Evidence of Diversity

From an outsider’s perspective, Venice is an eclectic community, home to a wide range of populations living in curious harmony. Before our walkabout, our experience with Venice was limited to a handful of visits to the boardwalk and beach community. The entire community of Venice is roughly only a modest square mile, boasting nearly 16 miles of man made canals fashioned after Venice, Italy. On the beach a colorful array of people can be seen living in cohesion. This time, we spent a day in the neighborhood known as Oakwood, just inland from the beach. By walking through the neighborhoods we were given a more intimate insight to the community. This aspect of the community painted a far different picture than the one we had experienced at the beach. Although still flooded with diversity, the inland neighborhood of Oakwood revealed a less accepting and harmonious Venice. The harsh lines of gentrification can be plainly seen, even from the sidewalk; extravagant homes stand right next to low-income apartment complexes, new homes and condominiums next to derelict buildings. We were told of the struggle between the new comers and the old timers. Some long time residents feel that they are being kicked from their community, mostly for economic reasons. One shelter director mentioned that as many as 150 homeless can be seen on the streets of Venice on any given night, some of whom have lived there their entire lives. Others were pleased with the up and coming community, citing rising property values and cleaner streets and fewer drug infested areas. Those involved in real estate have made large profits, squeezing out those who cannot afford to keep their homes or pay their rent. Buildings that once housed low incomes families have been torn down and replaced with high end condominiums with fewer units. Understandably, long time residents have been greatly impacted, even those who have managed to stay in their homes.

submitted by: Brittany Bovee, Shawna Campbell and Matthew Metcalf

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