California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder laid out his plan to address homelessness after his walk-through of a homeless encampment in Venice was cut short due to harassment and attacks from protesters on Sept. 8. Elder was invited to tour the homeless encampments by Venice Beach residents.
While Elder was joined by 30 media personnel and members of the public as he toured the homeless encampments on Rose Ave., a group of protesters shouted insults and hurled projectiles, including eggs. A member of Elder’s security detail attempted to stop a woman in a pink gorilla mask from throwing eggs; she struck the security guard, who was struck by another person moments later.
Elder’s staff cut his walk-through short and escorted him into a white SUV; press members departed in a bus and met up with Elder to continue the press conference later.
“I didn’t expect there to be a ticker-tape parade when I came here,” Elder later told the press in response to a question about the protesters. “Regarding the racist attacks? Please. I’ve been in the public eye for almost 40 years; I’ve been called worse by better. It comes with the territory.”
Venice resident and Venice Neighborhood Council Chairwoman Soledad Ursua, who invited Elder to tour the encampments, said she thought the harassment at the walk-through proved her point about homelessness in the neighborhood.
“Assault and violence is the norm. Larry Elder walked one day in the lives of a Venice resident,” Ursua tweeted after the attack.
Health and Moral Crisis
Elder spoke to The Epoch Times about addressing homelessness in California.
“Look, it’s a hard problem. People are angry, people are mad. Many of them are mentally ill. This is a problem that’s been festering and growing worse under Gavin Newsom,” he said.
Elder said mental health problems are the reason many people are on the streets in the first place.
“A percentage of [the homeless] that you saw are schizophrenic. These are people who are a danger to themselves and to others, and they need to be literally removed from the streets for themselves, and for the protection of the rest of the homeless population,” Elder said.
“And for the rest of us, this is a health crisis. It’s a moral crisis. And it needs to be solved, and it can be solved,” he said.
Venice resident Rick Swinger agreed that homelessness in Los Angeles posed a health crisis to residents. He told The Epoch Times that the increased use of meth and fentanyl among the homeless contributes to mental health issues faced among the homeless population.
“When [people] shoot up this meth, they have minor tremors, or minor strokes, and they’re not even aware of it, but their short-term memory goes, and then they just keep shooting up,” Swinger said.
In encampments, Swinger also said the human waste in the gutters drains into the oceans; the waste also attracts rodents and fleas, who carry diseases and find their way into nearby Venice residences.
Venice resident Chie Lunn, a teacher at the Realm Creative Academy, told The Epoch Times she used to make a point to teach her students empathy when encountering a homeless person. She taught them to give their extra snacks to the homeless people, or have them earn money to buy clothes for the homeless and hand them out.
Now, however, Lunn said she can no longer safely take her students on field trips because of the number of homeless people on drugs such as meth and fentanyl in the surrounding area.
“The difference now [with the drugs meth and fentanyl] is that it’s altering the way they’re thinking,” Lunn said. Before, she said, the unhoused people they encountered were aware of the children and encouraged the students to listen to their teachers.
“The last time we went, the violence and the lack of awareness that children were there made it [unsafe] and made it hard for the children to learn empathy,” Lunn said. “And [the students] are like, well, I just can’t stand to see that person. Why is he there? What’s going on?”
Mental Health and Affordable Housing
There is a tension between Los Angeles officials who believe the solution to homelessness is providing housing and services, and others who believe it’s regulation of encampments and strict reinforcement.
Elder said he thinks the solution is an “all of the above” approach.
“Well, all I know is that in the city of Houston, they have no encampment attitude. And they are building a low-cost house when you’re feeding people and putting them in low-cost housing. And they don’t have the same problem that we’re having right here.”
Elder spoke earlier in the week with Dr. Ben Carson, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who had a plan before the end of the previous administration to build housing on federal land at a fraction of the cost of the houses built now. Elder said he would declare a state of emergency on homelessness in the state, which would allow him to suspend the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) so he would be able to rapidly build the low-cost housing on federal land; the California Department of General Services previously evaluated 44,000 areas of federal land in the state as affordable housing opportunity sites.
Elder said people on the streets should be treated for their mental illnesses, then placed in the housing built on federal land. Part of his plan to address homelessness also includes lowering taxes so people have more money to donate to causes.
“Government has proved itself to be ineffective in dealing with the mentally ill. Nonprofits can do it, community activists can do it, churches can do it, synagogues can do it, mosques can do it. They need to have the money, they need to have the resources, but not with government, because government always comes with strings attached,” Elder said.
The California Republican Party has declined to endorse a candidate. However, as of Sept. 9, a FiveThirtyEight poll estimates that 54.7 percent of participants will vote “no” on the recall, while 41.7 people will vote “yes” to recall Newsom. The same poll put Elder as the leading recall candidate, with 26 percent of the votes.