Police Arrest Man Posing As Homeless Outreach Worker For Allegedly Selling Drugs Out Of L.A. Encampment

Investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) arrested a man in the Venice neighborhood on Thursday who they say “masquerades as a homeless outreach advocate while supplying homeless individuals with narcotics.”

The department announced that Garry Featherstone, 65, was taken into custody on Thursday after hours of surveillance. Deputies said they witnessed him “complete several hand-to-hand” transactions.

“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,” an LASD statement said. “Over 15,000 dollars in U.S. currency was also recovered.”

Authorities said Featherstone is connected to a Venice homeless outreach organization registered with the city’s finance department called “Homeless Enterprise,” which he allegedly operates from a tent encampment. According to LASD, Featherstone also used the tent as a base of operations to facilitate drug sales.

“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.

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.

Related: L.A. Sheriff Calls Progressives In Charge Of L.A.’s Homeless Policies ‘The Architects of Failure’

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.

Related: L.A. Officials War With Elected Sheriff Over Threat To Clear Encampments From Venice Boardwalk By July 4

Related: L.A. Sheriff Rips Gov. Newsom For ‘Inviting’ Homeless From Other States ‘To Share In The California Dream’

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