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Seattle vs LA: Observations on the homelessness crisis

Homeless people sleeping at Venice Beach, California (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Before Tiffany was a circus performer based in Los Angeles (stage name Vega), she was a homeless advocate working primarily in Seattle and Snohomish County. Despite her new life in California, she has maintained her work reaching out to those affected by the homelessness crisis.

Tiffany offered her experience and observations on the two cities’ different approaches to the homeless crisis while talking with the Saul Spady Show on KTTH. Either way you look at it, the issue persists in both cities, despite one being viewed as hands off and the other being perceived as heavy handed.

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“I’ve noticed that the LA police are very harsh toward the homeless, at least on Venice Beach,” Tiffany said. “They will write a ticket over littering or something crazy, and the homeless person cannot pay that. In Seattle, I never see that. There is maybe a balance where one dial should be turned down, and one dial should be turned up. If what we are doing isn’t working in our cities, it’s time to start talking about other options. Stuff we haven’t tried.”

“On the beach, I feel like it’s a doppelganger of Seattle, where I lived on Capitol Hill,” she said. “There’s the same characters. I think homelessness is equally as prominent in Venice Beach because the city of LA is basically pushing a lot of homeless people toward the beach and they just stay there … I’m engaging with people who are living on the streets every day. They are my neighbors. I know them by name. I bring them tea in the morning. They share their snacks with me. They are my neighbors.”

Acknowledging those experiencing homelessness as neighbors is a trait Tiffany picked up a few years ago, when she worked with the United Way in Western Washington. She did a lot of “night hikes” reaching out to people living on the streets.

“People on the streets are your neighbors, too, they are not just ‘the homeless people,’ they are your neighbors,” she said. “They live on the same street every day. You will see the same faces out there, if you pay attention.”

A woman picks up her belongings after being awakened by LA police as they wake up homeless sleeping in Venice. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times file photo via Getty Images)

Still, she has to admit that there has been a shift since she was active in the Northwest. That is evident when she returns to the area to work at clubs. She recalls living on Capitol Hill and knowing the homeless population; it used to be more quiet. But as the addiction crisis has grown alongside the homelessness crisis, things have changed.

“Now there’s been this shift of aggressive energy from a lot of people suffering from addiction, maybe they’re frustrated, I don’t know,” she said. “But there’s definitely a shift in energy out on the streets and it doesn’t feel as safe anymore. I work at a lot of night clubs in Seattle, and shootings and all these things I’ve never had to worry about are more prominent when I’m working there. Sometimes you think as an artist, is it worth it to put myself out at this venue, at this hour when a day after the show you hear about a shooting in the parking lot?”

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