A self-proclaimed homeless advocate was arrested in the Venice area of Los Angeles after he was allegedly found selling narcotics to the homeless population, officials said Friday.
Garry Featherstone, 65, was charged with possession of phencyclidine (PCP) for sale and possession of methamphetamine for sale, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
He was taken into custody on Thursday after hours of surveillance. Deputies said they witnessed him “complete several hand-to-hand” transactions.
Here’s an excerpt of the LASD statement:
“In the afternoon hours of Thursday, July 22, 2021, investigators conducted the search warrant operation on a tent near 3rd Avenue and Rose Street, as well as a residence in the Venice area, and arrested Featherstone for possession of Phencyclidine (PCP) for sale…and possession of Methamphetamine for sale. Over 15,000 dollars in U.S. currency was also recovered.”
He runs “Homeless Enterprise” from a tent on Third Avenue where he sells sodas candy, and other snacks and beverages to the local homeless population, the Sheriff’s Department said. “Homeless Enterprise” is registered with the city of Los Angeles Finance Department.
LASD- Man Arrested For Narcotics Sales In Connection With Venice Homeless Outreach Organization
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— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) July 24, 2021
“This is another clear example of how several people are using the veil of outreach to run criminal enterprises and exploit the already marginalized population of county residents who are experiencing homelessness,” said L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. “It’s time for common sense, compassionate regulation of public space.”
The Sheriff’s Department pointed out that the tent Featherstone allegedly used was in “close proximity to the ‘Venice Bridge Home,’” a transitional housing facility that can accommodate 100 adults and 54 youth. The shelter was promoted as a way to reduce the number of encampments in Venice by moving transients indoors. The project was pushed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin, both political rivals of Sheriff Villanueva.
Celebrating the grand opening of a new #ABridgeHome 🏠
Thanks to Councilmember @MikeBoninLA‘s commitment to bringing homeless Angelenos indoors, the Venice community came together to say YES to bridge housing and expanding services to ensure everyone has a place to call home. pic.twitter.com/Fj6vwwFQrF
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) February 25, 2020
Villanueva, a Democrat, has described Garcetti, Bonin, and other elected officials as “the architects of failure” for refusing to adjust their strategies to reduce homelessness as the transient population continues to increase every year.
In May, Villanueva sent deputies from LASD’s Homeless Outreach Services Team to assess the situation at Venice Beach and implement an incremental plan to “compassionately reclaim and regulate public space for the community.” However, his efforts have been met with resistance from politicians, activist groups, and homeless service providers who Villanueva says don’t want law enforcement involved in addressing the ongoing problem.
The sheriff said that his department has been forced to step in because elected officials have “handcuffed” the Los Angeles Police Department, which patrols Venice, from enforcing the law.
“It’s time for politicians to stop using the homeless population as a platform and for them to either help law enforcement keep the community safe or get out of the way,” Villanueva said.