city and county of Los Angeles, alleging public officials have allowed dangerous conditions in Venice by failing to enforce no-camping rules. Residents want more officers and resources to help the homeless find housing.

“It is not acceptable, and that’s why we’re suing, because frankly nobody was listening,” Ryavec said.

A 2006 court ruling known as the Jones settlement was meant as a temporary solution to the homeless problem until L.A. could find a permanent fix.

The ruling stemming from Jones v. City of Los Angeles allowed the homeless to sleep on public sidewalks at night.

Daut reports that nearly a decade later, little has been done to satisfy the city’s requirement of creating 1,250 more beds in permanent housing.

L.A.’s homeless population, in the meantime, has grown to an estimated 54,000, and hundreds are finding their way to Venice.

“I’ve known people that have been cut. People that have been killed,” said Ron Dinkins, a homeless man.

Dinkins says most of the homeless are not dangerous and are just in need of a safe place to live. But, he says, he and other transients in Venice also have concerns for their safety.

“The police need to up their game. They really need to up their game here. It’s too dangerous,” Dinkins said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, does not support the lawsuit but agrees with residents that changes are overdue.

“Enough is not being done from either law enforcement or the social services perspective,” Bonin said.

Bonin said he recently sent a letter to LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck asking for more officers to patrol the area.

“I think Venice has been underserved by the number of cops that we have here,” he said.

CBS2 reached out to LAPD officials several times by phone and email. They declined to comment. To read Bonin’s letter to Beck, click here.

More from Peter Daut
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