Villanueva held a public community meeting in Granada Hills on Aug. 12, where he and others from the department’s Homeless Outreach and Mental Evaluation teams and the Narcotics Bureau spoke about homelessness and public safety.
Currently, there are more than 66,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles County, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in 2020. LAHSA recorded a 12.7 percent increase in homeless numbers in 2020.
Some say that the solution to homelessness in the county is to enforce regulation of public space; to others, the solution is to provide resources and temporary or permanent housing.
Villanueva said during the meeting that it is the responsibility of the government to regulate public space.
“What we’re learning is that our political institutions are responsible for the homeless crisis as we see it today,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva said he identified Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council, and the five members of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors as “architects of failure.”
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles city council voted 13-2 to ban homeless encampments in public areas after a lack of regulation caused an outcry among residents who said they saw an increase in trash, pollution, and violence, particularly in Venice Beach. Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman, the two dissenting votes, argued that the approach to homelessness should be centered on providing resources and housing rather than regulation.
Villanueva, however, denounced the idea of “permanent housing” as a solution to homelessness.
“The only thing you’re doing when you declare we’re going to house the unhoused with permanent housing is two things—one, enabling dependency, and two, normalizing deviancy,” he said.
Since the governor is responsible for the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and the California Highway Patrol (CPH), Villanueva said, the encampments surrounding the freeway must be a result of the governor’s instructions to those institutions.
“The two bodies singularly responsible for addressing homeless encampments on the freeways, they’re under [Newsom’s] control,” Villanueva said. “So what direction do you think he gave them? ‘Don’t do anything, don’t touch them, you don’t want to offend anybody, we want to pat ourselves on the back for how woke we are and definitely don’t want to do anything to defend their sensibilities.’ Meanwhile, you pay the price for that.”
On June 10, the Venice Family Clinic, along with several other organizations including Grass Roots Neighbors and Venice Justice Committee, released a statement criticizing Villanueva for his call to “clean up” encampments on the Venice Boardwalk by July 4.
“Time and time again, this approach has proven to fail in Los Angeles, and cause harm to people already dealing with crisis, trauma, and the extreme lack of affordable housing across our region and especially on the Westside,” the statement reads.
“Everyone can see the housing and humanitarian crisis in our neighborhood and in our region…it is the result of decades of disinvestment in affordable housing and other critical resources, systemic racism in land use policies, housing, employment and mass incarceration policies, and growing income and wealth inequality.
“Not one politician, one law enforcement official, one non-profit, one neighborhood group is going to suddenly have the ability to solve this crisis.
“We actually can share the space, be kind to unhoused neighbors, continue the local outreach and street medicine efforts that support people until they are housed, and put more resources into permanent housing solutions for folks on our streets.”
Michelle Stuffmann of Venice Family Clinic and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to a request to comment by press deadline.