Homeless in Venice: Travelers Come for the California Dream and Stay for the Concrete (VIDEO)

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Sat, Apr 23, 2011 at 10:07 AM

click to enlarge When Sava D hugs Tim, he feels right at home. - SAM SLOVICK
  • Sam Slovick
  • When Sava D hugs Tim, he feels right at home.

It's another postcard day at Venice Beach, the Washington Square Park of L.A. Aging kooks and crackpots in an eternal time warp freely express themselves like it's 1967. There's a guy in a leopard bikini with the rubber snakes, a dude in a white turban on skates with a guitar and other fixtures, plus a few new twists: medical marijuana dealers, rappers from South L.A. slinging mixtapes to defenseless tourists.

And there are the travelers, a gang of young hippie-chic, urban guerrillas in camo shorts and TJ hoodies with carefully considered, naturally occurring disheveled hairdos that kids in the Palisades drop hot dollars to chemically configure.

The California dream that called the travelers to the coast is a story older than Brian Wilson's psychiatric diagnosis. These daydreamers weren't moving toward something; they were escaping into a mirage, now eclipsed by the reality of young bones on cold concrete.

They are propelled by the omnipotence of youth, blind to the reality of what's in store if they make it through their 20s and begin sorting out the lingering effects of sidewalk sleeping. Safe in numbers, they move in clusters haunting the streets of Venice like a pack of dogs.

The sun sets as the tourists head home. The travelers head a few blocks east from the boardwalk toward a nonprofit called StandUp for Kids -- Los Angeles, which hosts a biweekly drop-in center for homeless youth. Affectionately called the purple people because the staff wear purple shirts, the organization gives the travelers a brief respite from the streets, a pair of clean socks and a piece of pizza, and assists them in accessing services.

Each arrives with his or her own personal baggage.

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