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PhiLAnthropist Counts the Homeless in Venice

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The 2009 Los Angeles Homeless Count began last night, primarily covering the Westside including Venice, Santa Monica and West LA. One-hundred or so volunteers of all ages met in Culver City to split into teams and receive instructions on how to properly count.

While some volunteers already had their own teams, this LAister showed up solo and quickly found other friendly and like-minded people to join. LAHSA assigned each group of 4 of 6 people a specific area to count, including every street, alley and park. The visual count included homeless individuals and families, as well as vehicles and encampments with people sleeping inside and the tally sheets broke it down this way.

Our group of six headed out to Venice around 10 p.m. and began walking up and down residential streets and alleyways a few blocks east of Main. We saw nice houses and new lofts, but no homeless people. "Zero is a totally acceptable number," we recalled the supervisor saying.

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We split up again to tackle the rest of the area and it was after crossing Rose that we came across dozens of RV's and vans lining the streets. With the economy in the toilet and the unemployment rate continuing to soar, it is no surprise that Venice has seen a surge in the number of people living in vans, cars and RV's. Of course, this upsets the nearby residents in the pricey lofts and houses.

As L.A. Councilman Bill Rosendahl told the LA Times about the current law that prohibits this, "Let's stop kidding ourselves. People are living in their cars. . . . So let's deal with the reality. In this economic downturn, it's even increasing." As the article explains, the city is considering special zones for sleeping in cars.

Participating in the count offered a good perspective on the reality of this problem in these difficult times. We noted a family of six living in a van, a van with a Directv dish attached and, a freshly-broken window on a pick-up truck. The process seemed to move quickly; we finished counting a little before midnight and were all headed home by12:30. It's not too late to sign up with LAHSA, the count continues tonight and tomorrow night in other parts of the city.