In response to Mayor Villaraigosa’s call this month for Los Angelenos to support the city’s campaign of pothole-filling, a group of Venice’s homeless community gathered on Thursday to record and report potholes in the neighborhood.
The group of homeless activists and local residents gathered on the sidewalk in front of the “Binoculars Building” in an effort to seek broader Venice support for the local homeless population. They spent almost two hours recording the neighborhood’s potholes.
The idea was the brainchild of David Ewing, Barbara Peck and David Busch. Busch is in his mid-50s and has been homeless since 1992, carries a cell phone and is one of the founders of Venice Community Unity. Venice Community Unity aims to dispel the increasingly negative perception of the homeless population, Busch said.
Busch has lived in Southern California all of his life. Born in the San Gabriel Valley, he sees Venice as the last integrated beach community in Los Angeles. “Venice is an artist colony and place of freedom,” Busch said. “We are trying to preserve this community.”
Although Busch said most residents are supportive of the artistic and free spirit Venice is known for, “There are a few vocal folks that threaten the city with lawsuits and call the police department complaining about car parking.”
Another homeless activist named Godfather joined the effort on Thursday. He spent 25 years of his life as a contractor, but when the “depression” hit he began to live in his vehicle and now survives on $950/month. He has seen many of his friends descend into poverty as well. “The pain of what’s happening is not on the lower level. It’s the middle class,” Godfather said. “It’s devastating for parents to move into a tent. It’s devastating for teenagers to lose their sense of reality and life.”
David Ewing, a organizer of the event and Venice homeowner who has lived in the community for 34 years, saw the event as a chance for the local homeless and residents to do something together to make a positive statement. “Instead of pointing fingers at each other, we’re pointing out potholes to help fix our neighborhood,” Ewing said.
“People don’t realize the homeless have a tough time surviving as homeless. They are subjected to assaults, their vehicles have threats written on them, gravel poured in their gas tanks, windows broken,” Ewing said.
Ewing and Busch both mentioned Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Roadmap to Housing when discussing the issue of RVs in Venice. Roadmap to Housing is a program that aims to help people living in their cars or campers on the streets find permanent housing. Rosendahl has proposed eight spaces at Penmar Golf Course.
Ewing lives near the course and expressed that his neighbors are concerned about allowing the RVs to settle permanently at the golf course, and Busch said that eight spaces were not enough.
After the walk, a dinner was served in the community room of Venice Community Housing, a non-profit organization that offers affordable housing and skills training.