VENICE (CBSLA) – As a political turf war over what to do about the growing homelessness crisis on the Venice Beach Boardwalk heats up, Councilman Mike Bonin announced plans this week to respond to the urgent safety needs of the housed and unhoused alike.

Starting Monday, Bonin’s office, along with the St. Joseph Center, will send out teams to counsel people living in the Venice homeless encampments, provide mental health care and, ultimately, he says, house nearly 200 people in six weeks.

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“What people misunderstand is I don’t think we can fathom what it’s like to be without a home,” said Reverend Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row.

A spike in homeless-related fires, attacks on street performers and, most recently, a murder in the tents along the boardwalk are drawing outrage.

While the solution to these problems is less than clear, Reverend Bales believes in a soft touch.

“It needs to be a gentle, caring, loving, compassionate approach while protecting everyone from criminal behavior, both unhoused, especially the unhoused…the unhoused and the housed,” Bales said.

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Two weeks ago, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva arrived in Venice, saying he was going to take matters into his own hands, a statement that caught the attention and praise of some residents. The sheriff’s outreach program has reportedly housed around 15 people so far.

Marisol Arighetti is among locals looking for help with the homelessness crisis wherever they can get it.

“I see a lot of war at this moment…between the people that support Bonin, the people who are against Bonin and for me, it’s about that,” she says. “This is like the worst in everywhere I’ve been. I’ve lived in South America. I’ve lived in Europe. This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

 

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