5 Days before Christmas

Venice Beach, California, used to be one of California’s great places. A true gem, nestled against the sand between big Los Angeles and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Rents used to be a little lower in Venice compared to other coastal neighborhoods. The locals mingled with surfers, artists, street performers, and tourists. People from suburbs further inland migrated to Venice’s beaches on sunny weekends year-round. Venice was affordable, inviting, inclusive. That was then. Venice is now home to the largest concentration of homeless anywhere on L.A.'s Westside, with nearly 1,000 non-domiciled people.

Jason and his friends decorated the Christmas tree. It was a gift from a local family to the homeless people. "it's Christmas for all of us too" he told me. "We celebrate Christmas around the tree. It's going to be good and we will have food and beer and everybody is welcome"

Bob slept outside last night. He was to late at the shelter. No more bunk beds.

"I love it when there are no skaters. Now I am in charge of what happens here today"  Tom smiled and asked me if he could see the picture I took.  "Damn, I look like a King in my Castle."

Chris has been living on the streets for the last 4 years. He lost his business, then his house, and finally his wife. He likes Venice Beach, especially in the winter, nice temperatures and no tourists. "When I get a drink, I share my bread with my pigeons."

Juan is originally from Mexico. He came to the US 7 years ago. He offered me a cup of coffee but felt sorry he had no milk and sugar. I talked to Juan about Mexico, Belgium and photography. If he finds money he would like to buy a camera and take pictures.

Shelter if nobody plays ball

Alex is sleeping in "number 4".  "When I wake up in the morning I have a nice view" In Venice since 2011

Alex's view.

I play the guitar, but there are no tourists on cloudy days, so no money to make. I would skip Christmas if I could.

Clay, Jimmy and his guitar.

Ed from Boulder, Colorado. In Venice since 2010.

Richard died last week. He sat here for years with his back against his two palm trees, always surrounded by his pigeons. His friends did put up his picture. The pigeons left some feathers.   In memory of Richard 1948 - 2013

"This is the Venice Beach Police Station and I am the guard." Salvatore from Puerto Rico.  In Venice since 2009.

"I love it when they shoot movies on Venice Beach."  This means we find food easily. Frank, in Venice since 2013.

We are the roller skate crew, and we guard the Flag.

The guardians of the Flag.

"Freaky and I play ball to keep warm. Yesterday it was sunny and 25 degrees but today we got rain and only 20 degrees...

Willy and Freaky. In Venice since 2012.

Venice Beach board walk.

Manuel from Guatemala.

He didn't tell me his name, but he told me he was playing a Stradivarius violin build by the Italian family Stradivaria in the 17th century.

Late afternoon at "the Maze"

"I was a carpenter in Truxton, Nevada and had a good business but the recession kicked in really hard. I had to close my business.

6 months later my wife left me. I was heartbroken. I had to sell my house. In less than one year I lost everything. I have two small suitcases. It's hard for me but I found a new love here on Venice Beach. I am hoping to find some work and start over again.

 

Thomas and Susan.

Venice Beach, California  December 19th, 2013

Story shot on

Leica M

Leica Summicron-M 1:2 / 35 mm ASPH.

Leica Summicron-M 1:2 / 50 mm

Leica Elmar-M 1:3,8 / 24 mm ASPH.

Photography  © Dominic Verhulst 2019