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Venice Neighborhood Council Moves To Remove Houseless Advocate Matt Fisher From Board

Nine months after being elected, some of his fellow board members fight to have advocate removed.

In June 2019, the neighborhood of Venice, California elected Matt Fisher to the board of the Venice Neighborhood Council. In the short time Matt has been on the Venice NC, he has accomplished much for his constituency — specifically his often overlooked and ignored constituency — houseless folks of Venice. Nine months later, some of his fellow board members are trying to have him removed.

Through all of his advocacy, Matt has faced pushback from other Venice NC members, including notorious anti-homeless NC member Mark Ryavec. In addition to helping housed residents install dozens of planter boxes on public sidewalks around Venice to displace houseless folks from camping, Ryavec has reportedly spent tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully suing the city to try and stop programs like Mayor Garcetti’s Bridge Home shelter from happening in Venice. Ryavec and other Venice NC members’ disdain for the houseless community is obvious, so it’s not surprising that they now are attacking Matt Fisher, who not only is an advocate for the houseless community in Venice, but was once houseless himself.

Venice Neighborhood Councilmember Matt Fisher sits on the sidewalk where illegally placed planter boxes were recently removed. (photo by Matt Fisher)

Running away from abusive foster care as a teenager and with no where else to go, Matt Fisher became houseless. After having his identity stolen, Matt gave up on living a “normal” life and spent almost 15 years on the streets of Venice. In his own words, with a lot of luck and with the support of Venice locals, Matt got help from the LA Department of Public Social Services, took classes to get his GED certification, and spent the last 10 years advocating for the houseless community and teaching others what he’s learned along the way.

“One of my main reasons for doing this was to help Venice housed residents comprehend why we need housing. I feel that, unlike people who haven’t lived it, I understand homelessness and need to share all I’ve learned.”

Around 1250 people who call Venice home are houseless, according to the 2019 point-in-time Homeless Count, done yearly by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Since Matt was elected, he’s helped pass 8 motions through the Venice Neighborhood Council resulting in:

  • 24 hour access to restrooms on the beach
  • supporting the continued funding of the mobile Pit Stop program
  • more city trash cans in commercial/industrial areas houseless people are pushed into
  • supporting the revitalization of Lincoln Blvd by working to get it in control of the city
  • removing of numerous ADA violations from Oceanfront Walk.
  • making sure that local businesses, some affiliated with Venice NC members, that were taking away free parking spots by installing bike racks, loading zones, and seating were complying with Coastal Commission and City rules that make beach access a right to all

In addition to these motions, Matt has worked with Council District 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin’s office to stop the use of pesticides at Penmar Park and parks around the city, helped the community in the Oakwood neighborhood of Venice advocate for the changes they wanted in the remodel of Oakwood Park, and helped with the removal of many planter boxes, illegally placed on sidewalks around Venice to displace houseless people. For over 2 years, Matt has regularly attended the City’s weekly “sweeps” on Oceanfront Walk and has pushed for streamlining of these sweeps, including the removal of LAPD.

As an advocate for Mayor Garcetti’s Bridge Home program, Matt has advocated on behalf of the houseless community and has helped convince housed community members and members of the Venice NC to accept Bridge and other supportive housing projects. Matt isn’t afraid to make noise, holding wealthy white Venice residents to the same standard the city held in the 1990’s when Venice’s Black community was being pushed out, and has reported code violations wealthy homeowners assume they can get away with, including fellow member Ryavec.

From the sands of Venice Beach to the chambers of City Hall, Matt Fisher is doing enough right that anti-homeless members of the Neighborhood Council want him removed. This attempted subversion of democracy is incredibly shameful. Matt has earned the support of Venice voters and deserves support for his tireless advocacy of our city’s most vulnerable. If this motion makes it through the Venice NC Administrative Committee, it will head to a full Council vote on Tuesday, February 18th at Westminster Elementary (1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd) at 7pm. Come out and support Matt and his work.

Adam Smith is an organizer with White People 4 Black Lives and the #ServicesNotSweeps coalition.

White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL) is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.aware-la.org